Citizen participation from university classrooms: case of a legislative simulator
La participación ciudadana desde las aulas universitarias: caso de un simulador legislativo
Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, México
vol. 6, núm. 11, 2023
Recepción: 13 Noviembre 2022
Aprobación: 15 Febrero 2023
Resumen: El conocimiento significativo desde las aulas universitarias puede considerarse un reto para los docentes, el objetivo del presente trabajo consiste en demostrar que el quehacer docente-discente puede tener mayor alcance y visibilidad a través de la simulación en escenarios reales donde se ponen a prueba ideas, conocimientos, habilidades y actitudes las cuales generan participación ciudadana. Se tiene como marco teórico la democracia participativa y el método bibliográfico y descriptivo, se presenta la participación de estudiantes universitarios de nivel licenciatura en un simulador legislativo, con una propuesta legislativa en materia de inclusión de la Lengua de Señas Mexicanas (LSM) en el nivel medio superior para la comunidad sorda del Estado de México.
Palabras clave: participación ciudadana, simulador legislativo, enseñanza jurídica.
Abstract: Significant knowledge from university classrooms can be considered a challenge for teachers, the objective of this paper is to demonstrate that the teacher-student task can have greater scope and visibility through simulation in real scenarios where ideas, knowledge, skills, and attitudes are put to the test, which generate citizen participation. Participatory democracy and the bibliographic and descriptive method are used as a theoretical framework, the participation of university students at the undergraduate level in a legislative simulator is presented, with a legislative proposal on the inclusion of the Mexican Sign Language (LSM) at the high school level education for the deaf community of the State of Mexico.
Keywords: citizen participation, legislative simulator, legal education.
This paper aims to describe a case of citizen participation, based on the presentation of a legislative proposal for the inclusion of Mexican Sign Language (MSL) at the high school level, under a legislative simulator, to encourage participation in real scenarios of university students in matters of public interest. The main objective is to demonstrate that the teacher-student work done in university classrooms can have greater reach and visibility through simulation where ideas, knowledge, skills, and attitudes developed in the university educational environment are put to the test.
The theoretical framework proposed for this is Carole Pateman's theory of participatory democracy, which has its antecedents in the political theory of democracy, which was reborn in the post-war period, when concepts such as democracy, freedom and equality gained strength and gave rise to the emergence of participatory democratic models. In these models, the intention is to rescue the participation of the citizen exercise, since contemporary democracy has been marked by the rejection or distrust of citizens, who place a parallelism between democracy and representative government without focusing on the living conditions of the people. In the 1970s, the word participation became popular, especially under the push of student demands at the higher level that demanded new forms of participation.
The methodology used is the bibliographic method and the descriptive method; the former seeks to identify texts from which to structure an adequate explanation of the subject to be described, placing it in each context, space, and time. This methodology also allows to know similar documents or with related information, discriminating the useful and original texts according to the proposed objective and selecting those with concrete and reliable data. The second method seeks to present the results of the observations made from the perspective of the university teacher, supported by the theory of participatory democracy, highlighting mainly the element of citizen participation, for this purpose the events are organized, analyzing, and describing in a systematic, clear, and concise manner each moment of the process.
The first section deals with citizen participation, from the approach of the theory of participatory democracy, where the university student is placed in a democratic context, with civil, political, and social rights. This citizen creates social expectations by belonging to a public institution where few people pass the admission exam, in this sense the university's mission is sought in a democratic context that favors citizen participation, echoing the social responsibility it acquires.
The second section deals with the legislative simulation as a form of university praxis, born from the conviction that the student is guaranteed the exercise of citizen participation and that there are groups historically ignored in their rights. Consequently, being in a position of educational privilege, his social responsibility grants him the possibility of the instrumental application of the acquired knowledge in favor of the most vulnerable groups.
Finally, the case of the legislative simulator is described, where students of the Bachelor's Degree in Social Work of the Faculty of Behavioral Sciences participated in November 2019 with the proposal for de incorporation of the Mexican Sign Language (MSL) in the high school level, under the approval at the plenary of the simulator, its presentation in the legislative chamber (Chamber of Deputies) of the State of Mexico and its discussion in the commission of education, culture, science and technology.
CITIZEN PARTICIPATION FROM THE UNIVERSITY CLASSROOMS
The exercise of public power in a democratic society goes hand in hand with the exercise of that power by citizens through citizen participation, which strengthens democracy and at the same time makes it more complex and dynamic. The theory of participatory democracy raises the possibility of putting into practice everything considered as the formal recognition of people's rights, but which reaches its full extent and does not remain in the document: “El modelo democrático participativo (...) se caracterizó por generar en las personas una coincidente convicción respecto a la posibilidad de la aplicación de sus propuestas en el escenario social” (Vallejos, 2007, p. 3). In this sense, Carol Pateman's model of democratic participation proposes higher levels of social and political commitment, as well as the recognition of the role played by citizens, at this point, it is linked to citizen participation from university classrooms. This example leaves consensus in the past, because during the post-war period, the dissatisfaction of society in economic and social issues is manifested, product of a divided and elitist society, as well as a liberalism that had not been able to mitigate problems such as poverty and social inequality:
La teoría social de la democracia participativa está constituida alrededor del principio central de que los individuos y sus instituciones no pueden considerarse aisladamente unos de otros. La existencia de instituciones representativas a nivel nacional, no son suficiente para que haya participación democrática. Para alcanzar la máxima participación de todos, esto es, que exista participación en la base de la sociedad, ésta debe ubicarse tanto en los niveles institucionales como en otras esferas, como capacitación y entrenamiento social (social training) para la democracia, de ese modo podrán desarrollarse las necesarias actitudes individuales y las cualidades psicológicas. (Pateman, 1970, p. 72).
Based on this idea, the university as a higher level institution is part of those other spheres where participation is encouraged from the social base at public levels, it generates links with organizations that strengthen the democratic context and, since the public university is an inclusive space, this type of practice favors social retribution and creates conviction in its student population about the possibility of the implementation of its proposals in the social sphere.
