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Top 10 Facts about Girls’ Education in Mexico
Educating girls is known to boost the economy and social development indicators. When a girl is more educated, she is more likely to have fewer children, work full-time, have an increased life expectancy and her children are less likely to die young. In developing countries like Mexico, issues like these are of the utmost importance for the development of the country. In the text below, top 10 facts about girls’ education in Mexico are presented.

Top 10 Facts about Girls’ Education in Mexico

  1. Mexico mandates free primary and secondary education for children. After secondary school, students can choose between college and technical school. Women tend to outnumber men in technical schools.
  2. Mexican girls who live in rural areas tend to be less educated than their male counterparts. This is because of the prevalence of poverty, a marked lack of access to health care and social services and inadequate infrastructure provisions such as roads, water systems and telephone services. Parents might also be more reluctant to educate their daughters due to the cultural priority placed on getting married.
  3. Many girls in Mexico get married young, leading them to have many children instead of staying in school. The BBC reported that more than 320,000 girls between the ages of 12 and 17 were cohabiting with a man. More than 80 percent of these girls who were formally married left school. More than 90 percent of those who lived informally with the man dropped out of school.
  4. Although the literacy rate for women between the ages of 15 and 24 years old is 98.5 percent, women still overwhelmingly carry the burden of household chores and looking after children instead of pursuing higher education or advancing in their careers. Most girls drop out of school and become housewives instead of being incorporated into the workforce.
  5. Indigenous girls in Mexico face perhaps the most barriers to the attainment of even advanced primary level education. The poverty of many indigenous families conditions them to view their daughters, let alone their education, as a heavy economic burden. Mayan girls usually help with their parents’ income through agricultural work and household chores. Thus, they must drop out of school in the early stages.
  6. Although there are scholarships and programs to alleviate the cost of their daughters’ educations, many parents aren’t aware of them. There is a clear informational asymmetry regarding this question. Even if the parents did know of the existence of these programs and scholarships, they would not know how to apply for them.
  7. Indigenous girls also face a language barrier when learning the national curriculum. For example, girls from the Yucatan Maya community speak the Mayan language but are taught in Spanish. For this reason, they participate minimally in class and are often overlooked by teachers.
  8. Some Mayan girls report facing discrimination from their teachers and peers at school that obviously hinders their education. During interviews researchers conducted with some Mayan girls, they expressed feeling humiliated and discouraged when their classmates and even teachers called them derogatory names related to being darker-skinned or having trouble speaking Spanish.
  9. Rural Mexican girls have difficulty getting to school safely because of how remote their villages are. Unpredictable transportation often means walking long distances in desolate areas, leaving girls exposed to threats of physical or sexual violence on the roads.
  10. Mexico is a member of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI). This initiative is committed to narrowing the gender gap in education through the enhanced focus on marginalized and excluded groups, reduction, or in best case elimination, of school-related gender violence and improved learning outcomes for girls.

Mexico still has a long way to go before it eliminates the drastic gender gap in education, particularly for rural and indigenous women. However, with efforts such as the UNGEI, the situation appears hopeful and is changing for the better.

– Maneesha Khalae
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in Mexico
Child marriage in Mexico is more common than most people realize. In comparison to Mexico’s regional counterparts — specifically the United States and Canada — child marriage is a large problem that contributes to, and is caused by, Mexico’s poverty crisis.

Ages of Consent

In comparison to other NAFTA countries, the rate of child marriage in the United States — a much more densely populated country — is highest in West Virginia. Between 2000 and 2010, 248,000 children were married in the United States.

Canada’s data on this topic is not comprehensive; however, the government of Canada has taken massive steps to mitigate the problem of child marriage; in fact, most said marriages actually take place and are moved to other countries.

In Mexico, one out of every four girls is married before the age of 18. This is permitted by Mexican law, as the age of consent in Mexico is 14 years old (with parental consent). This is a striking difference compared to the U.S. and Canada, where the age of consent is averaged at 18 years in most parts of both countries.

Child Marriage in Mexico

Child marriage in Mexico is directly related to the pervasive poverty levels in Mexico, both in that the socioeconomic status causes child marriage, and child marriage, in turn, contributes to poverty levels.

The high levels of child marriage in Mexico are highly correlated with teenage pregnancy. Teen pregnancy is a large driver of negative economics and individual poverty.

