Nov 192015
 

Proficiency in English is widely seen as an ever-more-essential skill in our increasingly-internationalized and business-oriented world. Many Mexicans have acquired excellent English, whether from education, family connections or residence abroad. It therefore comes as something of a shock to study the latest English Proficiency Index, put out by the Toronto-based organization,  Education First (EF).

Education First modestly describes itself as “The World Leader in International Education”. (This claim is rather grandiose, given that the International Baccalaureate, for one, is far larger and much better known in educational circles worldwide).

The 2015 edition of EF’s English Proficiency Index (EPI) “ranks 70 countries and territories based on test data from more than 910,000 adults who took our online English tests in 2014. This edition continues to track the evolution of English proficiency, looking back over the past eight years of EF EPI data.”

EF categorizes the level of English proficiency in different places as “very high”, “high”, “moderate”, “low” or “very low”.

English proficiency in Mexico

English proficiency in Mexico (grey = moderate; yellow = low; orange = very low). Credit: EF EPI, 2015

Strangely, Mexico does not do well on this index. According to EF, no state or city in Mexico performs beyond the “moderate” level (colored grey on the map). From the map, it appears that there is, in this context as in many others, something of a north-south divide in Mexico, with southern states under-performing in comparison with northern states.

The highest-scoring cities for English proficiency are Monterrey (53.59) and Mexico City (53.03), both classed as “moderate”, followed by Hermosillo (52.36), Tijuana (51.27), Guadalajara (50.52), Ciudad Juárez (49.35), and Mexicali (48.51), all classed as “low”. At the bottom end of proficiency, Puebla (47.84), Cancún (47.14), and Oaxaca (44.61) are all in the “very low” category.

EF recognizes that the people taking its tests are “self-selected and not guaranteed to be representative of the country as a whole. Only those people either wanting to learn English or curious about their English skills will participate in one of these tests. This could skew scores lower or higher than those of the general population.” On the other hand, it also claims that, “The EF English Proficiency Index is increasingly cited as an authoritative data source by journalists, educators, elected officials, and business leaders.”

That may be so, but given the EPI methodology and EF’s overblown claims of being “The World Leader in International Education”, perhaps we should take these results with a grain of salt ~ of which Mexico has lots!

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An update on the Human Development Index in Mexico

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Mar 192015
 

The latest United National Development Program (UNDP) report about the Human Development Index (HDI) in Mexico gives scores and ranks for each state. The full report, in Spanish, entitled “Índice de Desarrollo Humano para las entidades federativas, México 2015: Avance continuo, diferencias persistentes“, is readily available online, and is based on data up to and including 2012.

The HDI is a compound index based on several aspects of three major criteria: health, education and income.

HDI improved between 2008 and 2012 in all states except Baja California Sur. The greatest percentage increases in HDI were in Puebla (where HDI rose 3.7%), Chiapas (3.6%) and Campeche (3.6%). HDI in Baja California Sur fell 0.8%, mainly due to a lower score for education.

HDI in Mexico, with comparison countries for each state

HDI in Mexico, with comparison countries for each state. Click map to enlarge.

The pattern of HDI in Mexico, by state, is shown on the map. The highest HDI values in 2012 were for the Federal District with a score of 0.830, Nuevo León (0.790) and Sonora (0.779). At the other end of the spectrum, Chiapas had the lowest HDI (0.667), below Guerrero (0.679) and Oaxaca (0.681).

As noted previously on Geo-Mexico, the north-south divide in Mexico persists. In general, northern states, together with the Yucatán Peninsula states (Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo) all have HDI values considered “medium” or higher, while southern Mexico (plus some other states, including Zacatecas, Guanajuato, Michoacán and Veracruz) all have “low” values.

The map includes international comparisons. For example, Oaxaca, one of most deprived states in Mexico, had a level of HDI in 2012 comparable to that of Botswana in Africa, even though that nation’s HDI is actually 38 positions below that of Mexico in the world rankings.

The report highlights the extent of disparities by calculating the number of years it will take each state, at the rates of change experienced from 2008 to 2012 to reach the HDI level of Mexico City. Interestingly, while it will apparently take Chihuahua 200 years to reach the HDI level of Mexico City, it will take Chiapas only 20 years to reach the same point.

