How does admission to college in Mexico work

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The Mexican education system is still centralized, although the first measures for decentralization were taken in the 1990s. The individual states were z. B. Transferring responsibility for the administration and control of primary and secondary schools as well as teacher training. However, the decision-making authority and educational supervision rests with the national education ministry (Secretaría de Educación Pública, SEP).

Structure of the education system

The education system is divided into the following areas: early childhood education (Educación Inicial), basic education (Educación Básica), consisting of preschool (Preescolar), elementary school (Primaria) and secondary school I (Secundaria I), higher secondary education (Educación Media Superior ), higher education / higher education (Educación Superior) and professional training and further education (Capacitación para y en el trabajo). For almost all educational offers there is the option of face-to-face and distance learning or full-time and half-day options. Schooling is compulsory from pre-school to upper secondary education, the latter only being made compulsory in 2012 and the nationwide implementation of this innovation is planned to last until 2022.

Primary and lower secondary education

The elementary school lasts six years, starting from the age of six, and ends with the receipt of the elementary school certificate (Certificado de Educación Primaria) from. This is followed by the 3-year lower secondary level, which is divided into three types of school: general secondary schools (Secundarias Generales), vocational secondary schools (Secundarias Técnicas) and distance learning-based schools Telesecundariasaimed primarily at young people from rural areas. Secondary schools for employees (Secundarias para Trabajadores) are also offered. After successfully completing secondary school, the certificate of completion (Certificado de Educación Secundaria) forgive. At general secondary schools, the weekly teaching time is generally 45 hours in the full-time variant, at vocational secondary schools this is 50 hours, with the number of hours for the work-related subjects being at least 8 hours. These subjects are divided into 6 occupational fields (campos tecnológicos): agriculture and fishing, food processing, production, construction, information management and communication as well as health, service and leisure.

Upper secondary education - higher secondary education

The intermediate level is followed by the 3-year higher secondary education or upper secondary level (Educación Media Superior, Bachillerato or also known as Preparatoria), in which there is a choice between four modalities: general Abitur (Bachillerato General), Vocational training (Educación Profesional Técnica) with and without high school diploma, professionally oriented high school diploma (Bachillerato Tecnológico) or technologist (Técnologo). Access to these educational offers is not uniformly regulated nationwide. Often an examination decides on the admission entitlement, which often means that only the best students can complete the general Abitur. The graduates then receive an Abitur certificate Certificado de Bachillerato. The higher intermediate education is aimed at young people between the ages of 15 and 18 and is a prerequisite for continuing an academic career in the tertiary sector, with the possibility of direct entry into the labor market at the same time.

Vocational training (with and without high school diploma)

Vocational training is mainly coordinated by the national training provider CONALEP - Colegio Nacional de Educación Profesional Técnica (National College for Technical Vocational Training) and offered nationwide at its training centers, but other institutes also offer vocational training programs. CONALEP offers two types of degrees, both of which are officially recognized. Both take three years to complete and have 35 lessons per week:

On the one hand, within the framework of pure vocational training (Formación Profesional Técnica), the qualification Professional Specialist (intermediate degree) (Profesional Técnico) can be purchased. The professional training does not lead to the acquisition of the university entrance qualification; it is more focused on professional practice or on the subsequent entry into the labor market. At the end of this professional training there is an additional title Profesional Técnico the certificate of completion (Certificado de (Terminación de Estudios de) Profesional Técnico) and a professional certificate (Cédula Profesional). However, the graduation rate of this training variant has been falling steadily since 2013, so that this qualification is increasingly being replaced by the following.

On the other hand, CONALEP offers formal vocational training with the simultaneous acquisition of a professionally oriented high school diploma (Formación Profesional Técnica-Bachiller) leading to the title of professional specialist (intermediate degree) with a high school diploma (Profesional Técnico Bachiller) leads. In contrast to pure vocational training, this qualification enables you to continue your studies at a university. As part of this special form of vocational training, a high proportion of professional content is conveyed. At the end of a successful training course, the graduate receives an additional title Profesional Técnico-Bachiller a certificate of completion (Certificado de (Terminación de Estudios de) Profesional Técnico-Bachiller), a high school diploma (Certificado de Bachillerato), a professional card (Cédula Profesional) and, if necessary, certificates of the skills acquired on request. There are 48 professions from the fields of industry and services available to choose from, each of which is divided into seven professional fields: production and transformation, maintenance and installation, technology and transport, health, electricity and electronics, accounting and administration, and tourism. The content for the Profesional Técnico Bachiller is determined nationwide by CONALEP.

For both types of training at CONALEP, a four-month internship (with a total of 23 hours per week or 360 hours in total) in a company or public institution and a social service of 480 hours are provided for successful completion. During the rest of the training period, the main place of learning is the classroom. Depending on the course of study, the school's own learning workshops and laboratories are also made available. However, the equipment and financial resources are rather limited.