Therefore, although it has been empirically demonstrated that most individuals (especially those of low socioeconomic status) have little interest in public activities, the real inequalities of social class, as well as sex and race, limit equality and freedom. Therefore, it is necessary to generate from the university alternatives for common people, counteracting apathy, and the fact that public affairs are left only in the hands of representatives. The university forms and educates; citizen participation has a profoundly educational connotation in the theory of participatory democracy. In this sense, the concept of citizen participation takes on special relevance since “la persona común tiene posibilidades de representar un rol determinante en la mejora de sus propias condiciones de vida. Ser parte en la toma de decisiones se convierte en una expectativa real de las personas” (Vallejos, 2007, p. 14).
Therefore, the public university is inserted in a democratic society, which implies certain characteristics in the rights and obligations of its citizenship. The university maintains an active role since participation has a very close link with education.
...se puede considerar que la principal función de la participación es educativa, en el más amplio sentido de la palabra, tanto en los aspectos psicológicos del desarrollo de habilidades como en los prácticos, en la eficacia de los procedimientos que compromete. Participación significa tanto ser parte en la toma de decisiones, como igualdad política en tanto igualdad de poder, en la determinación de los resultados de las decisiones (Vallejos, 2007, p. 27).
According to the sociologist and scholar of citizenship T. H. Marshall, there are three types of rights inherent to citizenship: 1) Civil rights: they protect the security of the citizen and allow him/her to be autonomous with respect to the state, as they consider the individual as a competent subject capable of making decisions and recognizing his/her interests and preferences; 2) Political rights: the ability of subjects to elect those who will govern them; and 3) Social rights: they guarantee the minimum conditions of survival and dignity for all members of the community under conditions of equality (Olvera, 2015, p. 30). In the latter, the proposal of the legislative simulator is focused, the reason for the exposition of this document, where citizen participation makes use of the prerogatives acquired, such as the influence on the decisions of the representatives of the local legislative power.
Pateman conceives the meaning of citizen participation as an active part of decision making, as political equality, which implies equality of power, in such a way that it influences decisions and results and therefore, participatory democracy exists where society has democratized its political system with the participation of society in all its areas. On the meanwhile, the Directorate of Citizen Participation of the Electoral Institute of the State of Mexico defines:
La participación ciudadana es una actitud de las y los ciudadanos que implica el conocimiento y ejercicio de sus derechos y obligaciones; que se organicen para exigir su respeto, se involucren, opinen y colaboren en la construcción conjunta de las políticas y decisiones del ámbito público, fortaleciendo así a la democracia (IEEM, 2022).
Consequently, citizen participation is all activities undertaken by citizens within a regulatory framework, which aim to influence, persuade, and impact the decisions of representatives, bearers of certain social interests. It is important to clarify that without this “regulatory” feature, citizen participation becomes a form of rebellion or social mobilization. This is because the acquisition of the status of citizen implies an acceptance per se of the rules of the game of democracy, the rule of law and the freedom of individuals. Citizen participation is inherent to democracy; its exercise strengthens it.
THE MISSION OF THE UNIVERSITY IN DEMOCRACY
The university has established itself as the institution of higher education par excellence, the majority of the population expects its acceptance or admission because they see in it an opportunity to fulfill their social aspirations, the achievement of social mobility, therefore, it is important to answer what is the mission of the university, because in a democracy where one is free to access educational opportunities, the university creates expectations on those who managed to pass the admission exams, if the university chooses the best, then they have a social responsibility as well as the institution that welcomes them. Ortega y Gasset (2001) clarifies what higher education consists of: the teaching of intellectual professions, scientific research, and the preparation of future researchers. However, he makes a wise criticism about culture:
La Universidad, complicando enormemente la enseñanza profesional, y añadiendo la investigación, ha quitado casi por completo la enseñanza o transmisión de la Cultura y ha parido al nuevo bárbaro, al profesional retrasado en su época, alejado de su época, su actualidad, y los problemas de su mundo (Ortega y Gasset, 2001, p. 4).
In this section, the university should resume its role as a guiding institution in the rescue of social awareness, to generate a more active citizen participation from its classrooms, the promotion of the exercise of their rights in the corresponding instances, the creation of spaces for interaction with other institutions, linking with organizations that work in favor of the most disadvantaged groups. Within the general culture can be located the civic culture or education, generally related to the transfer and improvement of values, currently the National Electoral Institute (Instituto Nacional Electoral, INE) states that:
La educación cívica es, precisamente, un proceso orientado a construir valores y prácticas democráticas en una sociedad. La ecuación de la educación cívica tiene dos variables que pueden orientarse en una estrategia común: medios y actores fundamentales, pero también debe advertir que las y los destinatarios forman un universo plural, diverso y complejo que, a su vez, reacciona y se adapta al entorno político en el que actúa (INE, 2016).
In this sense, the construction of these values and democratic practices goes beyond casting the citizen vote every time there are elections of representatives, but to be a platform for the empowerment of citizens where the same citizen recognizes and defends his or her rights and freedoms. This is where political culture is included, Durand Ponte (2004) defines it as the set of rules and resources that enable the actors to calculate their political actions. That is to say that to exercise it there must be knowledge, work, involvement, therefore, there are epistemic, affective, and qualifying elements with which political culture generates citizen participation. In this sense, the students who created the proposal presented here are part of the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico (UAEMex), whose mission is:
La comunidad UAEMéx genera, estudia, preserva, transmite y extiende el conocimiento universal con la finalidad de contribuir a logro de nuevas y mejores formas de existencia y convivencia humana, universal, nacionalista, libre, justa y democrática, conformada de personas talentosas, éticas, íntegras, críticas, solidarias y reflexivas, con énfasis en la construcción de la paz, poseedoras de una sólida preparación, así como comprometidas con la igualdad, la defensa de los derechos humanos y la justicia, el desarrollo sostenible y el bien común (Universidad Autónoma Del Estado de México - Misión y Visión, n.d.).
The commitment shown in the last lines is consistent with the work done, a group of students that through the practice of the knowledge acquired seeks to generate a proposal to bring justice to a part of the population of the State of Mexico that is historically vulnerable.
Undoubtedly, being a university student brings with it social expectations, even more so if the training has a social focus, in addition to being a person who is being prepared professionally, it is expected to have a greater and better social conscience, critical and analytical capacity on issues of general interest, social sensitivity to the problems of the most disadvantaged, ability to propose solutions to emerging and historically ignored problems and commitment to the defense of human rights. Being a university citizen implies a new attitude towards current challenges, but with full awareness of history and possible future events, analyzing the circumstances that have placed various groups at a disadvantage, within a context of economic globalization and profound social inequality.