The main conclusion that can be drawn is that the overall quality of life continues to improve in Mexico though not at equal rates throughout  the country. Disparities persist and current patterns of public spending have failed to make significant inroads into diminishing these disparities. The UN report considers it a priority to close the development gaps in Mexico, especially in the two southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca.

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The abduction and presumed murder of 43 students in the state of Guerrero

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Nov 182014
 

The disappearance several weeks ago, and presumed murder, of 43 students from a teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa in the state of Guerrero has shocked the nation and sent shock-waves around the world. The isolated mountainous parts of the state of Guerrero have long been home to some of the worst violence and most severe poverty in Mexico. The students went missing in the town of Iguala on 26 September 2014.

We appreciate that many of our readers will already be well informed about recent events, but hope that the following summary, with its links to English-language sources, will be useful.

Mexico’s attorney general has announced that a drug cartel, operating in tandem with the mayor of Iguala and the mayor’s wife, had kidnapped and killed the students, before burning their bodies beyond recognition and dumping the remains in plastic bags in a river. According to some versions, local police were not only aware of the events, but complicit in them.

mexico-kidnapping-horizontal-gallerySoon after the disappearance of the students, several mass graves were located on the outskirts of Iguala, but none of the remains has yet been positively identified as belonging to any of the missing students. However, the remains did include the body of a Roman Catholic priest from Uganda, missing since May 2014. John Ssenyondo, who had been serving in the region since 2010, was allegedly abducted by armed men for refusing to baptize the daughter of a suspected narco.

Earlier this month, security experts searching the landfill site near the town of Cocula (where gang members allegedly killed and burned the students) found rubbish bags with human remains. The charred remains have been sent to a specialized laboratory in Innsbruck, Austria, for testing, but results will not be known for several weeks.

A judge in Guerrero has since charged the city’s former mayor, Jose Luis Abarca, with being the mastermind behind the students’ disappearance, and of responsibility for the murder of six people killed in clashes between the trainees, police and masked gunmen on the night of 26 September 2014. The government has detained more than 70 people in connection with the disappearance of the students. Maria de los Angeles Piñeda, the wife of the local mayor is alleged to be the head of the area’s major drug cartel. Abarca and his wife have both been arrested. The small town of Iguala, site of the murders, installed a new mayor, Luis Mazon, after the incumbent was arrested for ordering the massacre, but he resigned in disgust after only a few hours in office, to be replaced by Silviano Mendiola.

Bloody demonstrations are taking place across the country, threatening tourism and denting the carefully-crafted public relations image of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

In Chilpancingo, the state capital of Guerrero, 600 protestors set fire to cars, a congressional office and the city hall.

The tourist resort of Acapulco has also been the scene of demonstrations. For a short time protestors prevented flights from taking off from the city’s airport, and have also blocked highways. The hotel occupancy rates plummeted to 20% for a time, before beginning to rise again in recent days.

In Mexico City, protestors set fire to one of the wooden doors of the Presidential Palace on the zocalo, Mexico City’s main square. The president has an office in the building but was leading a trade mission to China at the time.

Speaking to Fox News Latino recently, a student leader from the Ayotzinapa school said that, “It’s a national movement that’s launching. People are really upset in Mexico. It’s a movement for all citizens that is sparking protests across the country. That’s what happening now. We’re sending caravans to Chihuahua, Zacatecas, all the states from north to south. It’s family members [of the victims] and student-teachers.” The students also accept fire-bombings as a valid form of political expression.

Reactions in the USA have been mixed. For example, see:

Dec 122013
 

Today is 12 December, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the beloved indigenous patron saint of Mexico and much of the Americas. This seems like a good excuse, if ever one was needed, to revisit the “Gender Gap” in Mexico. The gender gap assesses the “gap” between females and males for a number of variables, but should not be taken as reflecting the quality of life of females in different countries.  For example, the gender gap between women in Japan and Japanese men is very large, even though Japanese women enjoy a relatively high quality of life.

