Preprimary & Primary Education
Nearly 7 out of 10 children receive kindergarten education. Although preschool education is not mandatory, it is an important part of basic education in Mexico. Most five-year-olds, 83 percent, attend preschool. Aside from preschool education, many government agencies offer guardería (nursery or day care) services for children younger than three years of age. Here parents and infants receive educational, health, and welfare services. While 30 years ago nearly 75 percent of all students in Mexico were enrolled in elementary school, in the year 2000 there were 14,808,000 (50 percent of those eligible) students attending primary school. The expansion of basic education to include lower secondary and an increase in educational opportunities at higher levels, as well as a decrease in demographic growth in the country (from 3.4 percent in 1964 to 1.4 percent in 2000), have spread the total number of students throughout the whole educational system. Also, as a consequence of the new federalism, school administration is no longer shared by the federal and state governments. State governments manage all schools providing education.
The median age for students in elementary school is between 6 and 11 years, but more than 1.2 million children, or 7.5 percent, enrolled in primary school are older than the age of 12. About 70 percent of the population 15 years and older has completed elementary school; however, there are 16 out 31 states with graduation rates below the national average. For example, in the state of Chiapas, only 43.5 percent of the population 15 years of age and older has completed primary school. Although there is little variation between men and women for completion of elementary school education at the national level (72 to 69 percent, respectively), women in this age bracket in Chiapas account for only 44 percent of those who have completed the 6 years of elementary school—9.5 percentage points below men. Preschool education is offered in three modalities: general, indigenous, and community education. State governments and private institutions offer general education. Indigenous community education is provided by the SEP, and classes are taught in the children's respective languages.
Primary school is also offered in several modalities: general, bilingual-bicultural, community education, and adult education. During the 20 hours of classes per week, first and second grade pupils take Spanish; mathematics; environmental knowledge, which includes natural sciences, history, geography, and civic education; artistic education; and physical education. From the third to the sixth grade, students continue taking these courses, with the exception of environmental knowledge, in addition to natural sciences, history, geography, and civic education. The curriculum places great emphasis in reading, writing, and oral expression. In the first two grades, children spend 45 percent of class time studying Spanish. From the third to the sixth grade, they spend 30 percent of class time on this subject. For more than 40 years, students in elementary school have been receiving free texts from the national government. Also, the minimum grade for promotion is 6 based on a scale of 1 to 10.
Indigenous and community primary school attendance grew by one-third from 1990 to 2000; this type of education is offered in the poorest and most isolated regions of the country. Community education services are delivered in 95 percent of the 50,636 rural schools spread throughout Mexico. All indigenous schools receive community education services.
In Mexico there are 72,650 preschools and 99,176 primary schools. There are 155,777 teachers engaged in preschool education, while 545,717 work in primary schools. In general the rural sector tends to be less favored than urban centers when it comes to educational opportunities. An analysis of school attendance by age groups in the year 2000 illustrates this phenomenon. School attendance for children aged 6 to 14 years (the compulsory ages) in communities of fewer than 15,000 people was 89 percent, while in localities of more than 15,000 inhabitants attendance was 95 percent. For those in the 15 to 19 age bracket, attendance greatly diminished. Small communities averaged 34 percent, while larger communities registered 55 percent. For those in the 20 to 24 age bracket, school attendance was 7 percent for those in communities of fewer than 15,000 inhabitants, while 23 percent went to school in communities of more than 15,000 people.
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