LEGISLATIVE SIMULATION, A FORM OF UNIVERSITY PRAXIS
At the university, lawyers, doctors, accountants, social workers, psychologists, political scientists, architects, engineers, etc. are educated, and all of them require, in addition to the theory they receive in the classroom, the practice of the skills that are inherent to their respective professions, i.e., the instrumental part. They require scenarios where the above is put to the test, but which also place them outside their comfort zone and allow them to explore or discover new skills. It is important to clarify that praxis implies a previous process and must be generated from a responsible, conscious, and critical reflection on the work being performed.
The UAEMex has laboratories in most of its schools that are appropriate to the professional training that is taught, for simulation scenarios, traditionally focused on the area of natural sciences, specifically in areas of health, where:
Mediante la simulación, el alumno, adquiere habilidades, destrezas, técnicas para la solución de problemas a través del ensayo y error, verificar sus intervenciones, aprende de manera sistemática, enfoca sus conocimientos en actividades prácticas y razonadas, tiene la retroalimentación necesaria para el logro de los aprendizajes clínicos y disminuya de manera significativa los errores en la práctica clínica (Mendoza, n.d., p. 4).
However, as in many other things, the social sciences have adapted certain terms and practices from the natural sciences and have adapted them for their own purposes, such is the case of the laboratories of social work, psychology, education, and physical culture and sports that were recently inaugurated in the Faculty of Behavioral Sciences.
La simulación es una técnica de enseñanza (no una tecnología) empleada para sustituir o ampliar las experiencias reales, a través de experiencias guiadas e interactivas. Las experiencias de la simulación deben ser consistentes, reproducibles, estandarizadas, seguras y predecibles para a facilitar el aprendizaje significativo del estudiante. La técnica responde a los cuestionamientos que nacen de la búsqueda y construcción mental sobre cómo se debe actuar oportunamente ante situaciones familiares, sociales o científicas de nuestra vida cotidiana (Bordogna, et al., 2017, p. 3).
Moreover, just as medicine and nursing to mention a few, work with people's health, social sciences do the same from sociological, political, or economic approaches and there are skills, aptitudes and attitudes that must be developed at the same time.
Los espacios de simulación en las universidades públicas permiten a los estudiantes aplicar competencias no solo teóricas, sino también interpersonales, al necesitar enfrentarse a situaciones de acuerdo a su contexto sociocultural; comunicación, manejo del conflicto y clarificación del rol, son solo algunas de las habilidades que se potencializan en los estudiantes al ponerlos en una situación a la que ellos se enfrentarán en su práctica profesional, con la ventaja de que es un espacio seguro de retroalimentación y aprendizaje (Salas-Medina, et al., 2017, p. 1).
In the simulators, the role of the teacher is slightly modified, from being a facilitator to a spectator or companion, who monitors the performance of their students, records skills put into practice, reactions to unforeseen situations, management of stressful situations, self-control and that of their work team, interpersonal relationships, and alliance building:
Las habilidades interpersonales entonces son las que permiten al individuo responder a determinada situación social, permitiendo una comunicación efectiva y manejar el conflicto en lugar de evitarlo; esto permite a la persona tener un mejor desempeño en todas las esferas de su vida (Kraiger y Kirkpatrick, 2010, p. 72).
In this sense, the student obtains several benefits: he learns to know himself in stressful situations, identifies and controls his emotions, develops the ability to improvise, displays his creativity and tolerance for teamwork, generates professional identity, etc.
In the case presented here, conviction in what is being done, how it is being done and why it is being done is fundamental to the success of the proposal. The students who participate must believe in what they are doing and in the benefit that will be achieved, for which they must recognize the exercise of their right to participate as citizens, based on a proposal worked on in class that will benefit a certain social group. On the other hand, it is important to raise awareness of the need or urgency of proposing a solution to the problem posed, emphasizing the relevance of the group in question and the vulnerability of their basic rights throughout their history, as well as the opportunity to carry out actions to influence their welfare.
Now, how can citizen participation be strengthened in the classroom? How does the public university fulfill its commitment to educate informed, responsible and participatory citizens as proposed by Pateman in his theory of participatory democracy? The answers to these questions can be found in university classrooms; their classes, whether in face-to-face or virtual format, can contribute to the intrinsic nature of social retribution that the university has; the praxis of a participatory citizenship will be possible through the teaching of the active exercise of it, considering that university students at the higher level are citizens in full exercise of their rights.
The simulation of situations where actions of exercise and enforceability of rights and responsibilities allows generating an academic space where individuals can understand and learn about the exercise of their citizenship as a socio-historical construction where they have responsibility and a political practice of being citizens. The didactics of citizenship can be exercised from the teaching of social practices with socioeconomic, political, environmental, labor, etc., topics that seek to reach the reflection of citizen responsibility and not remain as a superficial practice of a requested task.
…la praxis se concibe como: reflexión y acción como unidad indisoluble, como par constitutivo de la misma y por lo tanto imprescindible. La negación de uno de los elementos del par desvirtúa la praxis, transformándola en activismo o un subjetivismo, siendo cualquiera de los dos una forma errónea de captar la realidad. La tensión entre este par dialéctico es una cuestión que constantemente se repite en toda práctica social (Masi, 2008, p. 78).
The reflection and action of praxis makes it the ideal means to study and analyze proposals of a social nature. Through dialogue-debate, with the use of the idea and the word, it is possible to express what is thought, what is reflected, since as Freire mentions “existir humanamente es pronunciar el mundo, es transformarlo. Los hombres no se hacen en el silencio, sino en la palabra, en el trabajo, en la acción, en la reflexión” (Masi, 2008). Therefore, prior to participation in the simulator, hard work is carried out in class, which includes bibliographic and newspaper research, presentation of ideas and debate about them in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect, which must be maintained at the time of being in the plenary. Considering that young people increasingly seek more and more spaces (physical or virtual) to be heard and increasingly propose new ways of communicating, of being recognized or even of not being recognized, participatory democracy faces challenges: “Es en la originalidad de las nuevas formas de experimentación institucional donde se pueden localizar los potenciales emancipatorios todavía presentes en las sociedades modernas” (De Sousa, 2005, p. 10).
