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Secondary Education

Secondary education is divided in two levels: lower secondary, or secundaria, and upper secondary education. Since 1993 secundaria has become part of compulsory basic education. Lower secondary is structured into three grades and is offered in several modalities, including general, telesecondary, and technical. This type of education is offered to children between the ages of 12 and 16 years who have completed elementary school. People older than 16 years of age can obtain secundaria education by attending secondary school for workers or for adults, two other available modalities. There are 29,007 lower secondary schools with 2,462,000 females and 2,608,000 males attending them. The teaching staff consists of 307,763 people. In 1997, the government began the distribution of free texts for this educational level in the most marginal areas of the country.

The curriculum at this level stresses the need for students to sharpen their Spanish language oral and written abilities. At the same time, mathematics is also given great attention. Secundaria students spend an average of five hours per week in language-related instruction and the same number of hours in math. First graders in lower secondary are also required to take a course entitled physics and chemistry. In the second and third grades, physics, chemistry, and biology are taught as separate courses. A further emphasis in lower secondary education is the learning of a foreign language, usually English or French. Other courses include artistic expression and appreciation, physical education, and technological education.

Distance education is offered through telesecondary. This service is offered to children in rural areas in communities of fewer than 2,500 people or where lower secondary enrollment is too low to build a school. The system began in 1968, and it has been expanded to serve communities in several Central American countries and in U.S. border communities. During the 1998-1999 school cycle, this modality of education was serving 900,000 youths. In 1998 nearly 90 percent of the children in the lower secondary age group were enrolled in these schools. The dropout rate was 9.2 percent, while the graduation rate in that year reached 76.1 percent.

The second level of secondary education is upper secondary education; this level of education involves several options and is available to those who have completed compulsory education. There are three subsystems in this category: general upper secondary, which includes open and distance upper secondary education; technical professional education, which trains qualified professional in different fields; and technological upper secondary, which offers the opportunity to obtain professional technician degrees and prepares the students to continue on to higher education. General upper secondary education is offered through bachiller colleges (CB), preparatoria schools, science and humanities colleges (CCH), and incorporated bachilleratos (incorporated to a state or federal university).

Technical professional education can be obtained from the College of Professional Technical Education (Conalep); State Institutes for Work training (Icate, operated by state governments); State Colleges for Scientific and Technological Studies (CECyTE, operated by state governments); Centers for Industrial and Services Technological Studies (CETIS, coordinated by the federal government); Centers for Industrial and Services Technological Bachillerato (CBTIS, coordinated by the federal government); and the Nursing and Obstetrics School (ESEO, coordinated by the National Polytechnic Institute). Technological upper secondary education is offered by CETIS; CBTIS; Centers for Technical and Industrial Studies; CECyTE; Centers for Ocean Technological Studies (CETMar, coordinated by the federal government); Centers for Continental Water Studies (CETAC, coordinated by the federal government); Centers for Farming and Agricultural Technological Bachillerato (TA, coordinated by the federal government); and Centers for Forestry Technological Bachillerato (CBTF, coordinated by the federal government).

The upper secondary education structure has three cores: basic training, professional training, and work training. General basic training develops scientific, technical, and humanistic knowledge. Students are also taught research methodology and language mastery. Bachiller colleges offer general upper secondary education. In addition, general bachillerato offers open upper secondary education. Originally designed to serve adults who were not able to continue with their education after lower secondary school, open upper secondary has increasingly become an alternative for young people aged 14 to 18. This service is free and completely financed by the federal and state governments. In 1995 states began administering this form of education. There are 22 centers located throughout 10 states, including Mexico City. The technical professional education is designed to prepare students to hold mid-level positions in the workplace, such as the supervision and control and evaluation of production processes. The intent of this subsystem of education is to meet school and labor demands at the regional and national levels. In this type of institutions, students graduate as professional technicians, technical professionals, or basic-level technicians.

Technological upper secondary is a modality that affords students the opportunity to acquire both expertise in some technological field and to learn the fundamentals of a general bachillerato. In doing so, graduates of these institutions can enter the job market as professional technicians or/and continue with higher education. During the 1997-1998 school cycle, these schools offered 17 specialties. This subsystem of upper secondary education attends 2,892,846 students. Enrollment in the general bachillerato accounts for 59 percent of the total number of students, while 13 percent are enrolled in technical professional schools and 28 percent attend technological bachillerato. In total, there are 10,010 schools with a teaching staff of 212,056 instructors attending the educational needs of these students.

Different public state universities and the National Autonomous University (UNAM) also offer upper secondary education. During the 1999-2000 school year, 29 state universities offered educational opportunities leading to the preparatoria (high school) diploma or to an associate's degree. Preparatorias are integral parts of the universities, and they prepare students to enter college. These schools are divided into three grades, and completion of lower secondary education is a prerequisite to admission. Preparatorias enrolled 379,356 students in 1999-2000. UNAM had 103,258 students during the same cycle.

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