Teenage pregnancy is highly correlated with not finishing education (which creates a lower likelihood of finding a stable career), a higher likelihood of ending up impoverished and increased healthcare costs.

Poverty’s Power

The main driver of child marriage in Mexico is poverty. The poverty in Mexico has caused unprecedented levels of violence, and many see marriage as a way of fleeing such brutality. Such behavior applies to the girls within the 20 million impoverished children of Mexico, as they often fall into the peculiar consent and marriage laws as a means to flee poverty.

Lack of job stability, education and political omission are all factors that drive the high levels of child marriage in Mexico.

Such a complex topic, which derives from various socioeconomic and cultural baggage, requires complex problem solving, of which the lack thereof perpetuates the moral crisis. Making recommendations to Mexican policymakers cannot just involve raising the age of consent, as various cultural factors also drive the state of affairs.

Methods of Mitigation

Actions to mitigate the problem of child marriage in Mexico started with the Mexican government outlawing the practice in 2014. This alone will not help; women’s empowerment must also go hand-in-hand when such legislation. Mexico’s Ministry of Public Education has joined with the Mexican Academy of Science and the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development to promote STEM in 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 to be involved in the STEM fields.

Girls’ education in Mexico is improving slowly, and will ultimately lead to women’s empowerment and slow down the prevalence of child marriage in Mexico. Women are increasingly enrolling in universities, even with the current levels of insufficient gender equality.

Improvement in Female Education and Employment

Women are also seeking paid employment, and the fact that about 20 percent of senators have been female since 2006 suggests the influence of women in politics is also increasing. If such development continues, these efforts will work to help eliminate child marriage in Mexico.

Policymakers need to also take geography into consideration — poverty occurs in mostly rural areas, therefore most of the resources designed to mitigate the problem must be litigated toward these communities. As the late Christopher Hitchens once said: “The cure for poverty has a name: it’s called the empowerment of women.

Mexico lacks sufficient women’s empowerment — women are told to drop out of school to assume household duties; rates of violence against women are high; and indeed many of these early marriages are forced. Promoting women’s empowerment will work for, as Hitchens also said: “it works everywhere it has been implemented”.

– Daniel Lehewych
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in Mexico
Girls’ education in Mexico has steadily improved over the last 50 years in terms of school accessibility, educational infrastructure and attendance rates. The opportunity to attend primary school is almost equal for girls (49 percent) and boys (51 percent) in Mexico.

However, the Mexican government still faces many challenges to educational attainment for girls, with poverty as its primary determinant. There are many factors and influences on girls’ education in Mexico, as well as programs offering a positive change in recent years.

