In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Early Childhood Education and Development in Mexico

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Oral Language Development
  • Literacy Development
  • Cognitive Development
  • Play in Early Childhood Development
  • Family Practices in Early Childhood Education
  • Childhood Development in Sociocultural Context
  • Indigenous Early Childhood Education and Development
  • Institutional Factors in Early Childhood Development

Education Early Childhood Education and Development in Mexico
Rebeca Mejia-Arauz, Vanessa Toledo-Rojas, Itzel Aceves-Azuara
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 July 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 November 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0020


Early childhood education around the world focuses on the first years of life, usually from birth through six years of age. In Mexico official and academic institutions agree with this, but the reality is that in Mexico research is scarce and so are applied programs that focus specifically on all the varied factors involved in education during this period of life. For that reason, this article includes bibliographic material that presents conceptions, reflections, and research on childhood education and development that considers a wider age range, up to twelve years old. This article provides specific ages when the information is available, but some publications refer to childhood in general. In order to provide a clear picture of Mexican childhood, this article follows several criteria for selecting the publications presented. First of all, the literature chosen here is supported with empirical research data, except in few cases in which the publication is the product of institutional debate or reflections that affected social or educational policies. In terms of empirical research, the works chosen here is produced by leading researchers in their field. In order to provide a more complete view of the country, also included is work that encompasses diverse communities and in different regions of the country, even if the research was not so recent or had some other limitation. Also, because the study of childhood education and development has been undertaken by different social science disciplines, these are also represented in the selection presented here. A final interesting note to add is that UNICEF reports that as of the early 21st century half of the children in the world live in urban areas. Mexico is no different than the rest of the world, with an increasing migration from rural areas to the major cities in the country. However, although there is clear preoccupation in some institutions about the effects contemporary urban life has on children’s well-being and development, little research has been conducted in Mexico regarding how urban contexts and the life practices involved in it affect children’s educational, psychological, and sociocultural development. In contrast, after the Zapatista movement that started in 1994, much effort was made to study indigenous children’s education and development, particularly the problems they face with language in schools, which resulted in a solid and consistent work published at a national and international level. Therefore, a selection of this excellent material is also included.

General Overviews

There are few materials that provide general overviews of childhood educational development in Mexico. However, some of the most interesting ones give historical accounts of the institution of education and the conceptions of education that prevailed in different historical stages, such as Corona 2003 and Reyes Ruvalcaba 2008. There are two works that provide overviews of the literature on children’s education from 1992 to 2002, both edited by the Mexican Institute for Educational Research (Consejo Mexicano para la Investigación Educativa): Robles and Czarny 2003 is a state-of-the-art study of sociocultural processes in educational interactions, with an emphasis on cultural diversity and indigenous populations; whereas Sánchez Escobedo 2003 presents a review of works on learning and development that includes research from different regions in Mexico with school-aged children, referring mostly to formal school contexts. In terms of general reports, few are available to the general public. UNICEF 2002 is a forum in which relevant indexes of childhood development were established by experts and government institutions. These indexes have been used for the evaluation of applied programs intended to improve childhood development and care.

  • Corona, Yolanda. 2003. Diversidad de infancias: Retos y compromisos. Tramas 20:13–31.

    Discusses conceptions of childhood in Mexico and the world throughout the 20th century, pointing out problems of exclusion and lack of understanding of children’s subjectivity. The author proposes considering the cultural context of children’s development following theoretical sociocultural approaches and the ethnographic method.

  • Reyes Ruvalcaba, Oscar. 2008. Escuela y vida infantil en México entre los siglos XIX y XX. In La infancia en los siglos XIX y XX: Discursos e imágenes, espacios y prácticas. Edited by Antonio Padilla, Alcira Soler, Martha Luz Arredondo, and Lucía Moctezuma, 291–317. Cuernavaca, México: Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos.

    A unique historical account and reflection not often found in the literature about the life of children in schools. This work describes adult-children interactions in schools and children’s reactions to the types of norms and discipline prevalent in schools from the 19th through the 20th century in Mexico.

  • Robles, Adriana, and Gabriela Czarny. 2003. Procesos socioculturales en interacciones educativas. In Educación, derechos sociales y equidad. Vol. I. Edited by María Bertely, 125–138. Mexico City: Consejo Mexicano de Investigación Educativa.

    A thorough review of work between 1992–2002 on cultural diversity in children’s learning at preschool and elementary school levels in indigenous communities. The studies address learning both at school and out-of-school contexts including collaboration, forms of adaptation, differences in communication, and other aspects not usually considered in conceptions of school learning.

  • Sánchez Escobedo, Pedro. 2003. Aprendizaje y desarrollo: La investigación educativa en México 1992–2002. Mexico City: Consejo Mexicano de Investigación Educativa.

    This extensive interdisciplinary volume presents summaries of research on learning and development from 1992 to 2002. Some of the work refers to the institution of education and to school programs, and other work focuses on learning, cognition, and developmental processes in childhood education.

  • UNICEF. 2002. Foro sobre indicadores de bienestar en la primera infancia: Memoria. Mexico City: UNICEF.

    Summarizes the results of a forum in which international organizations and the most relevant institutions for health, education, and childcare in Mexico participated with the purpose of defining a series of indexes that would orient the evaluation and re-direction of programs for early childhood educational development and well-being.

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