Therefore, these new forms of institutional experimentation should be taken into account by the university, opening spaces of linkage and expression for its university students, accompanied by a praxis that is the result of the work in the classroom; and that action in reflection seeks to rescue reality through praxis, transcending it first in the classroom and then outside it, therefore it is in the classroom space where these meta-analyses on social reality and its problems are born, it is considered the right place to manage proposals from a critical sense, with that jovial and idealistic energy of university youth.
The university teacher seeks to rescue these dialectical possibilities as a possible method to activate proposals for active citizenship where praxis and civil experience transcend and consolidate as a form of teaching and learning. The teacher becomes a dynamic agent of learning, he is in charge of grounding this understanding of the social reality of his students, for this it is necessary to exercise and shake the individual conscience in outstanding topics, because topics such as citizenship, gender, violence and work, are not solved by dictating classes or developing particular didactic units:
La técnica de simulación en la enseñanza es muy útil para lograr un aprendizaje significativo, y recrear experiencias que serían imposibles o difíciles de vivenciar en la realidad, tal como ocurre por ejemplo con los hechos del pasado y situaciones riesgosas (Simulación técnica didáctica en la enseñanza y aprendizaje (n.d.).
Teaching in the social sciences has little innovation, currently in the knowledge society, where information and communication technologies (ICT) saturate the current generations with diverse information and they do not have the ability to discern which to use and which to discard, it is up to the teacher to place his students in other didactic scenarios:
En el proceso de enseñanza-aprendizaje específicamente en el proceso de aplicación de las estrategias didácticas constructivistas e innovadoras tienen mucha incidencia, además de la concepción que tenga el maestro acerca de la finalidad de la enseñanza de las ciencias sociales, también tiene gran trascendencia el tipo de mentalidad que tenga el maestro (Orozco, 2016).
This author (Orozco, 2016) divides the teacher's mind into three types: rigid, that which resists changing their behaviors, beliefs or opinions, although evidence and facts show them to be wrong, the liquid one that assumes an open attitude to the search for information without being afraid of change and finally the flexible one, which has a modifiable body, a renewable direction. Therefore, for the simulation technique to have the opportunity to be integrated into the didactics of social sciences, the teacher must be open-minded to change, that is, allow openness to new ways of teaching and conceive in his students the idea of learning from other angles.
In this way, classroom praxis is driven, in the first instance by the teacher, then the student or student receives, internalizes, and formulates it to later put it into action as a product of this awakening of conscience in university spaces. Up to this point, the teacher's job is clear, however, it is important to clarify that the other part of the learning process is the responsibility of the student, for in a public university there are students from different socioeconomic or socio-cultural levels, which is sometimes determinant for the civic participation of young university students, who may have no commitment to the social problems that exist in their context, which translates into a lack of interest in taking an active part in making decisions that have an impact on their institution, community or country However, carrying out these exercises of citizen participation outside the university classroom awakens the interest of students, as they leave the routine classroom and allows them to face different people and situations in a meaningful scenario, with their peers, confronting or complementing ideas and strengthening their professional training. In this way, university students, in addition to responding to the social expectations mentioned at the beginning, have the opportunity to contribute to the following: (ParlAméricas, 2022):
· Strengthening collective intelligence that provides a better analysis of potential impacts and a broader set of considerations throughout the legislative process to achieve better quality results.
· More inclusive and representative parliamentary decision-making.
· Increased public confidence in parliament.
· Strengthened legitimacy, co-responsibility for decisions and actions.
· Increased citizen understanding of the role of parliament and legislators.
· Opportunities for citizens to communicate their legitimate interests.
· More transparent and accountable parliaments.
In this way, we seek to counteract apathy towards issues of public interest, since unfortunately, most university students show little or no interest in issues of public interest. This is due to several reasons, among them:
En México ocurren dos acentuadas confusiones del concepto participación ciudadana, la primera tiene lugar al relacionarla con transparencia y rendición de cuentas y la segunda al limitarla solo a las experiencias de democracia directa; esto es, al impulso del referéndum, del plebiscito y de la iniciativa popular (Pérez, 2021, p. 36).
Therefore, academic work can bear fruit by awakening the interest of students, with the presentation of proposals conceived and developed in an academic context, debated and voted in a legislative simulator, where the interests of citizens are represented, seeking solutions to various problems. Likewise, a valuable opportunity to influence the legislative power is precisely within the process itself, the search for topics in the political agenda of the legislature in turn and define priorities in terms of public policies, several actors take part in this power game: the political parties, male and female legislators representing their constituencies, the commissions that also seek to define their agendas, the presidency or board of directors that sets the tone for the plenary agenda, parliamentary groups in general and cabinets and public institutions that determine legislative priorities, at this point the citizen can become involved through an open dialogue that allows the identification of problems and suggestions or proposals through issues of impact on the federative entity or the country.
Now, the Constitución Política de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos (Art. 71, III), states that the right to initiate laws or decrees is the responsibility of the Legislatures of the States and of Mexico City, and by participating in this legislative simulator, we seek to have an impact on this section III, since the host expresses this commitment: the proposals approved in the simulation exercise will be presented in the plenary, prior analysis of feasibility, and will be defended seeking to bring them to a successful conclusion in the corresponding commission.
THE LEGISLATIVE SIMULATOR AS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR CITIZEN PARTICIPATION
In Mexico there are no exact records of the beginning of legislative simulators, as a way to bring the legislative work closer to students in training, but these practices are relatively recent, since it was probably from the second decade of this century, when some legislators began to invite students from different universities and public or private schools to learn first-hand what the legislature did and replicate it. This type of event was mainly aimed at law and political science students, since it was considered that they had the ideal academic profile to work in a legislative simulator and, at the same time, it would be more useful for their current training as students and later on as professionals.
However, the invitation has been extended so that more students can have the opportunity to be for one or several days in the place of those who represent the legislative branch and the interests of the population of their constituencies, which has proved to be a great experience, as this has opened the opportunity to present real and debatable proposals that respond to the needs of the population represented, it is a privilege for any university student who is interested in citizen participation and can contribute ideas that benefit their state or their country:
Los simuladores legislativos son una herramienta para el aprendizaje de las nuevas generaciones sobre el trabajo parlamentario, ya que se fortalece la alianza entre el Poder Legislativo y las y los jóvenes. También es un ejercicio de debate, contraste de ideas y autoformación. Universidades e instituciones de prestigio en el que hacer parlamentario, el derecho y la ciencia política utilizan este recurso para ampliar el ámbito del contexto democrático abierto en donde la participación es activa y directa en el pleno, con ideas y propuestas que pueden llegar a tener influencia en propuestas de iniciativas legislativas (Pérez, 2022).
