In the 2000-2001 school cycle, the SEP estimated that there were a total of 1,468,355 teachers in the country, including those working in private academic institutions. There were 155,777 people employed in preschools, primary schools had 545,717 teachers, and secundaria had 307,763 instructors. Institutions of higher education offering undergraduate degrees, including teacher colleges, had a total of 192,406 professors. There were 17,031 professors teaching in graduate programs. The teacher-student ratio was 1:22 in preschool, 1:27 in elementary school, 1:17 in lower secondary school, 1:15 in upper secondary school, and 1:12 in normal school. Before the early 1990's reforms, teacher education was obtained primarily in escuelas normales. The middle-level normal school graduates did not receive a licenciatura.
Teachers were held in high esteem in their communities, but as the fervor of revolutionary nationalism began to subside, the sense of mission, which motivated many teachers, started to wear off. Mexico does not appear to have a shortage of teachers. However, it is hard to find teachers who want to go to remote or dangerous areas. Even though the government gives incentives for such jobs, apparently these are not enough. For a long time the practice of buying plazas (buying a tenured teaching post) was detrimental to basic education. Recent graduates who were not able to find a teaching job in the best schools, if they had the right networking or some savings, could entice a teacher to lease his/her teaching post to the new graduate. This practice has not completely died.
Salaries, like in just about any developing country, are low for teachers. In 1998 the entry level, gross annual salary for elementary school teachers in Mexico City was $6,068. Teachers with 10 years of experience earned an annual gross salary of $7,904. These earnings included bonuses, vacations, and other benefits. Jobs in Mexico City are among the best paid. Considering that a campesino in one of the poorest regions may earn the equivalent of about half the entry level salary of a teacher, the profession is no longer seen as prestigious as it once was.
University teaching is for the most part a part-time occupation. The bulk of expenditures devoted to education are funneled to basic education (65 percent), leaving a relatively small portion for higher education (15 percent). Adjunct positions, however, carry a degree of prestige. Civil servants, new graduates, and other personalities of the private sector take advantage of the opportunity to hold a teaching appointment. Universities also benefit from the economic advantages offered by these instructors.
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