10 Facts about Girls’ Education in Mexico

  1. Primary School Attendance Vs. Higher Education Attendance
    The Mexican school system consists of mandatory free primary and, as of 1992, secondary education as well as optional tertiary education. While the number of girls in school has caught up to the number of boys in school, “this is only true until the age of 14.” Starting at around age 15, girls in Mexico face sociocultural barriers to continue to higher education. Early marriages or unions, early pregnancies, domestic responsibilities and traditional roles of women encourage girls to leave school earlier than boys.
  2. Family Poverty
    Family poverty is a key determinant of girls’ underrepresentation in Mexican schools. A 2001 study showed that, compared with boys, girls from poor families – families from the lowest fifth of the income distribution in each year – were less likely to attend school full-time. Girls in the lowest 20 percent of the income distribution were less likely than boys to be in school or employed; however, there was no significant difference between school attendance rates of boys and girls in Mexico living in upper-income households.
  3. Regional Poverty
    In Mexico, rural areas are defined as localities with less than 2,500 residents. These localities tend to have a higher percentage of the population in poverty with less access to health and educational systems. Regional poverty contributes to the underdevelopment of girls’ education in Mexico; southern Mexico – Mexico’s least developed region – is the region where girls are most disadvantaged in terms of school access.
  4. Indigenous Populations
    In Mexico, indigenous populations are defined by either self-identification or language. Ten percent of Mexico’s 130 million inhabitants are indigenous and there are over 68 linguistic groups coexisting in Mexico. Southern Mexico has the greatest concentration of indigenous populations. Despite extreme variation in household languages, all primary education is taught in Spanish, “which contributes to an uneven learning process in classrooms.” Furthermore, girls’ education in Mexico within indigenous populations is complicated by the limited availability of transportation and by sociocultural barriers, such as the expectation for women and girls to maintain the household. Though the Secretariat of Public Education in Mexico (2017) showed that access to primary level school is almost equal for girls (49 percent) and boys (51 percent), the statistics do not necessarily reflect the cultural barriers that indigenous girls face if they are to continue into higher education.
  5. Parental Involvement
    Parental involvement and maternal education is a key determinant of girls’ education in Mexico. In general, high parental education levels are positively associated with their children’s achievement. Specifically, studies conducted in Mexico have found that a mother’s level of education has a strong positive effect on their daughters’ enrollment in school. Mothers with basic education are significantly more likely to educate their children, and especially their daughters. Data suggests that support to uneducated mothers’ literacy programs should be a high priority for the Mexican government since these programs help to increase girls’ school enrollment, attendance and participation.
  6. HIP: Investing in Girls’ Education in Mexico
    In 2017, Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP) began to invest in girls’ education in Mexico as part of their mission to promote Latino equity and inclusion across Latin America. Findings from their research into international and national actors led them to the conclusion that there are several educational initiatives in Mexico to improve the quality of education. However, these efforts are not designed specifically with girls in mind. To improve girls’ education in Mexico, HIP intends to increase investments in programs to reduce early marriages, unions and pregnancies. HIP relies on its 15 years of grantmaking experience in the U.S. and Latin America, partnerships with over 270 donors and investments in Latino-serving organizations throughout the U.S. and Latin America to achieve their goals regarding in girls’ education in Mexico.
  7. PROGRESA-Oportunidades
    Since 1998, PROGRESA — a national poverty-alleviation initiative, later called Oportunidades —  provides stipends to millions of Mexican households on the condition of children’s school enrollment and attendance, with higher stipends for girls’ education. This program was one of many conditional cash transfer programs started by the Mexican government, which incentivized Mexico’s poorest households to send their children — especially their girls — to school. Beginning with secondary school, stipends are higher for girls to remain in school due to their higher drop-out rate. Since Oportunidades’ inception, 39 percent of girls in the program advanced more rapidly through the school system, and 18 percent of girls who dropped out at the third-grade level now remained in school.
  8. The New Educational Model
    The New Educational Model, Mexico’s latest educational reform, is dedicated to ensuring that a greater number of indigenous girls have access to education. The last time the Mexican government implemented a new educational model was in 1959; however, this new educational reform encourages comprehension over memorization and allows for greater parental involvement regarding subject selection. These changes will, in turn, encourage girls’ education in Mexico.
  9. Fields of Education
    In recent years, there has been a greater push for girls to go into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields in higher education in Mexico. Jointly run by Mexico’s Ministry of Public Education, The Mexican Academy of Science and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), new programs in Mexican higher education are promoting STEM education, “placing significant focus on female students.” According to OECD, 5 out of 10 students studying at Mexican universities are women; however, many females have refused to choose science as a career in the past. The U.S.-Mexico Foundation (USMF) created a STEM mentoring program for Mexican female high school students, which had exceptional results: 100 percent of the girls in the program who graduated from high school attended college, and around 85 percent of them are studying STEM-related careers.
  10. Expansion of Early Childcare Programs
    In Mexico, there is a societal expectation that “daughters should provide domestic support.” Girls’ school enrollment and attendance rates are based, in part, on the sibling composition of the family. Younger sisters are freed from the domestic responsibilities when their older sister remains in the home to fulfill that role. Though policymakers have made some headway with initiatives and educational reforms, girls’ access to Mexico’s secondary schools could be significantly improved with the implementation of policy to expand early childcare programs. With this policy intervention, more girls would be freed up to attend school.

Girls’ education in Mexico is influenced by family features (e.g. family poverty, parental involvement, maternal education and sibling composition), sociocultural barriers (e.g. early marriages, early pregnancies and domestic responsibilities and expectations), and instability (e.g. regional poverty, limited transportation and poor educational infrastructure).

Despite the challenges to education for girls in Mexico, there have been many educational reforms and initiatives in the past 20 years (e.g. PROGRESA-Oportunidades, HIP, The New Educational Model, USMF’s STEM mentoring program, among others) that have encouraged positive change.

If this kind of trajectory continues, education for girls in Mexico will hopefully reach unprecedented levels of success.

– Kara Roberts
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Mexico
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
Photo: Flickr