President Enrique Peña Nieto signed into law on Monday a drastic overhaul of Mexico's education system that is opposed by the country's more-than-1-million-strong teachers union.

The reform, which modifies two articles of the constitution, seeks to promote educational quality and recover government control of the schools.

The passing of the constitutional change "begins an educational transformation that Mexican society longs for," the president said during a ceremony at the National Palace in the capital.

Among the key elements of the overhaul is the creation of a professional teaching service with "clear rules" and subject to independent evaluation.

The object of the evaluation will not be "to prejudice anyone," but to discover the strengths and weaknesses of the educational system in order to improve teacher training, Peña Nieto said, without directly mentioning criticisms of the SNTE teachers union.

Notable for her absence at the event was long-time SNTE boss Elba Esther Gordillo, who considers the overhaul a threat to her members' job security.

Peña Nieto said that the reform maintains the "public, secular and free-of-charge" character of Mexican education.

The ruling, backed by Congress and the majority of Mexico's 32 state legislatures, eliminates the privileges of the SNTE, which up to now has controlled teacher placement and positions.

It also calls for a census of schools, teachers and students in order to have a database that will allow the planning of "highly competitive and demanding" educational material in a global era, Peña Nieto said. EFE