Education in Mexico

Education in Mexico has a long history. The Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico was founded by royal decree in 1551, a few months after the University of San Carlos in Lima. By comparison, Harvard College, the oldest in Anglo-America, was founded in 1636. Education in Mexico was until relatively recently largely confined to elite males and under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico.

The Mexican state has been directly involved in education since the nineteenth century, promoting secular education. Control of education was a source of ongoing conflict between the Mexican state and the Roman Catholic Church, which since the colonial era had exclusive charge of education. The mid nineteenth-century Liberal Reform separated church and state, which had a direct impact on education. President Benito Juárez sought the expansion of public schools. During the lengthy tenure of president Porfirio Díaz, the expansion of education became a priority under a cabinet-level post held by Justo Sierra; Sierra also served President Francisco I. Madero in the early years of the Mexican Revolution.

The 1917 Constitution strengthened the Mexican state's power in education, undermining the power of the Roman Catholic Church to shape the educational development of Mexicans. During presidency of Álvaro Obregón in the early 1920s, his Minister of Public Education José Vasconcelos implemented a massive expansion of access to public, secular education. This work was built on and expanded in the administration of Plutarco Elías Calles by Moisés Sáenz. In the 1930s, the Mexican government under Lázaro Cárdenas mandated socialist education in Mexico and there was considerable push back from the Roman Catholic Church as an institution. Socialist education was repealed during the 1940s, with the administration of Manuel Ávila Camacho. A number of private universities have opened since the mid twentieth century.

Education in Mexico is currently regulated by the Secretariat of Public Education (Spanish: Secretaría de Educación Pública) (SEP). Education standards are set by this Ministry at all levels except in "autonomous" universities chartered by the government (e.g., Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México). Accreditation of private schools is accomplished by a mandatory approval and registration with this institution. Religious instruction is prohibited in public schools; however, religious associations are free to maintain private schools, which receive no public funds.
In the same fashion as other education systems, education has identifiable stages: Primary School, Junior High School, High School, Higher education, and Postgraduate education.

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