Education for expats in Mexico is readily available for those looking to relocate to the country. Numerous factors apply when deciding which option to choose for your child. The Mexican education system has improved a lot over the years. However, if you are moving to a remote area, there may be cause for concern.

Schools in rural areas are underfunded and have a shortage of buildings, teachers, and books. And if your child isn’t bilingual, they won’t get the amount of attention they need to succeed in their new environment. Before making your transition to the Spanish speaking country, you should weigh the pros and cons of all of your options.

Education for Expats in Mexico: What to Expect

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The SEP regulates the education system in Mexico, or Secretariat of Public education and the structure of the Mexican school system is similar to most other education systems. School days in Mexico are short, typically from 8 a.m to 1 p.m and the school year usually runs from September to June of the following year. That might be a bit of a change in the education for expats in Mexico, primarily since they are used to longer school days.

The primary education grades are one to six for children ages six to 12. Middle school starts at grade seven to nine and the students are 12-15 years old. High school is for kids ages 15-18 and the grades area 10-12. But keep in mind, Mexico does not have a kindergarten level. So, if you have a younger child, they can start pre-k at age three and stay until age five. Preschools have private funding, so you will have pay to put your child in classes before grade one.

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Primary school: easing your child into school

New regulations by the SEP require more schools to teach a second language. It’s mandatory for the students to learn a second language, and half of the school day they are taught in Spanish while the second half is in a secondary language. The most common options are English, French or a native Mexican language like Tzotzil or Tzeltal.

Unless your child can speak Spanish, public school might not be the best option. Most expats send their kids to private school because they offer bilingual integration and also have more funding than public schools. But, if you move to a large city in Mexico, international schools are more prominent. That works out a lot better for education for expats in Mexico.

A lot of expats choose to send their kid to public school for a half a day and homeschool for the remainder. This is a good way to allow the child to learn Spanish and immerse into Mexican culture without feeling overwhelmed.

Middle school: alternative education for expats in Mexico

Older children may find it harder to adapt to new country and culture. It’s a good idea to ease them into the culture by enrolling them in a summer program or volunteer abroad program in Baja or mainland Mexico.

Homeschooling

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The challenge a lot of expat parents face with homeschooling is the lack of necessities for the curriculum. It’s challenging to buy textbooks and workbooks locally that are not in Spanish. You can have a lesson plan shipped, but often the process of shipping is slow. In addition to that, it can be tough to find other homeschoolers to organize gatherings with, such as field trips. The easiest thing to do is to homeschool via the internet; it makes things easier.  A few online homeschooling resources are Duolingo for Schools, Study James, and E-Learning for Kids.

If you have an unconventional parenting style, you can also incorporate unschooling into your child’s education. The concept is to teach your kid only what they are interested in learning; determine their interests and hobbies and cultivate those. 65 percent today’s children will perform jobs that don’t currently exist. With that said, following the path of a traditional school curriculum isn’t a necessity.

Obviously, it’s essential for them to learn the basics. Teaching them to read and how to add, subtract, multiply and divide is standard. But, you can also choose unique ways to teach them those things. Unschooling is different, and it opens your child up to new ways of learning and thinking. It goes against the norm, but it’s proven to be an effective teaching method for a lot of children.

High school: preparing for graduation

It wasn’t until recently that preparatory school was mandatory for Mexican students. However, it’s now a requirement that children complete education until grade 12. There are two main types of high school programs in Mexico, SEP Incorporated Preparatoria and University Incorporated Preparatoria. The government mandates the curriculum in conjunction with the SEP. Diplomas from the SEP will be accepted in the U.S. or Canada if you decide to move back.

For university incorporated, the schools work closely with a local university that created the curriculum for the students. Also, Mexican high schools allow students to select a specialty degree. For those who opt to attend a college or university, the first half of the year focused on the field of the degree they choose. Also, keep in mind, public school in Mexico is free, however, high school students are required to purchase their own textbooks and school supplies.

Public vs private school

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Public schools have minimal resources for expat children, so private school is the route that most parents take for their kids. Enrollment requires proof that your child completed the previous year of school and had the credentials to pass to the next grade. And most private schools ask for the child’s birth certificate, school records and photo identification for both the parent and the student.

Fees for private education for expats in Mexico differs from school to school, and bilingual institutions are more expensive. Typically, you will pay a first-time admission fee, annual reinscription fees, and additional costs for transportation and other school programs. It usually costs anywhere between $150-$350 USD a month or more.

Before enrolling your child in private school, make sure the Ministry of Public Education accredits the institution and be sure to visit the school to check things out for yourself. The quality of private schools in Mexico can vary tremendously, and it’s best to meet with teachers and review the curriculum before enrolling your child. And get informed about how the bilingual schools organize the curriculum, some teach English the first half of the day and Spanish the other half. Your kid might find it challenging to follow along during the Spanish classes.

International Schools: Education for Expats in Mexico

There are over 150 international bilingual schools throughout the country of Mexico. They have the best quality of education and are more expensive than any other type of institution. International schools have long waiting lists, and if you arrive in the middle of the school year, your child might not be able to get in. It’s a good idea to put your application in months in advance.

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An international school is the best option for education for expats in Mexico because it ensures they will receive a world-class education and attend college in their home county or any school worldwide. The great thing is, international schools have similar requirements worldwide, so if you move to another country, it’ll be a smooth transition. If you go from Mexico to France, you can expect everything to be about the same. Some favorite international schools are:

The American School Foundation (Mexico City): This school teaches children from the pre-k grade level to high school. The admission fee is $5,000 USD, and  Tuition ranges from $15-795 to $22,555 depending upon the child’s grade level. Financial aid is available.

Puebla American School Foundation (La Paz): Before beginning the admissions process, you should make an online application on the website. They teach elementary school, middle school, and high school students, in addition to pre-k. Students learn in both English and Spanish.

Greengates School (Mexico City):  SEP accredits this British international school. Their diploma program is through the Diploma Programme of the International Baccalaureate or IB. The IB is a pre-university course taken by all students for the last two years of high school. Additionally, students have to graduate with a Greengates diploma as well.
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