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Mexico Lower House approves final part of divisive education reform

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican lawmakers on Sunday approved the final part of a bill to reform an education sector that badly underperforms global peers, legislation that has prompted thousands of school staff to protest in the streets.

The lower house approved so-called secondary laws that regulate the tests that President Enrique Pena Nieto says teachers should take periodically to ensure they are up to standard or lose their jobs should they flunk.

Thousands of teachers have marched in the capital in recent days to rail against the education reform, and on Sunday groups of masked youths lobbed rocks at police in riot gear in the capital, who responded with tear gas.

Lawmakers approved Pena Nieto's wider education bill in December. It seeks competency exams, merit-based promotions and aims to tame a powerful teachers' union many blame for hurting school quality in Latin America's No. 2 economy.

Discussion of the final part of the bill was delayed pending discussions with teachers, amid fears the divisive issue could hold up other bills in a packed legislative agenda. The senate must still sign-off on the secondary laws.

The education measure is part of a wider package of reforms Pena Nieto hopes will help boost growth in an economy that has long lagged its regional peers. The economy is expected to grow by just 1.8 percent this year, though the government is hoping for an expansion of around 4 percent in 2014.

Pena Nieto has already presented a banking reform plan that aims to boost credit and has submitted an energy reform proposal that intends to lure foreign capital to help stem a slide in output by state oil monopoly Pemex.

He is also poised to unveil in coming days an overhaul of the country's fiscal system to raise the tax take and wean the state off dependence on revenues from Pemex that fund around a third of the annual federal budget.

(Reporting by Dave Graham; Writing by Simon Gardner and Philip Barbara)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130902/mexico-lower-house-approves-final-part-divisive-education-refor