Educational Trends in Mexico

Written By Trent Lorcher

The United States and Canada make logical study abroad destinations for international students coming from Mexico. 

Latin American Trends

Although Latin American countries are far from monolithic, certain trends pervade the region. More than other markets, Latin American students focus on destination, experience, and affordability. Emphasizing the following, schools and agencies can capitalize on the growing Latin American educational market.

  • Short-term programs. Short term programs allow easy entry into the market. They're more affordable and easily financed. They're less complex. They get students on your campus, which helps in building long-term relationships. Latin American students often opt for short-term intensive English learning programs.
  • Destination. If your school is in a warm-weather locale--Florida, Texas, Southern California--emphasize it. If your school is near touristy places--amusement parks, cool cities--emphasize it. If your school is not located in these types of places, emphasize other aspects of the school that highlight what a wonderful experience the student can have.

Latin American students want an affordable school with a non-complex admissions process. The option to pay in installments will increase the attractiveness of your program. Mexico is no exception.

An Overview of Mexico

Although geographically part of North America, Mexico's culture makes it first a Latin American nation. To increase student mobility, Mexican educational initiatives focus on the US and Canada, along with English-speaking countries abroad.

Although the Mexican economy as whole rates as underperforming, the nation's middle class continues to grow as does the country's willingness to spend on education. These statistics should motivate those looking to attract international students from Mexico:

  • Since 2002, individual households, on average, have increased education spending by over 40 percent, according to the ICEF Monitor.
  • By 2035, Mexico will rank in the top 20 of higher education enrollment.

Because of its proximity, the quality and quantity of top schools, and a historical desire for Mexican students to study in the US and Canada, the number of international students from Mexico is likely to increase.

Additional data affirms this claim.

  • The Mexican middle class, the target audience for many international student programs in the United States, numbers around 70-million.
  • Mexico's 5.2 percent of GDP on public education puts it close to OECD and Latin American averages.
  • UNESCO's 2012 survey puts the number of Mexican higher education students studying abroad at close to 27,000 students.
  • The Washington Post reports that Mexico produces graduates from more engineering, technical, and specialized high schools than Canada, Germany, or Brazil.
  • In the past 30 years, university enrollment in Mexico has tripled.

Mexico and the US

The debate surrounding illegal immigration suggests that tensions between the two countries may not be ideal for recruiting international students from the region. Tougher restrictions and the lessening of mobility to and from the US and Mexico, however, has not discouraged students in Mexico from studying abroad in the US and Canada.

Education linkage between the two countries remains high. Second in population among Latin American countries, Mexico remains a leading outbound country for international students, with many focused on English language programs, short-term programs, and summer camps.

William Herrera of Estudiantes Embajadores, an education agency based in Mexico, sees the demand for study abroad in Mexico increasing, with the United States as a preferred destination. He emphasizes personal contact as a primary strategy in helping Mexican international students choose a school or agency for study abroad.

Additional Trends to Consider

Despite sharing a border with the United States, Mexico has historically struggled with teaching its students English. It ranks below several Latin American countries for English-speaking ability and 38 nations worldwide. The Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO) reports that only about 5 percent of the population speaks English, even though English is the primary language of business in the country.

Despite the low number of those who speak English, the desire to study English is increasing. Recent government initiatives have increased the amount of English being taught in schools in the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. Despite the increase, Mexican schools are not yet able to satisfy the demands or the needs of its students wishing to study English.

According to the British Council, the following are the most popular motivators for Mexican students studying English:

  • Improved employment prospects
  • Improved quality of life
  • Travel abroad
  • The ability to compete in a business setting
  • Global communications

The market for English language study abroad programs is there, but there are obstacles. The same survey looked at obstacles preventing Mexican students from learning English, obstacles your school or agency will need to overcome to serve this growing market.

  • Expenses and limited access to government-funded programs
  • Lack of opportunity in primary and secondary schools
  • Lack of confidence in language learning
  • Lack of family members or friends who speak English

It's clear that international study abroad programs in the United States, Canada, and other English-speaking nations can help Mexican students overcome these obstacles. The question is, "Is your school or agency positioned to help?"

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About the author

Trent Lorcher has taught high school English for 19 years. In addition to hosting a foreign exchange student from China, he's traveled extensively, including 18 months in Central America, 2 years in Italy, and additional time in Mexico, France, Morocco, and Spain. He dreams of one day retiring to Spain with his beautiful bride in a place big enough for their 5 kids to visit.

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