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A Guide to Education & International Schools in Mexico

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  • Francois Bertrand

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Are you moving to Mexico with your children and need to know about the best schools and higher education?The good news is that you will have a wide range of options to choose from, since you have all levels of both public and private education across the whole country. If you have toddlers, you can opt for hiring a nanny or take them to a childcare center. You also have the option of giving your kids a secular education in any public school, or, if you prefer, they can have a religious or a bilingual education. In this guide, we will delve into all of this, as well as some information about universities in Mexico or where to go if you need to learn Spanish.

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The Education System in Mexico

If you are planning to move to Mexico with children, it’s a good idea to learn what the education system is likeover there. The next few subsections will give you a brief outline of the structure of the system and other useful information, such as the academic year, grading system, and holidays.

Education Facts in Mexico

Below are some quick facts about education in Mexico.

  • In public schools, the language of teaching is Spanish.
  • Education is mandatory until Grade 12 (18 years old).
  • Public education in Mexico is secular, free, and compulsory.
  • The school year starts at the end of August and finishes at the beginning of July.
  • Religious education or classes taught in a language other than Spanish can be provided by private schools.

What is the Education System Like?

The Mexican Constitution establishes that citizens have the right to receive education. The United Mexican States, through the Secretariat of Public Education, Secretaría de Educación Pública (SEP), is in charge of providing education to the people under four basic principles, (in public education): it is secular, compulsory, free, and must meet quality standards. If you are looking for religious, bilingual, or international schools for your children, you should look into private school options.

The school grades are divided into elementary education (educación básica), upper secondary education (educación media superior), and higher education (educación superior). The compulsory school age systems in Mexico covers the ages from 3 to 18 years old.

What Are the School Systems Like: Schedules, Holidays, and Grading System in Mexico

The school year in Mexico runs from late August to early July. School hours in private and public schools differ, but they normally start at 7:30-8:00 until around 13:30-14:30. Some schools also offer afternoon sessions (sesión vespertina) from 13:00 to 18:00 approximately.

The main school holidays in Mexico are:

  • Summer holidays: End of August to the beginning of July.
  • Winter holidays: Two weeks and a half from Christmas week onwards.
  • Spring holidays: two weeks in April.

In Mexico, there are two grading systems according to the cut-off mark.

Cut-off Mark: 6

Scale 1 Description WES conversion 90 – 100 Excellent (Excelente) A 80 – 89.99 Good (Bien) B 60 – 79.99 Sufficient (Suficiente) C 0 – 59.99 Fail (Reprobado) F

Scale 2 Description WES conversion 9 – 10 Excellent (Excelente) A 8 – 8.99 Good (Bien) B 6 – 7.99 Sufficient (Suficiente) C 0 – 5.99 Fail (Reprobado) F

Cut-off Mark: 7

Scale 1 Description WES conversion 90 – 100 Excellent (Excelente) A 80 – 89.99 Good (Bien) B 70 – 79.99 Sufficient (Suficiente) C 0 – 69.99 Fail (Reprobado) F

Scale 2 Description WES conversion 9 – 10 Excellent (Excelente) A 8 – 8.99 Good (Bien) B 7 – 7.99 Sufficient (Suficiente) C 0 – 6.99 Fail (Reprobado) F

Main Differences Between Public and Private Schools

Before you decide which is the most suitable school for your children, you should consider the differences between Mexican public and private schools. On the one hand, public education is free and secular. Classes are taught in Spanish, except for the few that are taught specifically on the English language. Private schools, on the other hand, can be bilingual or religious. If your children do not speak Spanish, it may be an even better idea to enroll them in an international school (mostly American, British, German French and Japanese), since a second language is not always a priority.

Another relevant factor to take into account is the tuition fees. These vary greatly depending on your choice. Mexican private schools are considerably cheaper than international schools. The prices range from 15,000 MXN (700 USD) up to 70,000 MXN (3,200 USD) per month, including extra expenses. In either case, make sure the private school is certified by the Secretariat of Public Education, so it can also be recognized internationally.

Documents required for admissions vary depending on the school. The below documents are an example of what could be required:

  • admission application;
  • birth certificate;
  • ID card or passport or FM document if you are a foreign national living in Mexico from children and parents;
  • CURP (Located on the FM document);
  • proof of address;
  • vaccination records and health evaluation certificate;
  • grades from former schools;
  • letters of good conduct.

Daycare and Kindergarten

If you are moving to Mexico and have children around preschool and kindergarten age, don’t worry, because there a plenty of childcare options. Among Mexican families, childcare in facilities is not always the first choice, since parents often take care of the children themselves or rely on family members. However, babysitters and nannies are also popular.

Throughout the past 30 years, the childcare system has seen an improvement. The Mexican government has made efforts since the 90s to create inclusive educational programs. The aim is to give children all the tools for their development, regardless of their socioeconomic status, or whether they live in an urban, rural or an indigenous area, or if they are disabled.

