How Does Schooling Work In Mexico?

A brief rundown of the educational system

If you’re thinking about moving to Los Cabos with your family, you likely have some questions about the schools here. What are the academic possibilities? How does education work in Mexico? What kinds of schools are available? Here’s a basic rundown.

In Mexico, basic education is typically divided in three levels: primary school (primaria), comprising grades 1-6; junior high school (secundaria), comprising grades 7-9; and high school (preparatoria), comprising grades 10-12. Depending on the school, bilingual schooling might be provided from the beginning, where half of the day’s instruction is in Spanish, and the rest is in a second language; English or French, for example.

In Spanish, the general term for school is “escuela,” but in Mexico it is common to use escuela for state-owned schools, which are the majority. The term “colegio” is used for private schools, which usually charge higher tuition fees.

The term “preparatoria” is most frequently used for institutions that provide a three-year program, one that prepares the student to continue their education at a university. In contrast, the term “bachillerato” is most often used for institutions that provide vocational training, in two or three years, so the graduate student can get a job as a skilled worker, for example, an assistant accountant, a bilingual secretary or an electronics technician.

Preparatoria customarily consists of three years of schooling, divided into six semesters, with the first semesters having a typical curriculum, and the latter ones making it possible for some degree of specialization, either in physical sciences (electricity, chemistry, biology, and so on.) or social sciences (commerce, philosophy, law, etc.).

Most Gringos prefer to put their kids in private school, because they are better than public schools, if not up to private school standards you would find in the States. At least they are cheaper: You can send your child to private school for $400 to $600 a month.

So what should you do? Well, we know a Canadian who sent both her kids to public school, tutoring them only in English grammar and American History, and they both scooted right into San Diego State University where they thrived.

In a heart breaking aside here, the girl, Luka, was in a serious relationship with a local boy who of course did not have the opportunity to go to the United States. The relationship survived through all the school breaks when Luka would return to her boyfriend who was studying to become a chef. But the inevitable happened. Luka outgrew Fernando and drifted away. Today Luka is in grad school and Fernando is toiling away in a restaurant kitchen. Luka still returns for school holidays with her family here but says she now has very little in common with Fernando. They live in two different worlds.

The environment in Los Cabos is not the environment a child will probably end up in. Some kids will thrive in that, and some won’t.