Issue 10, August 2009
|Primary and Secondary Education|
Schooling is mandatory for Mexican children between the ages of 6 and 18. UNESCO estimates that 98% of children are enrolled in primary school, and 72% of children are enrolled in secondary school. Both these statistics are significantly higher than in years past, due to educational reform in recent decades.
While the rates of student enrollment have increased, student performance is among the lowest in Latin America and considerably lower than in most industrialized countries. A 2003 study by the Mexican National Institute for Educational Evaluation (INEE) found that 45% of urban primary school students achieved satisfactory or above satisfactory results in reading and only 15% achieved satisfactory scores in math. Results for rural schools were even lower. No English instruction is mandatory or generally provided until seventh grade. Schools are regulated by the National Union of Education Workers, a powerful bureaucracy that oversees the hiring, firing, and training of teachers, and which is often criticized as corrupt.
In May 2006, an annual teachers’ strike in Oaxaca grabbed headlines around the world when police attempted to force the striking teachers to abandon their encampment. The teachers were concerned about the increasing privatization of education in Mexico. Their specific demands included better pay, increased funding for school infrastructure, free school breakfasts, and textbooks and uniforms for students. The police reaction to the teacher protestors incited supporters to join their cause and occupy the main square in the city of Oaxaca, calling for the Oaxacan governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz to resign. In October 2006, federal police began to forcibly remove protestors and regained control of the city. Ortiz remains in office, and social and educational activists continue to press for reforms.