Education in Mexico
|Secretariat of Public Education|
|Secretary of Education|
|Aurelio Nuño Mayer|
|National education budget (2007)|
|Primary languages||Spanish as the standard. Other minority languages are available in their local communities.|
|Current system||September 25, 1921|
|Post secondary||2.3 million|
|Sources: Sistema Educativo de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos. Principales cifras, ciclo escolar 2003-2004 pdf and the 2000 Census (INEGI)|
Education in Mexico has a long history. The Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico was founded by royal decree in 1551, a few months after the National University of San Marcos in Lima. By comparison, Harvard College, the oldest in Anglo-America, was founded in 1636. Education in Mexico was until relatively recently largely confined to elite males and under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico.
The Mexican state has been directly involved in education since the nineteenth century, promoting secular education. Control of education was a source of ongoing conflict between the Mexican state and the Roman Catholic Church, which since the colonial era had exclusive charge of education. The mid nineteenth-century Liberal Reform separated church and state, which had a direct impact on education. President Benito Juárez sought the expansion of public schools. During the lengthy tenure of president Porfirio Díaz, the expansion of education became a priority under a cabinet-level post held by Justo Sierra; Sierra also served President Francisco I. Madero in the early years of the Mexican Revolution.
The 1917 Constitution strengthened the Mexican state's power in education, undermining the power of the Roman Catholic Church to shape the educational development of Mexicans. During presidency of Álvaro Obregón in the early 1920s, his Minister of Public Education José Vasconcelos implemented a massive expansion of access to public, secular education. This work was built on and expanded in the administration of Plutarco Elías Calles by Moisés Sáenz. In the 1930s, the Mexican government under Lázaro Cárdenas mandated socialist education in Mexico and there was considerable push back from the Roman Catholic Church as an institution. Socialist education was repealed during the 1940s, with the administration of Manuel Ávila Camacho. A number of private universities have opened since the mid twentieth century.
Education in Mexico is currently regulated by the Secretariat of Public Education (Spanish: Secretaría de Educación Pública) (SEP). Education standards are set by this Ministry at all levels except in "autonomous" universities chartered by the government (e.g., Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México). Accreditation of private schools is accomplished by a mandatory approval and registration with this institution. Religious instruction is prohibited in public schools; however, religious associations are free to maintain private schools, which receive no public funds.
In the same fashion as other education systems, education has identifiable stages: Primary School, Junior High School (or Secondary School), High School, Higher education, and Postgraduate education.
- 1 Structure of the basic education system
- 2 Quality of education in Mexico
- 3 Higher education
- 4 Educational years
- 5 International education
- 6 History
- 7 Education in Mesoamerica Before the Spanish
- 8 Colonial-era education, 1521-1821
- 9 Post-Independence Era, 1821-present
- 10 Further reading
- 11 See also
- 12 Sources
- 13 References
- 14 Sources
- 15 External links
Structure of the basic education system
In Mexico, basic education is normally divided in three steps: primary school (primaria), comprising grades 1-6; junior high school (secundaria), comprising grades 7-9; and high school (preparatoria), comprising grades 10-12.
Depending on definitions, Primary education comprises primaria and secundaria, which are compulsory by law, while Secondary education only includes preparatoria, which was not compulsory a few years ago, but it has been made mandatory as well.
The terms "Primary School" or "Elementary School" usually corresponds to primaria, comprising grades 1-6, when the student's age is 6 to 12 years old. It starts the basic compulsory education system. These are the first years of schooling.
Junior High School
The terms "Junior High School" or "Middle School" usually correspond to secundaria, comprising grades 7-9 when the student's age is 12 to 15 years old it is part of the basic compulsory education system, it follows primary school, and comes before "high school" (preparatoria).
At this level, more specialized subjects may be taught such as Physics, Chemistry, and World History. There is also the técnica which provides vocational training, and the telesecundaria which provides distance learning.
Despite the similarities of the words "Secondary school" and secundaria, in Mexico the former is usually translated to preparatoria, while in other countries, such as Puerto Rico, or within the Spanish-speaking populations of the United States, the term secundaria refers to university.
The terms "High School" usually corresponds to preparatoria or bachillerato, and follow "secundaria" comprising grades 10-12, when the student's age is 15 to 18 years old. Students may choose between two main kinds of high school programs: The SEP incorporated, and a University Incorporated one, depending on the state. Other minority of programs are available only for private schools, such as the International Baccalaureate which carries a completely different system. Nevertheless, in order to be taught, it must include a national subject at least. In addition, there are programs such as tecnología and comercio that prepare students for a particular vocational career.
