Education in Mexico is greatly segregated by social class. Children of wealthy families go to private schools with plenty of funding for books and materials, while children of poor families attend schools with less money to spend on education. These circumstances create disparate educational levels, and maintain the gap between the classes. Although conditions are not ideal, the government takes steps to encourage education.
The Mexican government mandates education through the completion of the sixth grade, but many children traditionally choose work over school. The importance of the income generated by working children means that for many families there is a choice between survival and education. In spite of these difficulties, over the past five years steady improvement in school attendance has occurred: UNICEF reports that 84% of children who begin primary school reach grade five. A lower dropout rate means more young people are likely to continue on to a higher education, which may help lead children out of poverty. Today more than 8 million young people are enrolled in schools beyond the primary level, almost 2 million more than in 1994.
The government has successfully started programs to improve educational opportunities in Mexico. Under President Ernesto Zedillo more money and supplies have been channeled to schools than ever before. President Zedillo's most recent State of the Union Address outlines some of the progress that has been made. Government spending on education now amounts to 25 centavos of every peso spent by the government. This money is used to build new primary schools and technical schools. The money also helped to distribute free textbooks to 90% of the public schools in Mexico. Nine out of ten children between the ages of six and fourteen are enrolled in primary school, 770,000 more than were enrolled in 1994.
Another program proving helpful to families with children is the PROGRESA program. 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. The government efforts have made a difference: the number of children starting school who finish sixth grade is increasing steadily. During the 1993-94 school year 74% finished the sixth grade, during the 1997-98 year the number rose to 83%, and the estimate for the 2000-01 school year shows 87% completing the sixth grade.
These steady trends of improvement are a good sign that the educational future of children in Mexico is improving.
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The purpose of our website is to increase awareness about the lives of children in Mexico using the themes of agency, social structure, and diversity. Due to the limited information we were able to access, this website will focus on the situation of the lower class.
Presidency of the Republic of Mexico. 2000. State of the Union Address and Educational Statistics. http://world.presidencia.gob.mx/PAGES/FRAMES/f_library.html (Website no longer available.)
UNICEF. 1999. The State of the World's Children. Geneva: UNICEF.
This website was created by Julie Harrell, Brian Kristoff, Elizabeth Larson, and Ashley Warren, students in Professor April Brayfield's Children and Society freshman writing seminar at Tulane University. This site is part of a class study of Childhood Around the World.