"Many reasons for the high dropout rate rest within the schools themselves" - SEP official
Colima, Colima -
On the first day of the new school year, Mexico's Secretary of Education (SEP) has announced that the government will hand out two million scholarships to high school students in the year ahead, in an effort to keep them in the classroom.
"The dropout rate in middle and high school is an enormous problem," a SEP undersecretary acknowledged today during a formal presentation in this Pacific coast capital. The government says that about every year about 600,000 students leave school permanently before receiving a secondary school diploma. In 2012 that number represented 15% of all those who began elementary school.
"The problem is really getting out of hand, rising continually, and we have to do something to guarantee that we lower that percentage at least one point every year," the official noted.
While public education at the primary and secondary level in Mexico is in theory free, there are often costs for books, school supplies and incidental fees which are beyond the ability (graph below) of many students and their families to pay. The scholarships, or becas as they are known, are cash payments intended to motivate students to complete their education and earn a high school degree. This SEP website shows what the government offers them, and for how long (payments in pesos).
The official acknowledged, "Many reasons for the high dropout rate rests within schools themselves."
"We have to form better teachers, strive to make our educational content more relevant and attractive to the student and mobilize the entire community, making them understand that the dropout rate presents a big problem for all of us," he added. Sixty percent of Mexican high school grads fall short on reading skills, while powerful teachers' union continues to resist mandatory education reforms.
Mexico has almost 120 million citizens, with a median age of only 26. Mexican population is soaring, and most are young.
Apr. 11, 2013 - Illiteracy, rudimentary education hold back 40% of Mexico; teachers in 3 states picket
Aug. 19, 2013 - Continued teacher strikes idle almost a million students in Oaxaca
Sept. 3, 2013 - Mexico's Senate passes education reform bill; labor unions threaten civil disobedience
June 12, 2013 - 59% of Mexicans remain trapped in underclass
Last year schools in Jalisco, a very poor state despite the fact that it is home to Mexico's second largest metropolis, offered free supplies to all students. In this September 2013 image PRI Jalisco governor Aristóteles Sandoval was a very popular man at one Guadalajara school, where he appeared with other state officials to personally hand out brand new mochilas - back packs - filled with supplies for primary and secondary age students. Everybody loved him for it. But this year fewer state funds are available.
36% of Mexican families go into debt just to return their students to classes each year
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