In “The Global Gender Gap Report 2013″, the World Economic Forum (WEF), based in Geneva, Switzerland, placed Mexico 68th of the 136 nations included in the study. Between them, the 136 nations house 93% of the world population. Mexico has risen 16 places in the rankings since 2012, meaning that the gender gap in Mexico is narrowing, even if there is still a long way to go to reach gender equality. (It is worth noting that Mexico has been climbing steadily up the rankings for several years, from #98 in 2009, to #91 in 201, #89 in 2011 and #84 in 2012).

Of the 136 countries studied for the 2013 report, Iceland had the smallest gender gap, for the 5th year running, followed by Finland, Norway and Sweden.

Among Latin American nations, Nicaragua had the smallest gender gap (placing 10th in the world), with Cuba, which has the highest female participation in government, coming in 15th and Brazil remaining 62nd. Other notable placings were Germany 14th, and South Africa 17th.

gender gap graph for Mexico

How Mexico (country score) compares to other countries (sample average). Source: Gender Gap Report 2013

The Gender Gap Index is a composite index comprised of a number of variables grouped into four key areas:

  • health and survival
  • educational attainment
  • political empowerment
  • economic participation

As noted in our summary of the 2012 Gender Gap Report, Mexico ranks #1 in the world, tying with several other countries, for the health and survival subindex. This means that Mexican females are unsurpassed with respect to sex ratio at birth (female/male) combined with female life expectancy (female/male).

For the other subindexes, in 2013 Mexico ranked #36 for political empowerment and #70 for educational attainment, but a lowly #111 for economic participation.

Geo-Mexico agrees wholeheartedly with Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, who called for renewed efforts to ensure gender equality, saying that, “Countries will need to start thinking of human capital very differently – including how they integrate women into leadership roles. This shift in mindset and practice is not a goal for the future, it is an imperative today.”

Related posts:

Education quality: How do Mexican students compare to those in other countries?

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Jan 032013
 

Mexico’s future is largely dependent on the quality of future citizens and consequently on the quality of its current education system. The Mexican economy has done quite well in recent years because it has a productive work force that is willing to work for relatively reasonable wages. While China previously had a workforce productivity advantage over Mexico, that advantage has essentially vanished. Therefore, many companies are moving their manufacturing operations from China to Mexico.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), coordinated by the OECD, evaluates national education systems every three years by testing 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science. The most recent assessment in 2009 investigated students in 65 countries, including the mostly high income 34 OECD countries.  (The 2012 results will be released in December 2013).

In 2009, the following countries ranked in the top ten in all three categories (reading, mathematics and science):

  • China: Shanghai (PISA divides China into several sub-national regions)
  • South Korea
  • Finland
  • Hong Kong
  • Singapore
  • Canada
  • Japan

How do Mexican 15-year-olds stack up against students from these other countries?

Within this group, the Mexican students ranked 48th in reading with a score 425. This placed Mexico behind the USA (17th, 500), Turkey (41st, 464), Russia (43rd, 459) and Chile (44th, 449); but ahead of Colombia (52nd, 413), Brazil (53rd, 412), Indonesia (57th, 402), Argentina (58th, 398) and Peru (63rd, 370). We mention the ranking and score of the USA because there has been considerable information published recently about the mediocre quality of its education system. While Mexico’s ranking and score is way behind that of the USA and closer to the bottom of this 65 country sample, it is not really so bad. It is better than that of most other Latin American countries. On the other hand it could and should be better.

The Mexican students did not do quite as well in mathematics. They ranked 50th with a score of 419. This placed them significantly behind the USA (31st, 487) and Russia (38th, 468). Mexico was also below Turkey (43rd, 445) and just behind Chile (49th, 421). As with reading they were ahead of Argentina (55th, 388), Brazil (57th, 386), Colombia (58th, 381), Indonesia (61st, 371) and Peru (64th, 360). Only one country was below Peru, namely Kyrgyzstan (65th, 331). It is important to remember that this sample includes mostly European countries, only one African country, Tunisia; no South Asian Countries, and only two Middle Eastern countries, Israel and Dubai. Mexico would look considerably better if it were compared with all countries in the world.

