School and Education in Mexico

Officially, it is 10 years of compulsory schooling from the children are 5 until they are 15 years. The primary school is 6-years old and high school 6-year-olds (3 + 3). 99% of children attend primary school, and over 60% continue in high school. From 1993, a central curriculum has been developed. The language of instruction is Spanish. English is compulsory in high school. In 2000, almost 8% of pupils attended private primary schools.

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In 2002, Mexico had 1550 higher education institutions, among them 52 national universities. The largest and oldest is the National University of the capital Ciudad de Mexico, founded in 1551 as the first university in North America. 20% of young people take higher education.

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The country has invested heavily in eradicating illiteracy. In 1960, approx. 35% of the adult population is illiterate. According to UNESCO, the rate of illiteracy of the adult population was 7.8% in 2000.

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1968 The Tlatelolco Massacre

In 1968, Mexico hosted the Olympic Games. This used the student movement to organize protests against the growing social inequalities in the country. A few days before the start of the games, October 2, the students organized a demonstration at the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in the working district of Tlatelolco, but the regime had decided that the student protests should now be stopped. No scratches should be made in the nice facade during the games. The military therefore surrounded the square, occupied all strategic points and attacked the demonstration. The soldiers had been ordered to shoot to kill. Hundreds were killed and even more injured. The exact loss figure has never been solved, because afterwards the military drove away the bodies and separated them. The regime was given peace to hold its sports games.

The massacre showed many young people that it was not possible to effect change peacefully, and the time after 68 was therefore marked by the creation of a large number of guerrilla movements, but the young people were partly too impatient, partly unable to win the trust of the rural population and organize a powerful guerilla. The various movements were crushed in a short time.

But at the same time, the social problems are deepened. The conflicts were so great around 1970 that the political leaders of the PRI also advocated reforms. President Luis Echeverria (1970-76) surprised both Mexico and the outside world with his sharp criticism of the inequalities in Mexican society. In the 70’s, more was spent on education, agriculture and local communication than before. The electoral system was changed so that opposition parties had better opportunities to be represented in the National Assembly. Already, PRI had a significant portion of the opposition under control. The ruling party had set up a number of political parties, allegedly serving as opposition, but paid for by the PRI and with leaders who got their agenda from the same place. Furthermore, PRI had developed a tradition and ability to recruit the best cadres from the opposition. When a leader stepped into a farmer’s, workers ‘or students’ organization, PRI sought to buy them financially and politically. Preferably, the person – and preferably the entire movement – draws into the PRI on the basis that things could be changed more easily from the inside. Only if this failed – as in Tlatelolco in 68 – did the party start the repression.

But Echeverria’s reforms were not profound enough. His policy was to some extent aimed at meeting the needs of the general public, but it was not based on a political mobilization of the majority. Increased purchasing power among the poor was not offset by a cut in upper-class income. The new government spending was covered by loans and by running the banknote press – not by progressive taxation of the rich. The unlimited access to exchange Mexican currency for dollars was maintained long after the devaluation began to become inevitable. The upper class responded by capital flight to the United States. Echeverria’s presidential term was therefore ended with a devaluation of the Mexican peso of 100%.