Preparatoria traditionally consists of three years of education, divided into six semesters, with the first semesters having a common curriculum, and the latter ones allowing some degree of specialization, either in physical sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, etc.) or social sciences (commerce, philosophy, law, etc.). The term bachillerato is most commonly used for institutions that offer a three-year education program that "prepares" the student with general knowledge to continue studying at a university. In contrast, the term preparatioria is most often used for institutions that provide vocational training, in two or three years, so the graduate can get a job as a skilled worker, for example, an assistant accountant, a bilingual secretary or a technician.
Quality of education in Mexico
In recent years, the progression through Mexican education has come under much criticism. While over 90% of children in Mexico attend primary school, only 62% attend secondary school ("secundaria"). Only 45% finish high school ("preparatoria"). After secondary school, only a quarter pass on to higher education. A commonly cited reason for this is the lack of infrastructure throughout the rural schools. Moreover, the government has been criticized for paying teachers too much and investing too little into the students. In its annual report on education, the OECD has placed at below average in mathematics, science, and reading.
A program of education reform was enacted in February 2013 which provided for a shift in control of the education system from the teachers union SNTE and its political boss, Elba Esther Gordillo, to the central and state governments. Education in Mexico had been controlled by the teachers union and its leaders for many years. Shortly thereafter Gordillo was arrested on racketeering charges. As of 2016 the government continued to struggle with the union and its offshoot, CNTE.
There are both public and private institutions of higher education. Higher education usually follows the US education model with an at least 4-year bachelor's degree undergraduate level (Licenciatura), and two degrees at the postgraduate level, a 2-year Master's degree (Maestría), and a 3-year Doctoral degree (Doctorado), followed by the higher doctorate of Doctor of Sciences (Doctor en Ciencias). This structure of education very closely conforms to the Bologna Process started in Europe in 1999, allowing Mexican students to study abroad and pursue a master's degree after Licenciatura, or a Doctoral degree after Maestría. Unlike other OECD countries, the majority of Mexico's public universities do not accredit part-time enrollment programs.
Undergraduate studies normally last at least 4 years, divided into semesters or quarters, depending on the college or university, and lead to a bachelor's degree (Licenciatura). According to OECD reports, 23% of Mexicans aged 23–35 have a college degree.
Although in theory every graduate of a Licenciatura is a Licenciate (Licenciado, abbreviated Lic.) of his or her profession, it is common to use different titles for common professions such as Engineering and Architecture.
- Engineer, Ingeniero, abbreviated Ing.
- Electrical Engineer, Ingeniero Eléctrico
- Electronics Engineer, Ingeniero Electrónico
- Mechanical Engineer, Ingeniero Mecánico
- Computer Systems Engineer, Ingeniero en Sistemas Computacionales, abbreviated I.S.C.
- Architect, Arquitecto, abbreviated Arq.
- Licenciate, any degree, especially those from social sciences, Licenciado, abbreviated Lic.
New regulations since 2005 divide postgraduate studies at Mexican universities and research centers in two main categories:
- Targeted at professional development
- Especialización. A 1-year course after a bachelor's degree (Licenciatura), which awards a Specialization Diploma (Diploma de Especialización).
- Maestría. A 2-year degree after a bachelor's degree (Licenciatura), which awards the title of Master (Maestro).
Targeted at scientific research
- Maestría en Ciencias. A 2-year degree after a bachelor's degree (Licenciatura), which awards the title of Master of Science (Maestro en Ciencias).
- Doctorado. A 3-year degree after a master's degree (either Maestría or Maestría en Ciencias), or a 4-year degree directly after the bachelor's degree (Licenciatura) for high-achieving students. The Doctor of Sciences degree (Doctor en Ciencias) is equivalent to the higher doctorate awarded in countries such as Denmark, Ireland, the UK, and the former USSR countries.
Intercultural Universities in Mexico were established in 2004 in response to the lack of enrollment of the indigenous population in the country. While an estimated 10% of the population of Mexico is indigenous, it is the least represented in higher education. According to estimates, only between 1% and 3% of higher education enrollment in Mexico is indigenous. In response to this inequality, the General Coordination for Intercultural and Bilingual Education at the Ministry of Education established Intercultural Universities with the active participation of indigenous organizations and academic institutions in each region.
