An understanding of Mexico’s educational system requires a systematic historical approach that takes into account the complex sociocultural and political fabric of the nation. Education in Mexico is closely tied to postcolonial identity building and has gone through different stages as a result of historical shifts. A broad understanding of education in Mexico must include foundational works that relay the challenges and perspectives related to the early efforts of public education in Mexico as well as the changes seen through key shifts such as the decentralization reform of 1992. The body of literature featured here showcases the work of key scholars in the field that have pursued important questions at different stages of recent history. It serves as an entry point into the different categories that support a broad understanding of the educational context in Mexico: its history, its challenges, its articulation to the global context, and, most particularly, its close ties to the political ecosystem, since political discourse has deeply shaped legislation and educational policies in many of Mexico’s states. A wide range of topics are covered within the following diverse studies about education in Mexico; publications in Spanish and English include topics such as the history of education, intercultural and rural education, migration, educational policy, teacher unions and politics, new technologies, human rights, peace and democratic participation, higher education, and comparative and international education. Various perspectives discuss educational development, including education for social and economic development, together with issues of socioeconomic disparities and equity in the education system. Studies based on international development and comparative perspectives tend to highlight the main problems Mexican education faces in the development of competitive skills, human and social capital, and economic participation in a democratic national society as well as the competitiveness of the country within the global economy. Several of these studies problematize access and quality of education among the youth and women of marginalized groups and discuss implications often based on new programs or initiatives for professional training and investment for the implementation of new technologies. Publications that take critical and postcolonial perspectives focus on educational issues concerning indigenous and rural populations that point at the educational challenges beyond the quality of delivery. These publications offer a critique of political and class structures that have created and reproduced inequality in the national society. Some of these critiques also point to the important role of education and educational actors, such as teachers, in transforming the status quo and changing policy.
Overview of Education in Mexico
The works cited here outline foundational works around education policy in Mexico, represent key issues, and provide an overview of the Mexican system of education. They are particularly relevant as an entry point to scholarship on education in Mexico as they cover historical context, reform, curriculum, and policy development at large. This section features the work of key scholars in the field whose extensive trajectories and scholarship have shaped the field and are often considered required reading for those seeking to gain a broad understanding of education in Mexico. While Ornelas 1995 provides both a historical and a political perspective for understanding the whole educational system in Mexico, Prawda and Flores 2001 offers a critical overview of the current system of education with recommendations for change. Gonzalbo 1990 also presents a historical context for the current system of education in Mexico today, while describing changes that are specifically related to Spanish colonization. An understanding of the challenges facing Mexican education and their implications for educational policy is found in Latapí Sarre 2009, and Guevara Niebla 1992 and Muñoz Izquierdo 2006 further analyzes the state of educational policy in Mexico through the use of statistical indicators. Ornelas 2000 explores the causes of educational decentralization in Mexico. For an analysis of the relationship between immigration and the quality of education in Mexico, see Martínez, et al. 2013.
Gonzalbo, Pilar. Historia de la educación en la epoca colonial: El mundo indígena. Mexico City: Colegio de México, 1990.
Gonzalbo describes the educational transformations that occurred during colonial times as indigenous education became part of Spain’s program of evangelization and cultural colonization. Her work illustrates the configuration of the educational system as a result of religious syncretism and a deliberate pursuit of modernization.
Guevara Niebla, Gilberto, ed. La catástrofe silenciosa. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1992.
This volume serves as a diagnostic and analytic tool for the educational context and its impact on teachers and students in Mexico in the decade of the 1990s. Despite the changes that have since happened, the six sections of the book provide an important understanding of the foundations and challenges of educational policy and serve as a reference point for current policy.
Latapí Sarre, Pablo. “El derecho a la educación: Su alcance, exigibilidad y relevancia para la política educativa.” Revista Mexicana de Investigación Educativa 14.40 (2009): 255–287.
This interesting article underscores the main challenges facing Mexican education and how these challenges should be utilized in the formulation of an educational policy that is more pertinent and effective. The author proposes specific indicators for policy based on the right to education, education quality, and human rights that should be included in research and evaluation agendas for Mexican education.
Martínez, José Felipe, Lucrecia Santibáñez, Edson E. Serván Mori, et al. “Educational Opportunity and Immigration in México: Exploring the Individual and Systemic Relationships.” Teachers College Record 115.10 (2013): 1–24.
Using data from the Mexican Family Life Survey, the Opportunities program, and the National Population Council of Mexico, the authors discuss the relationship between immigration and educational quality and opportunity in Mexico and the United States. Their findings suggest significant relationships between individual decisions to migrate and indicators of educational access, quality, and opportunity.
Muñoz Izquierdo, Carlos. Análisis y resultados de las políticas públicas referidas a la educación básica: El caso de México. Mexico City: Transatlántica de Educación, 2006.
This report, by one of the leading education scholars in Mexico, provides a clear statistical overview of the state of educational policy. The author outlines key indicators to be considered in determining quality of education and then analyzes educational public policies and statistical data to inform his assessment.
Ornelas, Carlos. El sistema educativo mexicano: La transición de fin de siglo. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1995.
This book is one of the key foundational works to understand the educational system in Mexico through a historical and political lens. The most recent edition has been updated to include the latest education reforms. Ornelas provides a systematic analysis of student achievement, teacher practice, and the role of the teachers’ union and government to understand Mexico’s educational landscape.
Ornelas, Carlos. “The Politics of Educational Decentralization in Mexico.” Journal of Educational Administration 38.5 (2000): 426–441.
In this article, Ornelas explores the political and historical framework of educational decentralization. He looks at the motives behind the federal government’s decision to decentralize education and discusses how the shifts of power to the thirty-one states shaped the outcomes of decentralization at the local and federal levels.
Prawda, Jorge, and Gustavo Flores. México educativo revisitado: Reflexiones al comienzo de un nuevo siglo. Mexico City: Océano, 2001.
The authors provide a critical overview of the Mexican educational system and recommendations for change. They address issues concerning literacy, early childhood, telesecundarias, adult education, teacher professional development, technology in education, higher education, distance education, school finance, educational evaluation, and the role of public policy in education.
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