Education Policy Outlook Snapshot: Mexico


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‌‌Mexico’s educational context


Mexico is among the few countries with improvements in both equity and quality in PISA 2012. Although its performance remains below the OECD average in mathematics, science and reading, Mexico has achieved improvements in mathematics and reading, and unchanged performance in science across PISA cycles. The socio- economic background of students and schools had less impact on their performance in PISA 2012 than the OECD average, demonstrating improvements in equity of learning opportunities. Early childhood and education and care (ECEC) usually starts at age 4-5 and the enrolment rate of 3 and 4 year-olds in early childhood education is below the OECD average. Education in Mexico is compulsory from age 4 to 15. Grade repetition is high, and there is a gap with other OECD countries in upper secondary and tertiary attainment, enrolment, graduation and performance. New upper secondary programmes provide learning opportunities in remote regions and the technological baccalaureate has been reformed. Enrolment in upper secondary vocational education and training (VET) is among the lowest across OECD countries, with weak links between VET and employers, and low investment from firms in this sector. Unemployment is low compared to the OECD average. One-quarter of 15-29 year-olds were not in education and not employed in 2012.

Institutions: In Mexican sch ools, levels of autonomy over curriculum and assessment and over resource allocation are below the OECD average. Lower secondary teachers in Mexico undergo four years of pre-service training including a mandatory teaching practicum. Working conditions for primary and secondary teachers in Mexico include teaching time and class size above the OECD average. Also, a higher proportion of teachers in Mexico than the TALIS average consider that the teaching profession is valued in society and would choose to work as teachers if they could decide again. Some key issues regarding school improvement remain, including the process of selecting teachers and assigning them to schools, balancing formative and summative appraisal in their evaluations, improving the quality of teacher training programmes and of teaching in the classroom, as well as reviewing the incentives to improve performance.

System: Governance of the education system in Mexico is shared between central and regional authorities. Within the federal system, the government has been prioritising education and setting objectives through agreements and pacts with the states and main stakeholders. As all 31 states operate education services and administrative norms vary from state to state, there is a need to strengthen capacity to ensure a successful implementation of policies. The National Union of Education Workers (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación, SNTE), with leaders in each state, plays a role in education policy issues, which is being rebalanced with the state. Most decisions in lower secondary education are taken by the central or state governments. Expenditure on education institutions as a percentage of GDP (for all educational levels combined) is above the OECD average, with a higher share of private funding than the OECD average.

‌‌Selected indicators compared with the average

 ‌EPO SPIDER MEX                                                                                 Click here to access the underlying data
Note: For each indicator, the absolute performance is standardised (normalised) using a normative score ranging from 0 to 180, where 100 was set at the average, taking into account all OECD countries with available data in each case. See for maximum and minimum value countries. Source: The Mexico Snapshot was produced combining information from Education Policy Outlook: Australia, (OECD, 2013) with OECD data and the country’s response to the Education Policy Outlook Snapshot Survey (2013). More information on the spider chart and sources is available at

‌‌Key issues and goals

Students: Mexico is working to increase education performance and attainment in compulsory education. 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 VET.

Institutions: Mexico is also revising evaluation and assessment practices, especially regarding student assessment and teacher appraisal. Mexico sees as key issues raising the quality of teaching, professionalising school leaders, and providing transparency in governance and funding across the system. 

System: Balancing central and reg ional governance and ensuring effective engagement of stakeholders are key issues. Mexico faces challenges for achieving transparent and equitable funding of students and schools.


‌‌Selected policy responses

  • Efforts to improve quality and coverage in ECEC include creating care centres in urban areas for children of low-income working parents (2007), organising a national system of day-care centres and creating a framework syllabus to help ECEC institutions develop a curriculum.
  • Mexico made upper secondary education compulsory in 2012 (aiming for universal coverage by 2022).
  • A National System of Upper Secondary Education (Sistema Nacional de Bachillerato, 2009) aims to improve academic guidance and education offer and provide a monitoring system and mechanisms to deliver this level of education.
  • The Dignified Schools Programme (Programa Escuelas Dignas, 2013) intends to improve the infrastructure of schools, focusing on seven key criteria including safe learning environments, sanitary learning environments, and adequate furniture and equipment. The programme operates in three steps: 1) diagnosing the school’s infrastructure and resources; 2) allocating funds on a case-by-case basis to help schools comply with at least three of the seven criteria; and 3) providing compliant schools with a certificate from the National Institute for Educational Physical Infrastructures (INIFED). The school community is then responsible for maintenance.
  • School participation councils (Consejos Escolares de Participación Social, 2009) have been promoted to ensure parental and society engagement in education, increasing from 4% to 44% between 2009 and 2010. School councils are composed of parents, school principals, teachers, union representatives, former students and community members.

Spotlight: Expanding coverage and improving teaching and learning in schools

A constitutional reform in Mexico (2012) set out commitments on education to increase education coverage in upper secondary (80%) and tertiary education (40%); to improve teaching and learning conditions by providing more autonomy to schools and establishing full-time schools; to create a teacher professional service; and to promote system improvement with more transparency and consolidation of the evaluation authority. As part of this constitutional reform, various initiatives have been introduced.

New legislation to consolidate a professional teacher service (2013) aims to bring together and update different components of the teaching profession. Some new policies promoted are: 1) introducing an induction process in the first two years of teachers’ practice; 2) establishing the main lines of a teacher evaluation process for all teachers; and 3) establishing new horizontal incentive mechanisms to include or replace the different voluntary programmes currently available (e.g. Carrera Magisterial and the Incentives Programme for Teacher Quality).

Please cite this publication as:
OECD (2015), Education Policy Outlook 2015: Making Reforms Happen, OECD Publishing.
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