The table below describes the most common patterns for schooling in the state sector:
|3||1° de preescolar||N/A||Preschool||Kinder / Jardín de Niños / Educación preescolar|
|4||2° de preescolar||N/A|
|5||3° de preescolar||N/A|
|6||1° de primaria||N/A||Primary school / Elementary school||Primaria / Educación básica|
|7||2° de primaria||N/A|
|8||3° de primaria||N/A|
|9||4° de primaria||N/A|
|10||5° de primaria||N/A|
|11||6° de primaria||N/A|
|12||1° de secundaria||N/A||Secondary school / Middle school / Junior High School||Secundaria / Educación básica|
|13||2° de secundaria||N/A|
|14||3° de secundaria||N/A|
|15||4°/1° de preparatoria||1st and 2nd semesters||High school||Preparatoria / Bachillerato / Educación media superior|
|16||5°/2° de preparatoria||3rd and 4th semesters|
|17||6°/3° de preparatoria||5th and 6th semesters|
|18||N/A||1st and 2nd semesters / 1st, 2nd and 3rd quarters||Bachelor's degree / Licentiate||Licenciatura / Educación superior|
|19||N/A||3rd and 4th semesters / 4th, 5th and 6th quarters|
|20||N/A||5th and 6th semesters / 7th, 8th and 9th quarters|
|21||N/A||7th and 8th semesters / 10th quarter|
|22||N/A||9th and 10th semester (in most of the cases)|
As of January 2015, the International Schools Consultancy (ISC) listed Mexico as having 151 international schools. ISC defines an 'international school' in the following terms "ISC includes an international school if the school delivers a curriculum to any combination of pre-school, primary or secondary students, wholly or partly in English outside an English-speaking country, or if a school in a country where English is one of the official languages, offers an English-medium curriculum other than the country’s national curriculum and is international in its orientation." This definition is used by publications including The Economist.
In central Mexico, the history of education stretches back to the prehispanic era, with the education of Nahuas in schools for elites and commoners. A formal system of writing was created in various parts of central and southern Mexico, with trained experts in its practice. After the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, friars embarked on a widespread program of evangelization of Christianity. In the colonial era, schooling of elite men of European descent was established under the auspices of the Catholic Church. Liberals' attempts to separate church and state in post-independence Mexico included removal of the Catholic Church from education. Education remains an important aspect of Mexican institutional and cultural life, and conflicts continue about how it should be conducted. The history of education in Mexico gives insight into the larger history of the nation.
Education in Mesoamerica Before the Spanish
In central Mexico in the cultural area known as Mesoamerica, the Aztecs set up schools called calmecac for the training of warriors and schools for the training of priests, called cuicacalli. An early post-conquest manuscript prepared by native scribes for the viceroy of Mexico, Codex Mendoza shows these two types of schools. Aztec religion was highly complex and priests held a higher status, so that the creation of schools to train them in ritual and other aspects of religion was important. Overseeing an expansionist empire, Aztec rulers needed trained warriors, so that the creation of formal schools for their training was as important.
Colonial-era education, 1521-1821
Education of the Indigenous in Central Mexico
The Spanish Crown made a significant commitment to education in colonial New Spain. The first efforts of schooling in Mexico were friars’ evangelization of indigenous populations. “Educating the native population was a crucial justification of the colonizing enterprise, and that criollo (Spanish American) culture was encouraged as a vehicle for integrating” the indigenous. Fray Pedro de Gante established schools for indigenous in the immediate post-conquest years and produced pictorial texts to teach Catholic doctrine. All the mendicant orders in Mexico, the Franciscans, Dominicans, and Augustinians, built churches in large indigenous communities as places of worship and to teach the catechism, so that large outdoor atriums functioned as classrooms. Elite indigenous lads were tapped for training as catechists and helpers to the priests, whose small numbers could in no way minister to large numbers of ordinary indigenous.
In 1536, the Franciscans and the Spanish crown established a school to train an indigenous Catholic priesthood, the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco, which was deemed a failure in its goal of training priests, but did create a small cohort of indigenous men who were literate in their native language of Nahuatl, as well as Spanish and Latin. The Franciscans also founded the school of San José de los Naturales in Mexico City, which taught trades and crafts to boys. The Colegio de San Gregorio was also founded for the education of indigenous elites, the most famous of whom was Chimalpahin, (also known as Don Domingo Francisco de San Antón Muñón Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin).