Legislative simulators have become a valuable opportunity to bring together the legislative branch and university youth. In the last decade, this type of event has been held in different local chambers of the country, such as Veracruz, the State of Mexico, Mexico City, and in the Senate and the Federal Chamber of Deputies. It is also recognized that the universities themselves have created this teaching strategy as a way to measure the debate capacity, legislative knowledge, skills and interpersonal skills of their students.
Carrying out a legislative simulator in the facilities of the local chambers or in the federal chamber means replicating with formality and solemnity a legislative session, including structure, processes and procedures, which means employing exhaustive research methods, as well as highly demanding exposition and oratory skills.
These models also allow the practice of lobbying skills such as negotiation, inclusion, tolerance and dialogue, which forces to rethink the soundness of the initial position, favoring receptivity and argumentation towards opposing ideas, the approach and rethinking of alliances or initial strategies, respectful criticism towards the ideas of other groups or opposing ideas, the above supported and based on the academic training received, as well as the civic culture obtained until that time that impact on the role being played: the representation of the interests of the governed.
Participating in this type of exercises brings citizens closer to scenarios that many times are far from being inclusive, perhaps that is one of the main advantages, because they can visualize the proposal of ideas as something much closer and feasible, they become potential political actors, as recently stated by a legislator from the State of Mexico:
…las universidades y el Congreso local deben sumar esfuerzos y fomentar los simuladores legislativos para mejorar la técnica parlamentaria de quienes lleguen a ser diputadas y diputados y que plasmen con iniciativas de ley las soluciones a las necesidades reales de la población del Estado de México (Rojas, 2022).
In this way, it can be concluded that legislative simulators are a way to exercise citizen participation, through proposals that respond to emerging needs of the entity or country, involving students in the exhaustive work of reviewing the legislation of their state, the presentation of a concrete proposal with sufficient and convincing statement of reasons that generates a fruitful debate and a consensus for or against, for mistakes are a learning opportunity and remain in the experience of the proponent. The following diagram shows the sequence of the participation in the legislative simulator that took place in 2019:
|September||Does not apply||Contact by telephone to confirm participation.|
|September||Classroom||Research work on various social issues (individual or in pairs).|
|October||Classroom||Presentation of proposal and debate in class, discarding of proposals.|
|November||Classroom||Definition and argumentative strengthening of the selected proposal.|
|November 18||Institute for Legislative Studies of the State of Mexico||Inauguration of the simulator, swearing-in and lobbying prior to the plenary session.|
|November 19||Plenary Hall of the Legislative Branch of the State of Mexico.||Welcoming ceremony by the host legislator. Installation of the board of directors Reading, discussion and voting on the proposals presented by the participating institutions. Closing ceremony.|
By way of conclusion, participating in a legislative simulator adds to professional training experience, a network of contacts, a different perspective as a citizen, a more active civic culture and a citizen more interested in his or her political culture.
CASE: UNIVERSITY STUDENTS IN A LEGISLATIVE SIMULATOR FOR THE INCLUSION OF MEXICAN SIGN LANGUAGE AT THE HIGH SCHOOL LEVEL
One of the most important tasks for a teacher is to transform theoretical activities of his educational program into practical and meaningful activities for his students; to go from information from different sources in the classroom, to a reflection with a constructive sense for their professional training, in addition to a positive assessment in their work as citizens. The case presented here corresponds to university students of the Bachelor's Degree in Social Work of the Faculty of Behavioral Sciences of the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico (UAEMéx) who in November 2019 were invited by the Labor Party (PT) to participate in the Simulator “Jóvenes Legisladores” in its XXI edition.
The educational program of the Bachelor's Degree in Social Work trains professionals who will be the transformers of the social reality as a professional field; In this sense, this degree in their training assumes an unrestricted commitment to human dignity, especially with those who are disadvantaged, with an attitude of respect for the culture and values of groups even when they are different from their own, is able to create and develop models of prevention and intervention in social problems, social research, social policies, and design and evaluate models and projects to promote the participation and organization of individuals, groups and communities with rehabilitation, consulting, therapy and research (Facultad de Ciencias de La Conducta, 2022).
In this sense, within the curriculum of that year, several learning units are of a theoretical nature, among them is the so-called “Problemática social de México”, which is part of the basic core and was taken in the fifth period, being mandatory and having as simultaneous learning units: Professional Intervention, Social Worker Intervention Workshop of Cases, Development of Instruments and Penology. In the presentation of the program (Programa de La Unidad de Aprendizaje Problemática Social de México, 2019) the importance of identifying, analyzing and describing the social problems of our country is highlighted, because it is essential to try to adopt a critical and constructive posture, that allows us to make a thorough and objective analysis of the successes and failures that make up the evolution of our people, because only through the formation of a personal criterion based on the knowledge of the current reality, it will be possible to understand the different factors and actors involved in the difficult path that involves the emergence, integration and sustainability of a nation.
The general objective is to analyze the social, economic and political problems of Mexico, which allows the student to have the most complete and real context of the explanation, as well as its application in Social Work and Education (the latter because at that time the learning unit was shared with the Bachelor's Degree in Education). This learning unit had four units:
Unit I. Main problems of Mexico's productive sectors.
Unit II. Socioeconomic aspects of the problems in Mexico.
Unit III. Political and social development of Mexico
Unit IV. Current challenges of the Mexican State
In order to achieve the competencies described and fulfill the objectives of the program, it is proposed that the teacher makes use of teaching strategies such as: socio-dramas, debates, directed discussion, cooperative and collaborative learning, brainstorming, synoptic tables, diagrams, comparative tables, graphic presentations by the student and the teacher. Specifically, the objective of Unit IV is to develop the ability to propose alternative solutions to the types of poverty and marginalization, as well as current problems of education and approaches to corruption in Mexico.
