In Mexico, education has led discourse within the public and private sectors. Improvement efforts in education depend greatly on government administrations. However, the country’s government has been hindered in its efforts to improve education. Mexico has grown a lot in the last decades, but structural inequality and regional economic disparities are prevalent. Four out of every five people are in situations of poverty or are vulnerable to poverty. Additionally, only 40% of people in rural areas have internet access and the pandemic has only exacerbated this issue. Due to COVID-19, internet service has become crucial to guarantee proper education, as well as tools for students and entrepreneurs. Increased use of e-learning in Mexico is imperative now more ever.
Previous Projects in Education
Approximately two decades ago, Mexico began to carry out several academic-related projects. Universities, such as Tecnológico de Monterrey, and the government worked together to provide information and communication technologies (ICTs) in rural and remote communities. More precisely, the Virtual University of the Tecnológico de Monterrey established an initiative that built over 1,000 Community Learning Centers.
These centers guaranteed online education to rural communities by providing computers with internet access. Faculty members, teachers and students all contributed to this effort. They provided support and guidance to these rural and remote communities, which directly contributed to the development. The beneficiaries of this initiative reported that these centers helped them obtain employment opportunities, carry out their businesses and facilitated educational involvement.
In 2012, México Conectado (Mexico Connected) was implemented. The project’s aim was to provide a national network that guaranteed internet connectivity for the entire population, especially for those in rural communities. This achievement would promote greater access to all people and also contribute to social inclusion. By the end of 2012, there were approximately 14,000 connection points around the nation. Three years later in 2015, the 14,000 connection points skyrocketed to a total of 101,000 connection points. This initiative helped reduce the digital gap and promoted e-learning in Mexico’s public schools and universities.
The pandemic has generated a shift in social demands. Actions are needed to provide e-learning — not for comfort, but out of necessity. Public health, social equalities, economic prosperity and effective education all rely on increased access to e-learning in Mexico. Currently, around 30 million Mexicans in public schools must learn from their homes. In cities, the number of people enrolled in online courses skyrocketed, but distance learning in rural areas has become challenging. The cost to rent a computer with internet access — a requirement for remote learning — is approximately $0.50 an hour. This cost may seem low but the reality is that the income in some areas in Mexico can be only $5 a day. Furthermore, nearly half of the educational institutions previously utilizing México Conectado for internet access no longer have internet service.
As a result, Internet para Todos (Internet for All) replaced México Conectado. The new program seeks to provide internet service to remote and highly marginalized areas. It aims to facilitate government actions and promote economic development. Nonetheless, budgetary insufficiencies and improper management of resources have hindered contract renewal with the suppliers as well as the overall availability of e-learning in Mexico.
As a result, the Mexican government was forced to create a distance learning program through television and radio. Although it is a way of solving the problem, it is an outdated method that does not contribute in the same way as e-learning does to the economic development of communities. Investment into the education sector is undervalued as an effective mechanism for poverty reduction. Improved e-learning infrastructure is crucial in order to achieve integrated economic development and sustainable growth.
A Call for Increased E-Learning
Education is a fundamental pillar for the progress and integral growth of societies. It is necessary to implement strategies to fulfill the current social and economic needs of communities. Currently, the education sector is shifting to e-learning due to remote schooling during the pandemic. Even after quarantine measures end, innovative internet technologies will have permanently shifted education strategies. Location will no longer inhibit access to education, as quality education is becoming accessible anytime and anywhere.
Social programs should provide these tools to all the national territories to give students and entrepreneurs the necessary tools to continue creating prosperous communities. E-learning in Mexico enables economic development and poverty reduction, making it the way to a brighter future.
– Isabella León Graticola