Religious orders, particularly the Franciscans, taught indigenous scribes in central Mexico to be literate in their own languages, allowing the creation of documents at the local level for colonial officials and communities to enable crown administration as well as production of last will and testaments, petitions to the crown, bills of sale, censuses and other types of legal record to be produced at the local level. The large number of indigenous language documents found in the archives in Mexico and elsewhere have enabled scholars of the New Philology to analyze life of Mexico’s colonial-era indigenous from indigenous perspectives.
Education of Elite Creole Men
The Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico was founded in September 1551 at the request by Mexico’s first viceroy, Don Antonio de Mendoza to the Spanish crown. The university was located in the central core (traza) of History of Mexico City. Its first rector, Francisco Cervantes de Salazar, wrote an account of the university. The institution initially trained in priests, lawyers, and starting in 1579, medical doctors. These were the traditional disciplines of the medieval and early modern eras. The Royal and Pontifical University was the sole institution that could confer academic degrees. With the title of royal and pontifical university, its degrees were titled the same as European degrees. The Jesuits arrived in Mexico in 1571 and rapidly founded schools and colegios, and sought to confer degrees; however, the Council of the Indies, the royal entity overseeing the Spanish overseas empire, decided against them.
The university retained its premier position. One of its best known graduates was Don Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora, a Mexican savant of the seventeenth century, who was a friend of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a cloistered nun and intellectual, famous in her lifetime as the “Tenth Muse.” Sor Juana was barred from attending the university due to her gender.
In general, educational institutions were urban-based, with the capital Mexico City having the largest concentration. However, there were seminaries to train priests in provincial cities, such as the Colegio de San Nicolás, founded by Bishop Vasco de Quiroga in the city now called Morelia. Insurgent leader Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla served as rector there until he was relieved of his position. One of his students was insurgent leader Father José María Morelos. Educated priests were prominent in the movement toward independence from Spain.
Education of Girls and Mixed-Race Children
Most of the Mexican population was illiterate and entirely unschooled, and there was no priority for education of girls. A few girls in cities attended schools run by cloistered nuns. Some entered convent schools at around age eight, “to remain cloistered for the rest of their lives.” There were some schools connected to orphanages or confraternities. Private tutors educated girls from wealthy families, but only enough so that they could oversee a household. There were few opportunities for mixed race boys or girls. “Education was, in short, highly selective as befits a stratified society, and the possibilities of self-realization were a lottery of birth rather than talent.”
Post-Independence Era, 1821-present
When Antonio López de Santa Anna put his Liberal vice president Valentín Gómez Farías in charge of running the government, the vice president created in 1833 a public education system. This preceded the establishment of a Ministry of Public Education. This reform was short lived, but with the Liberal Reform in the mid-nineteenth century, a normal school for teacher training was established. The Liberals push for public education awaited the end of the War of the Reform and the ousting of the French Empire in Mexico (1862–67). The restored republic of President Benito Juárez reaffirmed the liberal principles separation of church and state, which in the educational sphere meant supplanting the Catholic Church by the Mexican state. Primary education in Mexico was henceforth to be secular, free of fees and tuition, and obligatory.
A key figure in higher education in Mexico was Gabino Barreda, who chaired Juárez's commission on education in 1867. Barreda was a follower of French intellectual Auguste Comte who established positivism the dominant philosophical school in the late nineteenth century. The Juárez government created a system of secondary education, and a key institution was the National Preparatory School (Escuela Nacional Preparatoria), founded in 1868 in Mexico City, which Barreda directed. Education at the Preparatoria was uniform for all students and "designed to fill what José Díaz Covarrubias identified as the traditional void between primary and professional training."
In 1910, the government of Porfirio Díaz under the minister of education Justo Sierra established the secular, state-controlled Universidad Nacional de México. The Pontifical University of Mexico under religious authority was suppressed in 1865.
The 1960 national census illustrates the historically poor performance of the Mexican educational system. The 1960 census found that as to all Mexicans over the age of five, 43.7% had not completed one year of school, 50.7% had completed six years or less of school, and only 5.6% had continued their education beyond six years of school.
In 1950, Mexico had only three million students enrolled in education. Today, there are 32 million enrolled students.
In 2012, some teachers from rural areas, specifically, from Michoacan and Guerrero states, opposed federal regulations which prevented them from automatic lifetime tenure, the ability to sell or will their jobs, and the teaching of either English or computer skills.