Therefore, it turned out to be a very valuable opportunity to participate in the simulator “Jóvenes legisladores 2019” and at the same time fulfill the competence set out in the last unit of the program, in this way social work students develop inside the classroom, under the guidance of the teacher, a series of proposals of economic, political and social nature that respond to needs felt by the population of the state of Mexico. These proposals, which emerge from the classroom, are put into practice based on the content of the program and deal with different topics of the State of Mexico, the state with the largest population in the country. The Population and Housing Census conducted by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography shows that Mexico has 126 million 014 thousand 024 inhabitants (INEGI, 2020). The State of Mexico has 16 million 992 thousand 418 inhabitants, that is, 13.5 percent of the national population. Currently, there are thirty-two states in Mexico, with this, it is possible to dimension the size of the socioeconomic challenges presented by the State of Mexico alone, which borders to the north with the states of Querétaro and Hidalgo and to the south with Guerrero and Morelos; to the east with Puebla and Tlaxcala; and to the west with Michoacán, as well as with Mexico City, which it surrounds to the north, east and west.
The strategic location of the State of Mexico in the center of the country means that it presents a socioeconomic and political scenario with old and new problems such as femicide, begging in the streets by Central American and Caribbean migrants, indigenous women with babies and small children begging at traffic lights, kidnapping, robbery, extortion, massacres of civilians, assassination of journalists and environmentalists, etc. Problems also persist within homes from the state of Mexico such as alcoholism, drug addiction, domestic violence, child labor, child pregnancy, unemployment, prostitution, forced labor, human trafficking, etc.
All of the above in a national scenario of economic crisis, recession, inflation, militarization of streets, with a leftist government, a neighborhood with the United States with the consequent economic and commercial dependence, at that time with an American president with a deep hatred towards our country and its people, as well as constant attacks on social networks towards Mexican institutions, especially those who were in charge of the T-MEC trade agreement and even the presidential investiture, which demanded the genuflection of our sovereignty to their economic interests. Having described the above, it is not surprising that the proposals for university classrooms deal with issues such as:
· Legalization of abortion
· Decriminalization of the practice of euthanasia.
· Guarantee of state support for the elderly
· Panic buttons on buses as a measure to reduce street harassment
· Decent pay, training, and adequate equipment for police forces
· Licensing of bicyclists with access to road safety training and emergency services
· Issuance of bracelets to women with silent alarms to call for help
· Program to guarantee adequate social insertion for children of women prisoners.
· Implementation of Mexican Sign Language as a co-curricular subject at the high school level.
· Sex education starting in preschool
· Emotional intelligence from the elementary level
· Punishment for the abandonment of the elderly
· More and better pink transportation
· Prohibition of junk food/nutritional education
· Financial education starting at the elementary level
· Punishment for loss of evidence or slow investigation in feminicide cases.
The proposals put forward correspond to social needs that social work students perceive in their environment as worrisome and urgent to address, situations that they experience on a daily basis at home, in their commute, at work or at their university.
Once the students have structured their proposal and it has been reviewed by the teacher, the presentation of the motives is followed by an intense debate with arguments for and against, where at the end a vote is requested for the proposal that the group considers most viable, taking into account aspects such as the social impact, the rescue of personal dignity, the economic cost, the social injustice sustained and invisible for a long period, the urgency of addressing or solving that need. In this case, it was decided to include Mexican Sign Language (LSM) because it was considered that the deaf community in the state of Mexico has been ignored in their most basic needs such as their right to communicate, access to justice and be socially included. Once the topic was decided, in order to sensitize the group and strengthen arguments, a deaf person and a Mexican Sign Language translator were invited to explain to the group the problems they have faced since they were born, the injustices they are subjected to, the world of silence in which they live, and which relegates them to a situation of injustice and permanent invisibility.
From listening to these experiences, the proposal was nurtured and strengthened, generating solid arguments that showed the urgency of the inclusion of the LSM in the educational sector, since this way this population would be made visible and with it their rights, improving their communication capacity and allowing them to access a better educational level that would provide them with tools to access more and better forms of justice.
This is how the statement of reasons, a fundamental part of the proposal, was created, since it presents the arguments that will demonstrate the soundness of the proposal, it is important to mention that during the reading of the proposal in the simulator, some deaf people and the LSM translator were present.
The following are the key takeaways of the statement of reasons:
In Mexico according to the National Survey of Demographic Dynamics (ENADID, 2014) the prevalence of disability is 6%. Similarly, in the National Survey of Occupation and Employment New Edition (ENOE, 2021) on the Main Labor Indicators of Cities, indicates that 6% of the population has a disability, which means that 7. 1 million of the country's inhabitants cannot or have great difficulty doing any of the eight activities evaluated: walking, going up or down using their legs; seeing (even if they wear glasses); moving or using their arms or hands; learning, remembering, or concentrating; listening (even if they wear hearing aids); bathing, dressing or eating; speaking or communicating; and emotional or mental problems.
In 15 of the 32 entities surveyed by ENADID (2014), the State of Mexico is in third place with respect to the number of people with disabilities giving 6.2 % of the total population. One of the vulnerable subgroups of disability, are people with hearing impairment, being that condition in which there are disorders or decreases in auditory functioning, as well as difficulty in perceiving sound, especially the intensity and tone of it. Hearing impairment is something more than simple hearing loss (hearing impairment), since in the latter case the person can continue a normal life, while the hearing-impaired person requires help to communicate with others and their ability to learn language is seriously affected.
The deaf community, faced with the difficulty of communicating with others, sees the possibility of achieving a real social realization obstructed, hindering their educational, professional and human development, and consequently they see their opportunities for inclusion limited. Faced with this need, they have developed their own form of communication, Mexican Sign Language (LSM), which allows them to communicate with each other, but does not always facilitate the relationship with the rest of the community, especially with hearing people who do not know the language.
The National Council for the Development and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities adopts Mexican Sign Language (LSM) as the language used by deaf people in Mexico because every language has its own syntax, grammar, and lexicon. It is composed of visual signs with its own linguistic structure. For the vast majority of those who have been born deaf, this is the way they articulate their thoughts and emotions, which allows them to satisfy their communicative needs, as well as to develop their cognitive abilities to the maximum while interacting with the world around them.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2008), in its article 5 establishes equality and non-discrimination and recognizes all persons as equal before the law, with the opportunity to benefit without any discrimination, and proposes the implementation of relevant measures to ensure equality and prohibit discrimination. Likewise, this Convention in its article 21, establishes freedom of expression and opinion as well as access to information; it recommends providing persons with disabilities with information directed to the general public, in a timely manner and at no additional cost, in accessible formats and with technologies appropriate to the different types of disabilities; accepting and facilitating the use of sign language, Braille, augmentative and alternative modes, means and formats of communication and all other accessible modes, means and formats of communication chosen by persons with disabilities in their official relations; encourage private entities that provide services to the general public, including through the Internet, to provide information and services in formats that persons with disabilities can use and access; encourage the media, including those that provide information through the Internet, to make their services accessible to persons with disabilities; recognize and promote the use of sign languages.
