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Education and Schools

Mexico - Education and Schools

In Mexico, the Ministry Of Public Education (Secretaria De Educacion Publica, SEP) and the local authorities jointly look after the Education System. The responsibility of issuing the national curriculum guidelines to schools falls upon the General Department of Curriculum Development (Direccion General de Desarrollo Curricular, DGDC).

Education Levels

Like in most other countries, the Mexican education system has been divided into various levels:

• Preschool (Educacion Preescolar): for kids aged between 2 and 6
• Primary (Primaria): for children aged between 6 and 11/12
• Lower secondary (Secundaria): for students aged between 11/12 and 15
• Upper secondary (Educacion Medio Superior): for students between the ages of 15 and 18
• Further/Tertiary Education (Educacion Superior): for those above the age of 18

Pre-school, Primary School and Lower Secondary School are referred to as Educacion Basica across the country. The government has made Primary education and Lower Secondary education compulsory for all children. After completing these levels, students can opt for Tertiary education if they want to.


Pre-school is available (but not mandatory) for kids once they turn 2. It is divided into three levels. Children are placed in a level depending upon their age.

Many of the Mexican preschools operate from private homes in residential neighborhoods. Some of them may not even be licensed by the Federal Ministry of Education. It is therefore essential for parents and guardians to check if the school meets the health and safety requirements before enrolling their children.

There is no fixed syllabus or curriculum followed in preschools. Most of them focus on enhancing the child’s oral, emotional, cognitive, motor, and social skills. Children are also encouraged to develop writing ability in most nursery schools. Students are gauged on whether or not they meet the expectations of their age as well as their social environment.


After turning 6, children enter Primary school, which lasts for another 6 years. The curriculum has been set by the DGDC and incorporates Spanish, English, Natural Sciences, Mathematics, Art, History, Geography, Moral Science (Ethics), Citizenship, and Physical Education.

Students receive a Primary Education Certificate on the successful completion of their schooling. This certificate allows them to progress to the next level of education.

Lower Secondary

After completing Primary school successfully (usually at the age of 11 or 12) students enter lower secondary school, which lasts for 3 years.

The curriculum includes the same subjects that the students had in primary school, along with a few vocational courses in subjects like business and technology.

Upon successful completion of this level, students get a comprehensive transcript, which helps to pursue their next level of education.

Upper Secondary

Any student who wishes to study after completing Lower Secondary School can take an entrance exam to seek admission in an Upper Secondary School (Preparatoria or Bachillerato) for another 3 years. In certain instances upper secondary school can be as short as 2 years or as long as 5.

These schools help prepare students for entry into various tertiary educational programs. After undergoing general studies for a year, they can choose to specialize in specific subjects like humanities or sciences.

Tertiary Education

There are many private and state-run universities that offer Tertiary Education courses in Mexico. The Undersecretary of Higher Education (Subsecretatria de Educacion Superior, SES) is responsible for setting the guidelines for Further Education in Mexico.

Public universities in this country are of a fairly high standard. Two of the most renowned educational institutes in Mexico City are Universidad Autonomo de Mexico (UNAM) and Instituto Politecnico Nacional. The UNAM is known for offering programs to foreign students. The Universidad Autonomo de Guadalajara also offers international educational programs.

Types of schools

Like in most other countries, people in Mexico can choose to have their children educated in public, private, or international schools.

Public Schools

Education at public or state-owned schools (Escuela) is free for the citizens. The quality of teaching in these schools may vary to a great extent, depending upon the area.

In the bigger cities, many of the public schools have well-trained teachers, extracurricular activities, and a variety of amenities. A small-town escuela may be nothing more than a 1-room facility. Unlike many other nations, children going to public schools across Mexico are required to wear a uniform.

The majority of the students in state-owned schools are Mexican; it is rare to find expats attending them. While basic public education is free for the locals, expat students studying in public schools have to pay a tuition fee.

Private Schools

There is an abundance of private schools (Colegio) in most of the Mexican cities. All private schools have to be accredited and registered with the local education authorities. Religious associations are allowed to run private schools.

While the overall quality of teaching is generally higher compared to public schools, some private schools may not be as good as others. Both expats and locals have to pay a high tuition fee for education at private schools.

International Schools

This is the preferred choice of education for expats living in Mexico. According to the International Schools Consultancy (ISC) there are more than 150 international and bilingual schools throughout the country. These institutes generally offer the International Baccalaureate curriculum, which is quite different from the national syllabus. In addition to that, their education and amenities are of the highest quality.

In spite of the fact that international schools are the most expensive of all, they have a long wait list for accepting students. Newcomers to the country may find it challenging to get their kids enrolled if they don’t arrive at the start of the school year. Parents are advised to put in their applications for these schools months in advance.


It is legal for people to have their children homeschooled in Mexico. This option is a lot more popular with expats than locals.

Parents or guardians who prefer to homeschool their children should contact the Instituto Nacional de la Educacion de los Adultos (INEA) in their city for information.

Students can learn at home or in a group but must get their study materials registered with the INEA and may also have to clear a test. Alternately, they could wait till they turn 15 years old and can take the global exam in order to receive their Secondary school diploma.

Depending upon the nationality, the student may have to register with a school in their home country for a diploma or degree.

School Year & Enrollment

The academic year in Mexico begins around the second half of August and goes on up until the start of July. Students have summer vacations, winter holidays in December, and a break in March.

In the case of Preschool and Primary school, enrollment for the academic year takes place at the start of February.

The basic documents required include:

• A photocopy of the child’s birth certificate or national identity documentation
• The updated health booklet (Cartilla Nacional de Salud) containing all the immunization information
• Proof of address
• Records of successful completion of the previous years

However, the paperwork for enrollment may differ from one institution to another. A school has the right to ask for additional documents before granting admission.

School hours for public and private schools aren’t always the same. Most of the primary and secondary schools commence at 8:00 and end at 13:00 or 14:00. Some schools with a large number of students offer two shifts: morning (Matutina) and afternoon (Vespertina) sessions.

Special Needs Education

In recent years, Mexico’s policies around special needs have evolved to a great extent. The country’s educational system now provides many more services for children with special needs within mainstream schools.

Mexico also has an institution that is dedicated to offering special education. This is known as the Programa de Fortalecimiento de la Educacion Especial y de la Integracion Educativa (PFEEIE).

Most of the other special education services and programs are available within the basic education system in the larger cities. These have been provided by Unidades de Servicios de Apoyo a la Educacion Regular (USAER).

Read more about this country

Expat Health Insurance Partners

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