President Carlos Salinas de Gortari recently unveiled an education reform package that is designed to pull up standards in anticipation of the North American Free-Trade Agreement. His plan calls for compulsory schooling through junior high and, for teachers, more training and higher pay. Half of Mexican children now drop out before they reach seventh grade. Salinas' plan also splinters the powerful 1.2 million-member teachers' union, Mexico's largest, by shifting schools from federal to state control.
To push through the reform package, Salinas looked to his new Education Secretary, Ernesto Zedillo. If Zedillo, a 40-year-old, Yale-educated economist, makes it work, he could enter the small circle of presidential hopefuls for the 1994 election--joining Finance Secretary Pedro Aspe and Social Development Secretary Luis Donaldo Colosio, who are rated the front-runners.