Currently, only a few lines of action are in charge of trying to solve the problem according to the General Law of Education regarding inclusive education, in Article 33, Sections I, II and II Bis, where it establishes that under the principle of inclusion, training, counseling and support programs will be developed for teachers who serve students with disabilities and outstanding abilities, and in Article 41 it is established that the purpose of special education is to identify, prevent and eliminate barriers that limit the ability of students with disabilities and outstanding abilities, and in Article 41 it is established that special education has the following objectives, prevent and eliminate barriers that limit learning and the full and effective participation in society of persons with disabilities, with severe learning, behavioral or communication difficulties, and that reasonable accommodations will be made and methods, techniques, specific materials and support measures will be applied to guarantee the satisfaction of the basic learning needs of students and the maximum development of their potential for their autonomous integration into social and productive life.
The educational institutions of the State shall promote and facilitate the continuity of their studies at the middle and higher education levels. The education and training of teachers will promote inclusive education and will develop the necessary competencies for its adequate attention; likewise, the institutions that integrate the national educational system will be subject to such guidelines. The autonomous institutions of higher education by law may establish agreements with the federal education authority in order to homologate criteria for the attention, evaluation, accreditation and certification of students with outstanding abilities. Special education must incorporate the approaches of inclusion and substantive equality.
Similarly, to emphasize its relevance, there are records where an initiative has already been presented such as the Federal Law of Deaf Culture in 2001, where the bilingual education of the deaf is marked in Article 12 the state must implement a program of training and certification of teachers for bilingual education of the deaf, which will give equal access to the training of deaf teachers and are able to instruct their students on the language teaching workshops in high school and college level schools. In 2011, the General Law for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities was approved and published, seeking the visibility and inclusion of this and other minority groups, said law in its article 14 recognizes Mexican Sign Language as a national language, becoming a linguistic heritage of the nation and also promotes all forms of written communication that facilitates the hearing impaired person to interact with others.
Prior to the proposal of the modifications, the Federal Law of the Deaf Culture is taken into account, in its article 7, where it establishes that every deaf speaker will have the right to have access to Mexican Sign Language as a second language. The State will implement programs that facilitate the exercise of this right, without prejudice to the right that every deaf speaker has to preserve their first oral language and cultural identity. In order that the current background and rights of the deaf community are carried out, it is necessary to modify educational aspects, mainly in high school and college level education in order to provide the necessary tools to provide their services in society in accordance with the Education Law of the State of Mexico, which in its Article 2, section II, states that are subject to its provisions the public education institutions in any of its types, levels, modalities and aspects under the State.
Article 11 of the Education Law of the State of Mexico establishes that the education provided by the State shall be equitable, therefore, the educational authorities shall take measures to generate conditions that allow the exercise, which are developed in Article 12 of the same law through fractions that specify the actions. Regarding the fractions, there is no clear approach that gives solution to the exposed problem, it is proposed the modification of fraction XI in such a way that its structure is: “Diseñar modelos educativos incluyentes que permitan la interacción con la comunidad sorda con la finalidad de lograr una comunicación efectiva a partir del nivel medio superior y superior”, thus ensuring a comprehensive education that allows a student of the high school level to develop in front of the deaf community and intervene with this population and improving the inclusion of the aforementioned group.
In Section XXXI of Article 12 of the Education Law of the State of Mexico, it establishes the need to carry out other activities to improve the quality of education, expand the coverage of educational services and achieve the purposes of equity and effective equality of opportunities, the proposal is to add section XXXII bis as a complementary addition to the law, which would read as follows: “Para dar cumplimiento a la fracción anterior, las instituciones públicas y privadas de educación media superior y superior deberán implementar talleres obligatorios con valor cocurricular de lengua de señas mexicana a sus alumnos” in order to give a sense of educational quality, a term on which some laws of educational approach revolve.
In Article 14 of the Education Law of the State of Mexico, the education provided by the State will be of quality and based on values; it will promote national and state identity; it will provide students with a global vision of knowledge that consolidates the culture of peace and sustainable development; and it will contribute to equity, to the integral formation of the person and to his or her preparation for life, suggesting the addition of the text “Por lo que las instituciones de nivel medio superior y superior deberán realizar estrategias que brinden a sus estudiantes de grupos vulnerables autonomía personal y laboral de tal forma que se integren eficazmente a la Sociedad”, with the purpose of improving emerging aspects in the subject of inclusion.
In the search for the integration of people with hearing disabilities, with the inclusion of Mexican Sign Language as a curricular workshop at the middle and high school level, we can find benefits in the short term such as the opening to communication of people with hearing disabilities. This will strengthen communication between society and people with hearing disabilities, since according to the National Council for the Promotion of Education (CONAFE, 2022) “La falta de comunicación e interacción con el entorno influirá negativamente en su personalidad, en su desarrollo intelectual y afectivo y en su aprendizaje”. This is why facilitating the opening of communication between people with hearing disabilities and the integration of sign language will allow effective communication and strengthen the inclusion of deaf people with society in general.
Inclusion goes beyond, it crosses and touches all citizens, it is responsible for transforming the educational and social structures that have contributed to relegate many people from this right. According to the Didactic Guide for inclusion in initial and basic education promoted by CONAFE (2022) “Se trata de aplicar la inclusión, es decir, ofrecer las mismas oportunidades de participación que tienen los otros niños de la comunidad; también los mismos derechos y obligaciones” (p. 12). To foster effective communication between people with some hearing impairment and society. Effective communication according to De la Cruz (2014) in his work Comunicación efectiva y trabajo en equipo and to create a sense of culture between those with the disability and society is:
…un proceso complejo marcado por muchos factores (cultura, cercanía de los interlocutores, estados de ánimo…) en el que, a pesar de haber diferencias entre las distintas personas, existen elementos comunes que son los que permiten que se dé el proceso comunicativo (p. 20).