Mexico did about as well in science as they did in mathematics. They ranked 50th with a score 416. This placed them far behind the USA (23rd, 502) and Russia (39th, 478) and a ways below Turkey (43rd, 454) Chile (44th, 447). As with reading they were ahead of Brazil (53rdh, 405), Colombia (54th, 402), Argentina (56th, 401), Indonesia (60st, 383) and Peru (64th, 369). The data suggest that the scores for each country on reading, mathematics and science are pretty much the same within each country. In other words, the scores on any one of these disciplines tend to be a rather good measure of the overall quality of the education system.

If Mexico is going to compete in the globalized world economy, it must continue to improve its education system. Recent efforts have accomplished a great deal, raising the average amount of schooling of its citizens to 8.6 years. Future efforts should focus as much attention on improving the quality of education.

Related posts:

 

Nov 012012
 

The recently published Gender Gap Report 2012 indicates that Mexico still has considerable work to do, though its gender gap is closing. The report does not reveal much about the quality of life of females in different countries, rather it focuses on the “gap” between females and males. For example, women in Japan have a relatively high quality of life, but the gap between them and Japanese men is very large. Thus Japan ranks 101st out of 135 countries.

The report ranks Mexico 84th out of 135 countries which does not sound so good. However, Mexico has been moving up in the ranks. It was 89th in 2011, 91st in 2010, 98th in 2009, 97th in 2008, and 93rd in 2007. Mexico’s gender gap score improved throughout the five year period.

Notable countries close to Mexico’s ranking, in the group ranked 80 to 90, are Italy (80), Hungary (81), Greece (82), Bangladesh (86) and Chile (87).

The top ten in the list (smallest gender gap) are the five Scandinavian countries, along with Ireland, New Zealand, the Philippines, Nicaragua and Switzerland. Canada and the USA are ranked 21st and 22nd. Among Mexico’s chief competitors, Argentina is 32nd, Russia is 59th, Brazil is 62nd, China is 69th, India is 105th and South Korea is 108th. The very bottom of the list is dominated by Islamic and many Sub-Saharan African countries.

The report indicates that Europe (including Canada and USA) ranked the highest, followed by Latin America (and the Caribbean), Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Pacific, and Middle East and North Africa, a rather distant last. Among 26 Latin American and Caribbean countries, Mexico ranked a relatively low 20th. Clearly, Mexico has a gender gap problem.

The Gender Gap Index is a composite index. It includes four sub-indexes, which are combined to get an overall score which is used to rank countries:

  • economic participation and opportunity
  • educational attainment
  • health and survival
  • political empowerment

In health and survival Mexico ranks a rather surprising 1st tied with 31 other countries. This means that Mexican females are unsurpassed with respect to sex ratio at birth (female/male) combined with female life expectancy (female/male). This is quite impressive. Perhaps males getting killed in drug and other violent activities helps Mexico’s score on this sub-index. Not surprisingly, China ranked 132nd and India at 134th are right near the very bottom.

On the down side, Mexico is ranked 113th in female economic participation and opportunity, though it has improved significantly. This index covers wage equality as well as proportion of female legislators, senior officials and managers, as well as professional and technical workers. Grouped near Mexico are Chile (110th), El Salvador (112th), Guatemala (114th), and South Korea (116th). Perhaps most telling is that female workers only earn 45% of what males do performing similar work. The percentages are worse in some other countries: Korea (44%), Indonesia (42%), Turkey (30%), India (27%), Pakistan (21%) and Saudi Arabia (17%). Less than a third (31%) of Mexican legislators, senior officials and managers are female, compared to 59% in Jamaica, 43% in the USA, 36% in Canada and Brazil, 23% in Argentina and only 10% in Bangladesh, Turkey and South Korea.

In the educational attainment sub-index Mexico ranks 69th. Its index score was just a fraction higher in 2007, when Mexico was ranked 49th. The report indicates that 98% of appropriately-aged females and 98% of males are enrolled in primary school. It shows that 73% of Mexican females are enrolled in secondary school compared to 70% of males. At the tertiary (college) level the percentage is 28% for both genders. These data seem very impressive, but in many other countries there are far more females enrolled than males; for example, in Uruguay the reports says that females lead male enrollments at the tertiary level by 81% to 47%. Despite Mexico’s rank of 69th, Mexico’s so-called gender gap in education does not appear to be a major concern.

