Los Estados Unidos de México, most commonly known as México, is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world with an area nearly three times the size of Texas. Its population of nearly 109 million makes México not only the United States' most populous neighbor but also the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world. Mexico borders the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of México between Belize and the US, and borders the North Pacific Ocean between Guatemala and the US. It is comprised of 31 estados (states) and one distrito federal (federal district). México is 60% mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish), 30% Amerindian, and 9% white. The literacy rate is 91%.
México had an advanced Amerindian civilization for many centuries before discovery by Francisco Fernández de Córdoba when he landed on the Yucatan Peninsula in 1517. It was a Spanish colony for more than 300 years before independence was declared on September 16, 1810. However, Spain did not recognize México's independence until September 27, 1821. A republican constitution was drafted in 1824 to mark the beginning of democratic rule in México.
Education in México became free and compulsory in 1867. The 1917 Constitution lay much of the foundation upon which the modern Mexican educational system was built. With responsibilities shared among the federal, state and municipal governments, the 1917 Constitution created the Secretaría de Instrucción Pública y Bellas Artes (Secretariate of Public Instruction and Fine Arts) which drew a very clear line between church and state, banning private schools and institutions from religious instruction, while still allowing religious groups to operate schools in adherence with the government's rules and standards of secular education. Additionally, education was to be offered free of charge to all Mexican children. In 1921, the Secretaría de Instrucción Pública y Bellas Artes became the Secretaría de Educación Pública (SEP) (Department of Public Education). Although the control of primary and lower secondary schools formerly resided with the Secretaria de Educación Pública, the new educational initiatives in the 1990s de-centralized education from the federal government, and most administrative duties were transferred to the state and local governments. However, the federal government continues to set the curriculum for primary and lower secondary schools that the states are obligated to follow while most upper secondary schools are subject to the purview of the public autonomous universities, with teacher training schools and technological institutes being the only programs under the supervision of the SEP.
The Mexican education system of the second half of the 20th century was marked by tremendous growth as the population swelled and a more urgent need for basic education had to be met. Currently, education through the ninth grade is compulsory throughout México. At both the lower-secondary and upper-secondary levels, vocational diploma programs have been offered in addition to academic programs that lead to the next level of education. Additionally, universities are increasingly requiring standardized examinations developed by the Centro Nacional de Evaluación para la Educación Superior (CENEVAL) (National Evaluation Center for Higher Education) for graduation purposes.
Escuela primaria (Primary school) begins at age six and lasts for 6 years. Following completion of primary school, students are awarded the Certificado de Primaria (Primary Certificate). Following primary school, students can continue in a several types of escuelas secundaria (lower-secondary schools): general lower-secondary, technical lower-secondary, or schools for workers. All lower-secondary programs are 3 years. Secundaria general (General lower-secondary) awards the Certificado de Secundaria General (General Lower-Secondary Certificate) upon completion of studies. Secundaria técnica (Technical lower-secondary) and Secundaria para trabajadores (schools for workers) award the Certificado de Secundaria (Lower-Secondary Certificate) upon completion of studies. Educación media superior (Upper secondary) is 3 years and follows lower secondary. Upon completion of studies, students are awarded, depending on their educational track, a Certificado de Bachillerato General (General Baccalaureate Certificate), Bachillerato Tecnológico (Technical Baccalaureate), or Educación Profesional Técnica (Professional Technical Education).
Academic upper-secondary institutions may be called Escuelas Preparatorias (University-Preparatory Schools).
There are 1,892 post-secondary institutions in México of which 713 are public and 1,179 are private. They include:
- 4 public federal universities that are teaching and research-based
- 46 public state universities - part of local state governments and are teaching and research-based
- 211 public technological institutes - vocationally-oriented
- 60 public technological universities - offer 2-year programs
- 18 public polytechnic universities - established in 2002
- 4 public intercultural bilingual universities
- 443 teacher training colleges
- 995 private institutions (colleges to universities); most are non-denominational
Admission to university level studies requires a bachillerato for admission. The first level of study are Licenciatura (Licentiate) or Título Profesional (Professional Title such as architect or engineer) programs which may run 3 to 5 years, depending on the program of study. The length of a program is normally determined by the institution, and is authorized and recognized through validez oficial. The Asociación Nacional de Universidades e Instituciones de Educación Superior (ANUIES) (National Association of Universities and Institutions of Higher Education) provides up-to-date catalogs of accredited Licenciatura or Título Profesional programs and academic terms.
Simply completing a Licenciatura program does not automatically entitle a student to receive the Título de Licenciado (Title of Licentiate) or Título Profesional (professional title), which is the SEP-sealed and approved document that declares the conferral of the degree. To receive the Título (title), students must complete all coursework in the plan de estudios (degree plan), and usually a thesis, a period of social service, and a professional examination. The social service is typically 6 months, except for medicine which is 12 months. If the graduation requirements are not met, the document that confirms the completion of the academic program is the Carta de Pasante (Certificate of Passing). This document alone only confirms completion of the plan de estudios (degree plan) and should not be considered a substitute for the Título. Certificates / diplomas referring to Generación + years designate that the bearer is a member of a particular Class (such as the Class of 2008); these do not establish completion of coursework, much less degree conferral.
The next level of university study is the grado académico de Maestría (academic degree of Master's), usually 4 terms, or Especialización (Specialization), usually 2 years. Medical specializations are 3 years. The final stage is the Doctorado, lasting for at least 2 years after the Maestría. It requires coursework and defense of a thesis.
Since 1984, training of early childhood and elementary school teachers takes place at an escuela normal (teacher training college); secondary school teachers are trained at an escuela normal superior (higher teacher training college). Facultades de Pedagogía (Faculties of Pedagogy) also offer such teaching degrees as the Licenciatura en Pedagogía (Licentiate in Pedagogy) at universities. Admission to Licenciatura programs in education requires bachillerato (upper-secondary), preparatoria (academic upper-secondary), or comparable upper-secondary credentials such as the former Título de Profesor de Educación Primaria (Title of Teacher of Elementary Education) or Título de Profesor de Educación Preescolar (Title of Teacher of Early Childhood Education). Full-time programs last from 3 to 4 years; cursos intensivos (intensive programs for working teachers) require 6 summers. Upon completion of the programs, students are awarded a Título de Licenciado en Educación Preescolar (Title of Licentiate in Early Childhood Education), Título de Licenciado en Educación Primaria (Title of Licentiate in Elementary Education), or Título de Licenciado en Educación Media en la especialidad de… [Title of Licentiate in Secondary Education in the specialization of…(major)]. Other nomenclature exists.
Currently, nurses are trained in Facultades de Enfermería (Faculties of Nursing) in 8-semester university programs culminating in the Licenciatura en Enfermería (Licentiate in Nursing). Admission to Licenciatura programs in nursing requires Bachillerato (upper-secondary) or comparable upper-secondary credential such as the 6-semester upper-secondary credential of Título de Enfermero (Title of Nurse).