In 2015, 96.2% of six to fourteen year-olds attended school, up from 91.3% in 2000. The state with the highest attendance rate was Hidalgo (97.8%) and the state with the lowest attendance rate was Chiapas (93%). In the same year, 63% of three to five year-olds attended preschool or kindergarten, up from 52.3% in 2010. Also in 2015, 44% of 15 to 24 year-olds attended secondary or tertiary school, an increase from 32.8% in 2000.
History, Colonial era
- Aizpuru, Pilar Gonzalbo, "Education: Colonial" in Encyclopedia or Mexico, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997, pp. 434–438.
- Becerra López, José Luis. La organización de los estudios en la Nueva España. Mexico City: Cultura, 1963.
- Gómez Canedo, Lino. La educación de los marginados durante la època colonial. Mexico City: Porrúa 1982.
- Gonzalbo Aizpuru, Pilar. "Education: Colonial" in Encyclopedia or Mexico, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997, pp. 434–438.
- Kobayashi, José María. La educación como conquista. Mexico City: El Colegio de México 1990.
- Larroyo, Francisco. Historia comparada de la educacíon in México. Mexico City: Porrúa 1962.
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- Plaza y Jaén, Bernardo de la. Crónica de la Real y Pontificia Universidad de México escrita en el siglo XVIII. 2 vols. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1931.
- Ramìrez, Tàmmas. Creo en los impactos de la revolución mexicana hacia nuestro sistema escolar-Chilpancingo: Guerrero, 1972.
- Rodríguez, Martha Eugenia. "Escuela Nacional de Medicina" in Encyclopedia of Mexico, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997, pp. 458–461.
- Tanck de Estrada, Dorothy. La educación ilustrada (1786-1936). Mexico City: El Colegio de México 1977.
- Vázquez, Josefina Zoraida., et al. Ensayos sobre la historia de la educación en México. Mexico City: El Colegio de México 1981.
History, Post-independence period
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- Escobar Ohmstede, Antonio. "Education: 1821-1989" in Encyclopedia of Mexico, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997, pp. 438-441.
- Espinosa, David. Jesuit Student Groups, the Universidad Iberoamericana, and Political Resistance in Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press 2014.
- "Flunking the test: Failing schools pose a big challenge to President Enrique Peña Nieto's vision for modernising Mexico." The Economist, March 7, 2015, pp. 35–36.
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- Meneses Morales, Ernesto, et al. Tendencias educativas oficiales en México, 1911-1934. Mexico City: Centro de Estudios Educativos, Universidad Iberoamericana 1986.
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- Vázquez, Josefina Zoraida. Nacionalismo y educación en México. Mexico City: El Colegio de México 1970.
- Villa Lever, Lorenza. Los libros de texto gratuitos: La disputa por la educación en México. Guadalajara: Universidad de Guadalajara 1988.
- World Bank, "PROGRAM DOCUMENT FOR A PROPOSED LOAN IN THE AMOUNT OF US$300,751,879.70 TO THE UNITED MEXICAN STATES FOR A SECOND UPPER SECONDARY EDUCATION DEVELOPMENT POLICY LOAN", International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, February 8, 2012
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- Kuznetsov, Yevgeny N.; Dahlman, Carl J. (2008). Mexico's Transition to a Knowledge-Based Economy: Challenges and Opportunities. World Bank Publications. p. 63. doi:10.1596/978-0-8213-6921-0. ISBN 978-0-8213-6921-0.
- United States
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The law foresees a centralised process for hiring, evaluating, promoting and retaining teachers.
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- Kuznetsov & Dahlman 2008, p. 81.
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- Aizpuru, “Education: Colonial,” p. 435.
- Frances Karttunen, “Nahuatl Literacy” in The Inca and Aztec States, New York: Academic Press,
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- Lino Gómez Canedo, La educación de los marginados durante la época colonial,"cap. III. "Casas de recogimiento y de educación para niñas indias," Mexico: Porrúa 1982.
- Aizpuru, “Education: Colonial,” p. 437.
- Aizpuru, “Education: Colonial,” p. 438.
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- Charles A. Hale, The Transformation of Liberalism in Late Nineteenth-Century Mexico. Princeton: Princeton University Press 1989, p. 140.
- Albert Delmez, "The Positivist Philosophy in Mexican Education, 1867-1873," The Americas vol. 6, no. 1.
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- OECD Education Policy Outlook: Mexico
- (in Spanish) SEP homepage
- Information on education in Mexico, OECD - Contains indicators and information about Mexico and how it compares to other OECD and non-OECD countries
- Diagram of Mexican education system, OECD - Using 1997 ISCED classification of programmes and typical ages. Also in Spanish