Are Kindergarten and Preschool Mandatory in Mexico?

Since 2002, Mexico established that preschool, or pre-primary education (Educación preescolar), is compulsory from the ages of 3 to 5. Therefore, nurseries and daycare centers for children between 45 days and 2 years old are optional. Preschool, in which the kids attend a classroom, can be divided into junior and senior kindergarten. Junior kindergarten corresponds to the second mandatory year (4 years old), while senior kindergarten is the third and last year (5 years old).

Daycare, Childcare and Kindergarten Fees

Childcare and kindergarten fees depend on the center. Because kindergarten is part of formal education in Mexico from the age of 3, the public sector is free. Moreover, childcare centers are free for working parents as well. Private childcare can cost between 500 MXN (23 USD) and 5,000 MXN (250 USD) per month. For private kindergarten and preschool, the cost is considerably higher, from 4,500 MXN (200 USD) up to 25,000 MXN (1,150 USD). You must also add around 1,750 MXN (80 USD) for teaching materials.

Educational Approach

The educational approach in preschool is oriented towards strengthening a child’s developmental skills. The system gives kids a range of tools and life experiences in order to prepare them for primary schools. At the same time, it gives parents some guidelines about childcare practices to help their early stimulation and development.

Talk to other international parents with young children in Mexico

Talk to other international parents with young children in Mexico

Primary and Secondary Schools

Are you wondering what the best primary and secondary schools are in Mexico?

Education is divided into three major blocks, from which basic education and upper secondary education are compulsory and free. Higher education is optional, and even though the public system is not completely free, students pay a low fee. Below there is an outline with the structure and the school age systems in Mexico:

Primary and Elementary School

Basic Education (Educación Básica):

  • Pre-primary education (Educación preescolar): Three courses for children between 3 and 5 years old.
  • Primary education (Educación primaria): Six courses (grades 1-6) for children between 6 and 12 years old.
  • Middle school or junior high school (Educación secundaria): Three courses (grades 7-9) for children between 12 and 15 years old.

Secondary School & High Schools

Upper Secondary Education (Educación Media Superior):

  • High school (bachillerato or preparatoria): Three courses (grades 10-12) for students between 15 and 18 years old. In turn, there are three options within this level:
  • General Upper Secundary (Bachillerato o preparatoria general): It prepares the student for higher education with scientific, technical, and humanistic knowledge.
  • Technological Upper Secundary (Bachillerato tecnológico): It gives the students the expertise and basic knowledge to continue a career in a technological field. Graduate students from this bachillerato can enter the job market directly or pursue a higher education degree.
  • Technical Professional Education (Profesional técnica): Students get trained to be qualified professionals in technical fields, from which they can access the job market directly.

School Costs

In Mexico, depending on the quality and the category of the school, school costs can be anywhere from free to 70,000 MXN (3,200 USD) per month. Public schools are all free, although sometimes you need to pay for books or extra activities. Mexican private schools ask for an inscription fee that can range from 6,000 MXN (275 USD) to 16,000 MXN (735 USD), as well as a monthly payment of around 4,000 MXN (185 USD) or 7,000 MXN (320 USD) or more.

International Schools

In this section, you will find information about the best international schools in Mexico. The process of adaptation for expat children can be difficult, especially if the culture and the language are different. Therefore, an international school can be a very suitable and recommended option to start with, since it will cushion the radical changes in their education and also within society. Most of these schools have distinguished reputations, which ensures your kids receive a first-class education that will prepare them for later challenges.

Schools in Mexico for International Students

In Mexico, you can find international schools in all its major cities, and they provide classes through all levels, from nursery to high school. There is also a large variety of educational approaches in accordance to their background. The larger variety are the British and American schools, which you can find throughout the biggest urban centers.  Your kid can also receive education from other schools in German, French, Japanese, and Italian, and combining those languages with Spanish. International schools are not only language focused, but also you can opt for other educational systems such as Montessori schools, or even religious schools, mainly Catholics and Jewish.

International School Tuition Fees

Since all international schools are private, they all have tuition fees, which are even higher than other Mexican private schools. Consider that you will have to pay for an enrollment fee, which goes from 5,000 MXN (230 USD) to 15,000 MXN (700 USD), and a monthly fee 15,000 MXN (700 USD) up to 70,000 (3,200 USD) for the most expensive ones, including the teaching materials such as books, uniforms, extra-curricular activities, etc.

International School Admissions Requirements

The requirements are similar to the other type of schools. Below is an example of international school requirements and admission paperwork:

  • application form;
  • birth certificate;
  • copy of the CURP of the student and their parents;
  • proof of address;
  • medical history and vaccination records;
  • letter from the former school proving no existence of debts;
  • last evaluation and grades from the former school;
  • for foreign nationals living in Mexico, proof of legal residency in the country.

