Education in Mexico


  1. General information about Mexico
  2. General information and key indicators relevant to education
  3. The educational system
  4. Education in action

Accurate as of March 2013; unless indicated otherwise, the websites are all in English. Acknowledgement: Tara Mandjee.


General information about Mexico 

Mexico, with about 112 million inhabitants, is the 11th most populous country in the world and the 14th most extensive in land area. Mexico is a democratic federal republic made up of 31 states and a Federal District (Distrito Federal or D.F.), which is the political and administrative capital.

About a third of the population is in the 0-to-14-year-old age range.

The economy of Mexico is the 13th largest in the world in nominal terms and the 11th by purchasing power parity. In 2010 its GDP per capita was USD 9 123, the 54th in the world (World Bank). The low levels of education are often pointed as one of the main inhibitors of economic prosperity and growth.

The cultural diversity in the country is extensive. The Indigenous population is approximately 8 million, representing 62 ethno-linguistic groups that speak one of the 68 Indigenous languages and 364 dialectic variations. These communities show high to very high degrees of social disadvantage, a fact partly related to their remote location which hampers access to education services.

Sources and additional information at: the 2010 Census data from INEGI, Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía; the OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education: Mexico 2012; and the OECD Statistical Profile of Mexico.

General information and key indicators relevant to education

The Secretariat of Public Education (SEP) (in English; in Spanish) is the body responsible for national education policy and the overall strategy for the education system. It sets the standards at all levels except in autonomous universities which are regulated by the government.

See also the SEP on Wikipedia (also available in Spanish), the SEP’s basic statistics for 2008-2009, the OECD “Reflections on the performance of the Mexican education system”, London centre for leadership in learning (November 2007) and Education at a Glance 2011: OECD Indicators.

As in many other countries, education in Mexico is a constitutional and fundamental right granted to all Mexicans. In addition to providing a right to education, the Constitution also requires education to be secular, free and democratic. Public schools are therefore free but only on proof of Mexican citizenship. The great majority of students attend public schools. In the 2010/11 school year, the proportion of students attending public schools was 90.8% in basic education and 82.5% in upper secondary education.

Source and see further @ OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education, 2012.

The educational system 

In the same fashion to other education systems, education in Mexico may be described in three different levels: basic education, upper secondary education and tertiary education.

  • Basic education consists of Preschool, Primary school (grades 1 to 6) and Junior high school (grades 7 to 9). They are all compulsory by law.
  • Upper secondary education is from grades 10 to 12. There are two types of upper secondary education in Mexico, preparatoria and bachillerato. The former prepares student with general knowledge to access tertiary education whereas the latter refers to a vocational training to get a job directly after completing a three-year curriculum.
  • Lastly, tertiary education includes three types of education: Higher technician, undergraduate studies leading to a Bachelor’s degree (Licenciatura) and Postgraduate studies (Maestría and Doctorado) divided similarly to the European education system.

Sources and additional information @ Wikipedia and @ InterNations: Healthcare and Education in Mexico.

Public schools are free for Mexican citizens and local universities are more accessible. However, one can choose an international school, such as the Edron Academy or Prepa Tec from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education. They are nonetheless mainly located in bigger cities such as Mexico City, Guadalajara, or Monterrey. Further information available  @ InterNations: Healthcare and Education in Mexico.

For information on international exchanges in Mexico and international student mobility data, see Project Atlas – Mexico and the Patlani 2012.

For a list of Higher education institutions recognized by competent authorities, see @ UNESCO.

Education in action

  1. a) Targetting issues

Major features of the Mexican education system include: the dominance of half-day schooling; the difficult social contexts faced by schools; a deficient school infrastructure; numerous challenges facing the teaching profession; the limited school autonomy; and considerable funding inequities. As part of these challenges is the reality that many children traditionally choose work over school. Indeed, only 62% reach secondary school and only 45% finish secondary school. This can be explained by the importance of the income generated by working; it is a choice between survival and education.