Mexico’s political empowerment score improved significantly since 2011 and its rank went from 63rd to 48th apparently because the number of females in ministerial level positions went from 11% up to 21%. Relatively near Mexico are Canada ranked 38th, Australia (42nd), Colombia (51th), Pakistan 52nd),  Israel (54th), USA (55th) and China (58th). We imagine that the rankings of Canada, Australia, Pakistan and Israel were greatly helped because they have all had a female head of state in the last fifty years.

In conclusion, Mexico is making solid progress in closing its gender gap, but there is still plenty of work to be done.

The rapid expansion of literacy and education in Mexico

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Nov 282011
 

Data from Mexico’s 2010 census indicate that considerable progress has been made in the recent past. Literacy of those over age 15 has increased from 87.6% in 1990 to 90.5% in 2000 and 93.1% in 2010. This is to be expected since literacy varies with age. As the older people, many of whom are illiterate, die off, they are replaced by younger, more literate, Mexicans. For example, in 2010, 34% of those over age 75 were illiterate, compared to under 2% for those aged 15 to 29.

Literacy is highest in the Federal District (97.9%) and lowest in Chiapas (82.2%), Guerrero (83.3%) and Oaxaca (83.7%). In future decades, illiteracy will continue to decline significantly, especially in the poorer southern states. However, with life expectancy increasing and older people living longer, illiteracy will not decline as fast as it might.

Preschool, primary schools (primaria) and junior high schools (secundaria)

educationAbout half of Mexican children aged 3 to 5 attended preschool in 2010. Basic education begins with primary schools (primaria) with grades 1 to 6 for children generally between the ages of 6 and about 12. Junior high schools (secundaria) cover grades 7 to 9 and focus on 12 to 15-year-olds. In Mexico primaria and secundaria are compulsory; however, in the past, many children dropped out for a wide variety of reasons (the need to work and support the family being a major one). Mexico’s telescundaria system brings junior high school lessons to students in remote areas via satellite.

In 2010, an impressive 95% of those aged from 6 to 14 attended school, compared to 91% in 2000 and 86% in 1990. The majority of the 5% not attending school in 2010 did attend school previously and had acquired basic literacy. The rather poor state of Hidalgo had the highest attendance rate in 2010 with 96.4% (tied with Tlaxcala and the Federal District). The lowest levels were in Chiapas (90.8%), Michoacán (92.4%) and Guerrero (93.1%).

The rather small difference between the highest and lowest rates suggests that most Mexicans throughout the country have relatively equal access to basic education. Even in the poorest 125 of Mexico’s 2442 municipalities 88% of 6 to 14-year-olds were in school, according to the 2010 census.

High or senior high schools (preparatoria)

Senior high school education (prepatratoria) offers grades 10 to 12 and is not compulsory. Students generally are aged between 15 and 18. Some of these schools focus on preparing students for university while others focus on vocational training. In some rural areas, students must travel considerable distances to the nearest senior high school, and some have to live away from home during term time.

Teaching hours and the quality of education

Unfortunately, school attendance is not a reliable indicator of the number of teaching hours. Students receive only 2.8 hours of real instruction per day according to a new study by Mexicanos Primero, a citizens’ group focused on improving the quality of education. The study indicates that Mexican students get 562 hours of instruction per year, compared to 710 hours in the USA, 875 in France, 1172 in Finland and 1195 in South Korea. Mexicanos Primero complains that too much real instruction time is lost due to preparation for parades and festivals, teacher absenteeism and school closures.

There are also issues concerning the quality of education. According a recent Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Mexico is doing a poor job of educating its youth. Only 1% of Mexican 15-year-olds have the knowledge and skills needed for full participation in modern society, compared to 30% in Hong Kong and 26% in South Korea.