American and Canadian Schools

  • The American School Foundation (Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey)
  • Puebla American School Foundation
  • Maple Bear Canadian School
  • Westhill Institute

British Schools

  • The Edron Academy
  • Greengates School
  • Instituto Bilingüe Victoria
  • The Winpenny School
  • The Wingate school
  • The Churchill School

French Schools

  • Lycée Franco-Mexicain

Japanese Schools

  • The Japanese School of Mexico

German and Swiss Schools

  • Colegio Suizo de México
  • Colegio Alemán Alexander Von Humboldt
  • Colegio Humboldt
  • Colegio Alemán de Guadalajara

Montessori Schools

  • Peterson School
  • The Montessori American School

Religious Schools (Catholic, Jewish)

  • Colegio Junipero
  • Colegio Hebreo Sefardí
  • Colegio hebreo Monte Sinai

Higher Education

Are you interested in studying at one of the top universities of Mexico? Mexico’s higher education institutions are among the best in Latin America and in the world. Students will benefit from the fact that the cost of living and the access to education is low, so you can enjoy your time studying immersed in a historical and multicultural environment. In this section, we will describe some key points to help you find the options that best adjust to you.

Mexico’s prestigious higher education ranked 31st in the QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings in 2019, placing it as one of the best in the world. Moreover, 63 of Mexico’s universities also reached top positions in the 2019 edition of the QS Latin America Rankings and 14 of them got a place in the world’s ranking. All official higher education institutions need to have a Recognition of Official Validity of Studies, in Spanish Reconocimiento de Validez Oficial de Estudios (RVOE), which ensures the quality and recognition of the institution.

The educational system is similar to those in the USA and Europe, in the sense that it is divided it into three main blocks or levesl:

Higher Education (Educación superior):

  • Bachelor’s degree or undergraduate (Licenciatura): Normally four-year programs.
  • Master’s degree or postgraduate (Maestría): Normally two-year programs oriented to obtaining a specialization in a certain area of knowledge.
  • Doctoral degree (Doctorado): The highest degree program that universities offer, and it consists of a three-to-four-year research.

However, not all the higher education institutions are universities. The public system comprises of regular universities, technical universities, technical institutes, polytechnic universities, and teacher training colleges. Most of Mexico’s higher education is private.

Requirements vary depending on the institution and the degree but completing the upper secondary school is a must. Other requirements usually are entrance examinations and school grades.

Best Universities for International Students in Mexico

Find a list below of the best universities in Mexico:

  • Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM)
  • Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey (ITESM)
  • Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)
  • Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC)
  • Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo (UAEH)
  • Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (UAN)

How Much does it Cost to Study in Mexico for International Students?

University tuition fees in Mexico vary dramatically between public and private higher education establishments. Even so, even the pricier options are still significantly cheaper than in the neighboring US.

For undergraduates, public universities are very cheap. It can cost as little as 380 MXN (17 USD) for one year, whereas an undergrad in a private institution can pay anywhere between 1600 MXN (74 USD) and 16300 MXN (747 USD) per semester.

For the postgraduate degrees, a student in a public university pays between 1,000 MXN (45 USD) and 2,500 MXN (115 USD) per academic year. In a private university, a master’s degree can cost around 34,000 MXN (1,560 USD) per semester.

Ask other international parents already living in Mexico

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Language Schools

If you are moving to Mexico and you wish to learn Spanish or any other language, there are a wide variety of language schools around the country.

If you are wondering about the language barrier, be aware that learning Spanish is not essential if you only consider your work environment. However, if you plan to socialize, understand bills, shop, deal with governmental documentation, make new friends, or understand the Mexican culture, then you must take some steps to embrace the language. On the other side, if you already speak it and you are interested in other languages, Mexican language schools teach many of the most prominent world languages.

Below are some school suggestions. Do not hesitate to have a look at their websites and learn about their offers.

Spanish Schools:

  • Spanish Center (Mérida)
  • Spanish Experience Center (Puerto Vallarta)
  • Plateros Spanish School (Guanajuato)
  • Olé (Queretaro)
  • Don Quijote (Playa del Carmen)
  • IMAC Spanish Language Programs (Guadalajara)
  • CEPE, UNAM (Mexico City)

Other Languages:

  • Advance (Mexico City)
  • Centro de estudios brasileños (Mexico City)
  • Instituto Británico de idiomas (Mexico City)
  • Instituto lingua franca (Chihuahua)
  • Berlitz (Mexico City, Guadalajara)
  • Awesome English (Monterrey)

Language School Fees

Language schools in Mexico, as in most parts of the world, are not cheap. As expected, the price will depend on the school, even though the more hours you enroll, the cheaper it will be. On average, you can consider an initial price of 4,340 to 6,500 MXN (200 to 300 USD). If you prefer to take private lessons, the price goes between 400 and 480 MXN (18 to 22 USD) per lesson.

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    The last InterNations event was just great: I had some very nice chats with fellow expats (even Canadians like me) in Mexico City.

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