TREND: In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of foreign students enrolled in Mexican public and private educational institutions. According to Mexico’s Secretariat of Public Education, at the beginning of the school calendar year 2019-2020, there were approximately 290,000 foreign students enrolled in preschool, elementary and secondary schools. Close to 45,000 foreign students were enrolled in higher education institutions. This data shows a stark difference in the size and composition of the foreign student population at both ends of the educational spectrum, basic versus higher education:
- Of the 290,000 foreign students receiving basic education, nearly 50 percent are enrolled in elementary school. Ninety percent of all foreign students in basic education come from the United States, followed by students from Central America and Caribbean countries (3 percent) and South American countries (3 percent). Though, the gender distribution is basically the same: 51 percent boys, 49 percent girls.
- The majority of the Mexican states that hosts the largest number of foreign students at the basic education level are located in the north. The top five states include: Chihuahua (50,000), followed by Baja California (34,000), Jalisco (24,000), Tamaulipas (18,000) and Sonora (14,000).
- In contrast, the regions of origin are more diverse for foreign-born students enrolled in Mexican higher education institutions than those in basic education. Of the 45,000 foreign-born students enrolled in Higher Ed, 48 percent were born in the United States, 26 percent come from South America, and 16 percent from countries in Central America and the Caribbean.
- Likewise, the states with the largest share of foreign-born students in higher education vary from those in basic education. Among the top five states are: Mexico City (6,500), followed by Nuevo León (5,000), Baja California (4,000), Estado de México (3,700) and Jalisco (3,500).
TAKEAWAY: Mexico’s legal framework grants all individuals, regardless of nationality and immigration status, the right to access elementary and secondary education. Yet, bureaucratic, and social barriers (such as identity documentation requirements, language barriers, discrimination) hinder the exercise of this right for foreign students, specially at the basic education level. The Mexican government has made regulatory changes to tackle some of these challenges such as easing documentation requirements for school registration and developing flexible mechanisms for grade placement. Yet, as the composition and size of Mexico’s foreign student population becomes more diverse and more migrants seek education services in different parts of the country, Mexican policymakers will have to ensure there is greater coordination across different government levels to address the needs of all actors who are involved in a multicultural educational environment. Likewise, as Mexican universities continue to attract talent from other regions, policymakers will need to harness other labor policies, such as sector and country quotas, so educational opportunities match labor market needs.
* Spotlight by Ana Paulina Ornelas Cruz, Research Consultant; Ariel Ruiz Soto, Policy Analyst & Andrea Tanco, Associate Policy Analyst at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute (MPI). MPI seeks to improve immigration and integration policies through authoritative research and analysis, opportunities for learning and dialogue, and the development of new ideas to address complex policy questions.Twitter: @migrationpolicy