Higher education has made impressive gains. In 2010 over 40% of those aged 15 to 24 were attending school compared to 33% in 2000 and 30% in 1990.

temporary classroom

Temporary classroom while a new school is being built. (Jungapeo, Michoacán, mid-1980s). Photo: Tony Burton.

Years of schooling

The “average years of schooling” figure has increased about one year a decade, from 6.5 years in 1990 to 7.5 in 2000 and 8.6 in 2010. The Federal District is the most educated with an average of 10.5 years of schooling, compared to 6.7 in Chiapas and 6.9 in Oaxaca. Given historical trends, older adults have significantly fewer years of education than younger adults.

There are still some serious urban-rural differences. The best educated municipality is Benito Juárez in the Federal District with 13.9 years, compared to levels between 2.3 and 3.4 years for the ten lowest municipalities, which are all in the rural south and are predominately indigenous language speakers. In these poor indigenous rural municipalities, most of the elderly have virtually no schooling even if the majority of children are now attending school and learning Spanish.

Source:

Oct 222011
 

Mexico’s pioneering “telesecundaria” or “television secondary school” system began back in 1968. It now provides junior high school classes in remote areas, serving about one million students in grades 7 to 9, 17% of the total nationwide enrollment in these grades. Many of the telesecundaria lessons are now available on the Internet, and before long, about 4,500 classes will also be available on a DVD collection.

The geographical network of telesecundarias is truly amazing. In the early 1980s, I came across one high in the mountains in a distant corner of the state of Hidalgo, in a remote Huastec village, beyond even Coca Cola’s delivery routes. A visitor was such a surprise that the entire village turned out to inspect me!

Telesecundaria in Ixcatepec, Hidalgo

Telesecundaria in Ixcatepec, Hidalgo (1983) Photo: Tony Burton

It was that experience that made me realize that Mexicans take education very very seriously. The telesecundaria was perched on the hillside overlooking the village. I later discovered this was a fairly typical example, with three classrooms, rustic restrooms in an outhouse, and a small playground. Most telesecundarias also have a science laboratory and a small library.

The students in a telesecundaria do have a teacher, but this teacher teaches every subject, whereas in a regular junior high, each student will have up to twelve different subject specialists. Every telesecundaria classroom has a television set to receive lessons broadcast by the Education Ministry (SEP) in Mexico City.

Professional Programs

In the early days, lessons were very traditional, and the TV programs were little more than continuous shots of a “talking teacher”. Interestingly, almost all those early lessons were broadcast live. Nowadays, the entire process is much slicker and far more professional. The TV programs are 15 minutes long and feature all kinds of material, including animated graphics and video footage. Watching them, you are unlikely to see the “talking teacher” even for an instant! It takes about 20 days to produce each 15-minute module and costs up to 50,000 dollars. Most programs have a useful life of between five and ten years, depending on the timing of significant changes in subject content and teaching methods.

After students have seen the TV broadcast, the classroom teacher then uses the remaining 45 minutes of each hour to explain the lesson in more detail and to monitor students as they complete related tasks from their special telesecundaria textbooks.

Nationwide satellite transmission of programs began in 1994 (EDUSAT), enabling the coverage to spread far beyond those areas previously served by conventional TV stations. Programs are broadcast daily.

On-line samples

With the advent of the Internet, the telesecundarias are now being revamped as one part of SEP’s “On-line educational TV” (“Televisión educativa en línea“) project. That page has links to currently playing segments of material for various levels, including telesecundaria, and for teachers. (This is also a valuable resource for non-native speakers working to improve their Spanish and/or their knowledge of Mexico.)

Telesecundarias have proved to be an extraordinarily effective way of improving access to, and standards of, junior high education across Mexico. While the “costs of delivery” are estimated to be 16% higher in telesecundarias, on a per student basis, than in regular junior high schools, they are significantly cheaper on a per school basis. This means that some of the nation’s 13,000 or so telesecundarias can function cost-effectively even with only 10 or 12 students in each grade level.

The success of telesecundarias

Are telesecundarias successful? It certainly seems so. An estimated 79.4% of telesecundaria students complete grade 9, compared with an equivalent figure of 78.8% for regular junior highs. In addition, one study has shown that telesecundaria students may start Grade 7 significantly behind other students but generally catch up completely in math and reduce the deficit in language.

