In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Education in Mexico

  • Introduction
  • Overview of Education in Mexico
  • Intercultural and Indigenous Education
  • Rural Education
  • Educational Policy
  • The Teachers’ Union (SNTE), Reform, and Democracy
  • New Technologies
  • Human Rights and Civic Participation
  • Comparative and International Education
  • Higher Education
  • Migration and Transnationalism
  • Engagement and Comparative Frameworks

Latin American Studies Education in Mexico
Laura A. Valdiviezo, Carmina Makar, Daniel Morales
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 September 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 September 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0185


The study of Mexico’s educational system requires a systematic historical approach that considers the complex sociocultural and political fabric of the nation. Education in Mexico is closely tied to postcolonial identity building and has gone through different historical shifts. A broad understanding of education in Mexico must include foundational works that relay the challenges and perspectives during the early efforts of public education in Mexico, the changes seen through key shifts such as the decentralization reform of 1992 and the continued tensions between the teacher’s union and the state. The body of literature featured here showcases the work of key scholars in the field and 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 changing policy and transforming the status quo.

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 comprehensive information about 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 offer a critical overview of the system of education with recommendations for change. 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.

  • 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 on the educational system in Mexico that utilizes 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.

    DOI: 10.1108/09578230010378331

    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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