Sources and additional information: @ Tulane University, Childhood around the World@ Factbox: facts about Mexico’s education system; and @ OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education, 2012.

  1. b) Some initiatives undertaken
  • The comprehensive Reform of Basic Education: Mexico has recently introduced an extensive curricular reform to improve the coherence of the system and its focus on student achievement: the Comprehensive Reform of Basic Education (Reforma Integral de la Educación Básica, RIEB).
  • The National Assessment of Academic Achievement in Schools (ENLACE): Introduction in 2006 of the National Assessment of Academic Achievement in Schools (Evaluación Nacional de Logro Académico en Centros Escolares, ENLACE) which measures student performance across the country and ensures public accountability
  • Targeted federal educational programmes: The federal government funds public education partly through targeted educational programmes which reallocate resources across schools and states in relation to educational disadvantage. The programs cover a large number of areas from “Quality Schools” to “Strengthening of Actions Related to Indigenous Education” initiatives.

Source: OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education, 2012.

  • PROGRESA provides aid to the poorest of the poor in Mexico by providing money for schooling costs such as uniforms and textbooks for the families and health care for the children. These services are contingent on the children’s school attendance. The PROGRESA program helps 2.3 million families who would not otherwise be able to afford schooling for their children.
  • School Management Support (AGE) which consists of giving funds to parent’s associations and involving those parents in the use made of the money in the establishment. This way parents do not only receive support but they are also giving and hence feel committed. For instance, parents helped for the freshly painted walls, new lavatory doors and flower-beds added in the Emilio Carranza School.
  • School based management project (RIA) is a network of education centers that offer courses on computer and Internet skills, English, reading, math and studying techniques to low-income communities in Mexico. The project has three components: Component 1, school grants; Component 2, monitoring and program oversight; and Component 3, policy development and evaluation. It functions on the basis of donations, 100% of which go towards funding scholarships for students under 18. To date, donors’ contributions and pledges totaled $22,433.

Sources: The EconomistEmpowering parents to Improve Education: Evidence from Rural Mexico, Harvard family research projectMexico – School-Based Management Project, by the Worldbank. For more projects supported by the Worldbank, please click here.

  • Right to education project in Mexico introduced GO Campaign in partnership with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center in 2012 to improve the lives and education of indigenous children in Guerrero, Mexico. The project aims at building and renovating primary schools in various cities.

Source: @ Robert F. Kennedy, Center for justice & human rights.

Finally, note that the US-Mexico Foundation has announced eight new grants in Mexico to Civil Society Organizations.

  1. c) International volunteering programs (Volunteer Action for Peace and Nataté Mexico)
  • Casa Ghandi, a project that aims at a comprehensive education for kids. In this space the children live and learn about planting in the garden, caring for farm animals, and alternative energy. The objective of this project is the awareness of children, parents and relatives about respecting Mother Earth and the generation of ideas and initiatives to encourage participation. This is an integral education project also teaching reading and writing workshops, languages, mathematics, recycling, crafts, painting and everything related to creative development of children.
  • Igloo kokolo: this project was born with the idea to create a self-sustaining environment. Igloo uses sustainable designs and lives within a sustainable environment. With these principles they are committed to disseminate experiences and techniques for sustainable living in balance with the ecosystem and the creatures that live in it. Its mission is to educate people about the care of the environment, through courses, seminars and workshops to spread an alternative life in balance with the environment. Kokolo is on the south shore of Mexico’s largest lake “Chapala” in the municipality of Tizapan, 1 hour and 20 minutes from the city of Guadalajara.
  • Parque educativo San Jose is a natural reserve of wild forest (oak and pine trees forest) and an educational park; it is part of the Natural History Institute in Chiapas. Its mission is to protect, conserve, and exhibit the flora and fauna from the region Los Altos de Chiapas. The new administration is willing to reorganize the park and its facilities following their sustainable and ecological philosophy. The development of services for nature lovers and responsible tourist is among the plans (facilities for bird watching, bike paths, ecological refuges for animals, etc).

Source: @ Volunteer Action for peace.