Directorate for Education and Skills

Education Policy Outlook Highlights: Mexico


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  Last update 20 November 2013
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‌‌Mexico's educational context

‌‌Students: Mexico’s educational performance has improved in recent years. It has raised participation in early childhood education to almost 100%, with some of the highest enrolments across OECD. Children aged 5 to 14 are attaining primary and lower secondary education, but there is a gap in upper secondary enrolment, graduation and performance. For those in education at age 15, mathematics performance improved between 2003 and 2009 (a 33 score-point increase), but performance in reading, mathematics and science remains among the lowest across OECD countries. The impact of students’ socio-economic background on their performance and between schools has decreased significantly and stands around the OECD average, demonstrating that there have been improvements in equity of distribution of learning opportunities.

Institutions: Upper secondary graduation rates have been increasing at an annual average of 3.6% between 2000 and 2011, but at 47% they are well below the OECD average of 83.8%. Tertiary education graduation rates have also been increasing, but they remain below the OECD average, with just 23% of 25-34 year-olds attaining tertiary education, compared to the OECD average of 39%. While new upper secondary programmes provide learning opportunities in remote regions and the technological baccalaureate has been reformed, only 56% of 15-19 year-olds are enrolled in upper secondary education, compared to the OECD average of 84%. Labour market perspectives for students are positive at all levels of education, although lower than the OECD average for tertiary educated students. However, 24.7% of 15-29 year-olds were not in education and not employed in 2011.

Governance and funding: Schools, their teachers and leaders are building capacity and require support for improvement. Key issues include the process of selecting teachers and assigning them to schools, the balance between formative and summative appraisal in their evaluations, the quality of teacher training programmes, the incentives to improve performance, and the quality of teaching. While a number of different tools have been put into place for selection and evaluation of teachers, transparency and further capacity to use evaluation and assessment to improve student learning are required.

‌‌Key policy issues

Education performance at age 15 and attainment in secondary education are lower than the OECD average. The average impact of socio-economic background on student performance is around the OECD average for students at age 15, but large performance and completion gaps persist, especially for indigenous and low socio-economic status populations. System-level policies should focus on improving educational success of students from diverse backgrounds and delivering quality education across all schools, including upper secondary and vocational education and training. Raising the quality of teaching, professionalisation of school leaders and providing transparency in governance and funding across the system are key issues.

‌‌Recent policy responses

To address education challenges in primary and lower secondary education, the Mexican government has implemented a range of reforms in recent years. The Pact for Mexico (2012) and the Reform of the Mexican Constitution (2013), consolidated commitments in education – in teaching, school policy, and evaluation and assessment. These reforms culminated in the new professional teaching service law (2013), designed to provide coherence to the profession in primary and secondary education. This law aims to clarify selection, recruitment, training, promotion and evaluation for teachers, school leaders and supervisors and promotes a new technical assistance service for schools. Another law has granted autonomy to the National Institute for Educational Assessment and Evaluation (Instituto Nacional para la Evaluación de la Educación, INEE). A comprehensive reform of basic education introduced a competency-based curriculum (2012).

In addition to making upper secondary education compulsory in 2012 (with a goal of universal coverage by 2022), a National System of Upper Secondary Education (Sistema Nacional de Bachillerato, 2009) was introduced to provide a coherent framework of upper secondary education through better academic guidance, more education offer, a monitoring system for institutions, and mechanisms to deliver education (e.g. teacher training, school leadership professionalisation, infrastructure, scholarships).

Mexico’s scores in PISA increased between 2006 and 2009 in mathematics, but are lower than average scores in PISA 2009 (425 mean score compared to the OECD average of 499) and the impact of socio-economic status on attainment is at the OECD average (14% of performance variance explained by socio-economic background) (see interactive chart below).


Secondary and tertiary education attainment in Mexico are lower than the OECD average (Figure 2). Less than half of 25-34 year-olds have attained at least upper secondary education (44% compared to the OECD average of 82%), and less than a quarter of 25-34 year-olds have attained tertiary education (23% compared to the OECD average of 39%) (see interactive chart below).


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