Girls’ education in Mexico is a complex issue. Despite a 98.5 percent literacy rate among girls 15 to 24, many female students in Mexico tend to leave school early. Research suggests that primary school education becomes useless because most women are forced to drop out of school in order to be present for various household duties. Founding president of the Mexican Federation of University Women, Patricia Galeana, says that “girls do not miss school for lack of intellect, but because there is social deprivation.”
There are various reasons for the decline of girls’ education in Mexico. Worldwide, Mexico has the eighth-highest number of child marriages. Gender inequality is a big concern and violence against women is also a common challenge in the country, which hinders girls’ education in almost every respect. At the same time, the roles of women vary from one region to another. The Zapotec community of Juchitan, for example, is a matriarchal society where women play more leading roles than males.
Latin America is the only region with an increase of marriages every year. About 83 percent of married girls do not attend school and the number rises to 92 percent if informal unions are counted. Mexico City-based research claims that 25,000 girls between 12 to 14 are in an early marriage union.
Research also says indigenous girls face more hindrance than other girls in Mexico. Primary schools are free and mandatory in the country and taught mostly in Spanish. With more than 68 linguistic groups, there comes an uneven learning process in classrooms. The opportunity to attend primary schools is nearly equal for both females (49 percent) and males (51 percent), but due to socio-economic problems, women are forced to work and support their family.
Mexico has been making slow progress over the past few years. The country is focusing on making progress toward internet access through a dual work effort from Women’s Rights Online Network and a nonprofit called Derechos Digitales. The duo has launched a Digital Gender Gap scorecard, which will focus on improving public internet infrastructure, especially in poor and rural areas, and also make an effort to stop gender inequality.
The director of gender equality in the Ministry of Public Education, Claudia Alonso, points out that the stereotypical choice of degrees by women needs to be challenged. Women are mostly seen taking up subjects related to nursing, preschool education, and accounting. More emphasis needs to be put on STEM career choices for women.
Mexico’s Ministry of Public Education has joined with the Mexican Academy of Science and the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development to focus on promoting STEM girls’ education in Mexico. The University of Texas at San Antonio is working with Mexican Universities to teach various concepts of STEM. The U.S. Mexico foundation has also taken up a program called Mujeres en STEM to encourage more women.
In general, girls’ education in Mexico is improving slowly. The Washington Post claims that in 2012, Mexico produced 130,000 more engineers and technicians than countries like Canada, Germany and Brazil, which have larger populations. Women are enrolling in universities more, even with gender equality being deficient. Women are also seeking paid employment and about 20 percent of Senators have been female since 2006, which suggests that the influence of women in politics is increasing.
– Shweta Roy