The program has been adopted by most Central American countries—Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama—and pilot projects are underway in the USA in California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Florida.

So next time you’re traveling in the wilds of Mexico or Central America, play “I spy” and see how many telesecundarias you can find. Bonus marks should be awarded for any that are outside the normal delivery range of Coca-Cola or Sabritas!

Apr 282011
 

Literacy levels in Mexico among those over age 15 have increased rather steadily for more than a century, reaching 93.1% in 2010. The Federal District had the highest literacy level, 97.9%, while the lowest levels were in Chiapas, 82.2%; Guerrero, 83.3% and Oaxaca, 83.7%. The gap between the Federal District and Chiapas is quite large at 15.7 percentage points (97.9% – 82.2%). In the decades ahead, do we expect this gap to decline or increase?

To address this question, we can look at the 2010 census which provides data on literacy levels for children aged six to 14 for all 32 states. To compare literacy among states, we can use the data on 14-year-olds, who have higher literacy levels than the younger children. Among 14-year-olds, the Federal District has the highest literacy level at 98.89%. States with the lowest levels are Chiapas, 96.27%; Guerrero, 96.86%; Oaxaca, 97.75%; and Michoacán, 97.79%. The gap between the highest and lowest is only 2.62 percentage points. This gap is far less than the gap of 15.7 percentage points in literacy for those over age 15 discussed earlier.

These data indicate two things:

  • The literacy gap between states is closing and closing rather quickly.
  • Mexico is approaching universal literacy.

A more thorough analysis of geographical literacy gaps would include rural–urban comparisons and levels of literacy for adults and children in various sized communities. In general, literacy rates in Mexico tend to be correlated with community size; they are highest in the large cities, and lowest in rural areas. We will undertake this type of analysis when the appropriate data from the 2010 census become available.

Related post: Females, males and gender inequality in Mexico

2010 Census data show a significant improvement in Mexican education

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Apr 192011
 

Mexicans over age 15 are now getting 8.6 years of schooling on average, compared to only 7.5 years in 2000 and 6.5 years in 1990. The increase of over a year in the past decade is impressive. While males are still getting more education than females, the gap is closing. Males got 8.8 years of education in 2010 while females got 8.5 years. However, female education has increased by 1.3 years since 2000 compared to 1.1 years for males.

Not surprisingly, educational attainment is not equally distributed among Mexico’s 32 states. The Federal District has the highest level with 10.5 years, followed by Nuevo León with 9.8, Coahuila with 9.5, and Baja California Sur and Sonora both with 9.4. At the other end, Chiapas was lowest with an average of 6.7 years. Other states at this end are Oaxaca with 6.9, Guerrero with 7.3, and Michoacán with 7.4 years.

If we look at Mexico’s 2,442 municipalities, the inequality is even greater. Urban areas tend to have significantly higher education levels than rural areas. The municipalities with the highest levels are Benito Juárez, D.F. with 13.9 years, followed by San Pedro Garza García, N.L. (12.3), Miguel Hidalgo, D.F. (12.3), San Sebastian Tutla, Oax. (12.1), and Coyoacán, D.F. (12.1). By comparison, average educational attainment in the USA and Canada are 12.0 and 11.6 years respectively. It is interesting that two of the municipalities in the top ten for average level of education are in Oaxaca, a state with one of the lowest overall levels of education.

At the bottom end, the municipality with the lowest average level of education is Cochoapa el Grande in Guerrero with 2.3 years, followed by Coicoyán de las Flores, Oax. (2.5), San Martin Peras, Oax. (2.8) and Mixtla de Altamirano, Ver. (2.9). All the lowest ten in terms of educational attainment are predominantly indigenous municipalities.

Though municipalities lagging in educational attainment still have a long way to go, they are making very impressive progress. In the least developed 125 municipalities in Mexico, school attendance for children between 6 and 15 years of age is an impressive 88%. The percentage for the most developed 125 municipalities is 96%. The figures indicate that in the next few decades the gap in adult educational attainment between the highest and lowest municipalities should decline very significantly.