It is accepted that most countries have their own national sign language and, therefore, their own Deaf community and culture; in addition, it is recognized that Deaf people belong to a transnational Deaf community, based on the above, the Deaf culture would be equivalent to indigenous or migrant cultures, with their respective languages, in the sense that what occurs is a situation of linguistic contact/conflict to be in a disadvantaged position against a hegemonic language, i.e., the oral language.
Today in the State of Mexico there is no inclusion of sign language for deaf people and if it exists it is only up to the basic level (middle school), however, it is expected that in the future a law of education for the deaf will be generated directly in the State of Mexico, starting from a basic level (preschool) with the purpose of becoming such a common and perfectly mastered language that with the passage of time competitive human beings capable of developing this type of skills are formed so that at the time they decide to intervene as professionals in any area, they are sufficiently trained to serve this group of people with this disability and thus, avoid the normalization of rejection to them. Such is the case of (Lengua de Señas Mexicana en Baja California, 2018), where bilingual education is taken up again, where this proposal is landed and similar fruits to those of this State are expected, as is the certification of interpreters and translators, likewise it is expected to achieve a Mexican sign language not only in a practical way, but also in a written way.
The above shows the arguments presented during the reading of the law initiative, which was voted and approved by a majority of votes in the plenary of the simulator, with this, the importance of the exercise of citizen participation from the university classrooms is rescued, accompanied by the teaching exercise with social responsibility. The following is a transcription of the decree that was read at the end of the explanatory memorandum:
PRIMERO.-Se adicione texto al artículo 12: fracción XI y XXXI bis de la Ley de Educación del Estado de México, quedando de la siguiente forma:
XI. Diseñar modelos educativos incluyentes que permitan la interacción con la comunidad sorda con la finalidad de lograr una comunicación efectiva a partir del nivel medio superior y superior
XXXI. Realizar las demás actividades que permitan mejorar la calidad de la educación, ampliar la cobertura de los servicios educativos y alcanzar los propósitos de equidad y efectiva igualdad de oportunidades;
XXXII bis. Para dar cumplimiento a la fracción anterior, las instituciones públicas y privadas de educación media superior y superior deberán implementar talleres obligatorios con valor cocurricular de lengua de señas mexicana a sus alumnos.
SEGUNDO.- Se adhiere un párrafo al Artículo 14 de la Ley de Educación del Estado de México para que se redefina así;
Artículo 14. La educación que brinde el Estado será de calidad y sustentada en valores; promoverá la identidad nacional y estatal; aportará a los educandos una visión global del conocimiento que consolide la cultura de la paz y el desarrollo sostenible; y contribuirá a la equidad, a la formación integral de la persona y a su preparación para la vida.
Por lo que las instituciones de nivel medio superior y superior deberán realizar estrategias que brinden a sus alumnos de grupos vulnerables generar autonomía personal y laboral de tal forma que se integren eficazmente a la sociedad
PRIMERO: Publíquese el presente decreto en el periódico oficial “Gaceta del Gobierno”
SEGUNDO: El presente decreto entrará en vigor el día siguiente de su publicación en el periódico oficial “Gaceta del Gobierno”.
To conclude, it is important to emphasize that the participation was as successful as expected, the proposal for the inclusion of the LSM in the high school level proposed in the plenary of the simulator was approved by a majority of the simulator, so it was “turnó a la Comisión de educación, cultura, ciencia y tecnología”. This is a prerequisite for the host legislator to analyze it, adapt it if deemed appropriate and present it in session before the legislative assembly, and this was done having as guests several of the students who participated, being voted in favor and again turned to the Commission of education, culture, science and technology, where after being debated and despite the recognition of the urgency to meet the needs of the deaf community in the State of Mexico, it was ruled inadmissible due to budgetary insolvency, arguing the training payments to teachers of high school level. However, the precedent of seeking to make the deaf community visible through participation in such events remained.
Participating in this type of events outside the classroom gives evidence of how the teacher-student work is able to achieve a greater reach in issues of social impact, obtaining several benefits, among which we can mention:
On the part of the teacher:
· Strengthens his or her experience as a teacher in activities outside the classroom.
· Acquire greater knowledge about the practical application of their learning unit.
· Generates unity and identity within the group and the profession in question.
· Maintains recognition of the institution to which it belongs, generating a bond of collaboration.
On the part of the student:
· Applies the theoretical knowledge received in the classroom.
· Shares his or her training and social vision with other professions in training.
· Develops social skills in new contexts.
· Improves their ability to communicate and debate with academic peers.
· Tests values such as tolerance and respect in stressful situations.
· Acquires a different view of their role as an active citizen.
· Recognizes the role that their university education plays within their community.
· Strengthens their professional identity and recognizes the training of other professions.
· Broadens their academic and social circle.
Finally, this experience allowed the students of the bachelor's degree in social work to partially visualize the legislative process, but above all it allowed them to get closer to their representatives, with the presentation of proposals on real needs of their communities and municipalities and with the generation of new options for participation in the legislative sphere. Likewise, the exercise allowed them to perceive politics much more closely and tangibly, with real possibilities of exercising it and participating in it, they experienced teamwork, the generation of alliances, practiced their capacity for argumentation and debate with a respectful and tolerant tone.
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FIRST. -The following text is added to article 12: section XI and XXXI bis of the Education Law of the State of Mexico, to read as follows:
XI. To design inclusive educational models that allow interaction with the deaf community in order to achieve effective communication from high school and higher education levels.
XXXI. Carry out other activities to improve the quality of education, expand the coverage of educational services and achieve the purposes of equity and effective equality of opportunities;
XXXII bis. In order to comply with the previous section, the public and private institutions of higher and higher secondary education shall implement mandatory workshops with co-curricular value of Mexican Sign Language to their students.
SECOND.- A paragraph is added to Article 14 of the Education Law of the State of Mexico so that it is redefined as follows;
Article 14. The education provided by the State shall be of quality and based on values; it shall promote national and state identity; it shall provide students with a global vision of knowledge that consolidates the culture of peace and sustainable development; and it shall contribute to equity, to the integral formation of the person and to his or her preparation for life.
Therefore, high school and college level education institutions shall implement strategies to provide their students from vulnerable groups to generate personal and labor autonomy so that they can effectively integrate into society.
FIRST: This decree shall be published in the official newspaper “Gaceta de Gobierno”.
SECOND: The present decree shall enter into effect the day following its publication in the official newspaper “Gaceta de Gobierno”.