Dual education

After a long history of individual dual approaches and not least thanks to a cooperation between CONALEP and the German Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), dual vocational training (Modelo Mexicano de Formación Dual, MMFD) has been available in Mexico since 2013. The training model, which was initially introduced as a pilot project, has been officially recognized as a component of higher secondary education since 2015 and is now becoming more and more important, as the increasing number of graduates shows. While dual training was initially only offered by CONALEP, other vocational schools are now expanding their offerings to include dual programs. The training period usually lasts three years, of which the first year is designed as full-time school lessons. This means that you can only take part in the MMFD program from the third semester, provided you are at least 16 years old and have good performance. The students spend the following two to four semesters exclusively in the company, where they are assigned to various previously defined positions in the company according to a rotation plan. The in-company training period is 40 hours per week. Face-to-face lessons in the school take place as required, otherwise the course content is acquired through self-study within the framework of a software-based learning platform. The share of theory or school content is around 20 percent, while practical experience is 80 percent. As a rule, weekly progress reports and close exchange with the school tutor or constant communication between the company and the school should ensure performance monitoring. Although the dual training courses have to follow a curriculum, not all offers are yet of the necessary standard. At the end of the training period, graduates receive the school certificate confirming that they have achieved the qualification Profesional Técnico Bachiller or Bachillerato Tecnológico (see below) as well as the professional card (cédula profesional) for the respective profession and are certified by the National Certification Body for Professional Competencies (Consejo Nacional de Normalización y Certificación de Competencias Laborales, CONOCER).

Professionally oriented high school diploma (Bachillerato Tecnológico)

This option offers the opportunity to acquire the Abitur within three years and to learn a technical profession at the same time. On the one hand, the contents overlap strongly with the curriculum of the general Abitur and therefore prepare for university studies in the respective professional field. On the other hand, the vocational focus subjects form the learners as specialists of a higher middle level (Técnico del nivel medio superior) in a technical-technological occupational field, whereby the Bachillerato Tecnológico is generally more theoretical than vocational training with a high school diploma (see above). The six-semester Bachillerato Tecnológico comprises a total of 2,800 teaching hours with a semester length of 16 weeks and an average workload of 30 hours per week of academic work. The teaching is divided into three (partially parallel) training blocks: basic (1,200 hours), preparatory (480 hours) and job-related block (1,200 hours). The job-related block represents technological training and begins in the second semester. Upon successful completion, the graduate receives a high school diploma (Certificado de Terminación de Estudios de Bachillerato Tecnológico), the title Técnico and a professional certificate for the respective professional specialization (cédula profesional de la carrera cursada).

The content for the Bachillerato Tecnológico is specified by the Sectoral Coordination Body for Academic Education (Coordinación Sectoral de Desarollo Académico, COSDAC), with the national coordination of the educational institutions being carried out by the General Directorate for Industrial Technical Education (Dirección General de Educación Tecnológica Industrial, DGETI). The following educational institutions are currently available nationwide for the Bachillerato Tecnológico:

  • 288 centers for industrial technology and service-oriented Abitur (Centros de Bachillerato Tecnológico Industrial y de Servicios, CBTis)
  • 168 Centers for Industrial Technological Studies and Services (Centros de Estudios Tecnológicos Industrial y de Servicios, CETis)
  • 812 Centers for Scientific and Technical Education of the States (Colegios de Estudios Científicos y Tecnológicos, CECyTES).


A special training option at upper secondary level leads to the title of technologist (Tecnólogo). This variant consists of the acquisition of the Bachillerato Tecnológico and a higher intermediate level of vocational training. This degree is largely offered by the decentralized provider CETI, with 12 professions currently available. In contrast to the professionally oriented Abitur, it is completed in four years, but can be shortened to one year if a university entrance qualification is available. When training to become a technologist, the focus is on practical applicability or professionally oriented focus. The completion of this training branch is also recognized by the state and qualifies for university studies and direct entry into the labor market.

Tertiary education

After obtaining the university entrance qualification through the Bachillerato, the following options are initially available within the framework of higher education: a kind of bachelor's degree with a degree Licenciatura (4-5 years), studies for teacher training (Educación Normal / Formación de Maestros) as well as professionally-oriented courses that lead to the title of "Academically Qualified Technician" (Técnico Superior Universitario) to lead. This form of tertiary education trains specialists below the engineer or licenciado level. Similar to German universities of applied sciences, this degree is offered at technological universities (Institutos Tecnológicos) and polytechnic universities (Universidades Politécnicas). The individual modules are divided into six to nine blocks of four months each. The last block usually has to be completed in a company. The Ministry of Education specifies 80 percent of the content nationwide. The remaining 20 percent result from adapting to local requirements. In addition to the general content, mainly technical focuses of the respective occupation are dealt with. The practical relevance is very important, as 70 percent of the content should be taught in the training workshops and laboratories. In addition, company tours take place during the entire duration of the study.

After a first degree in tertiary education, the so-called posgrado programs, such as Maestría (comparable to a master’s degree), specialization (Especialidad) and PhD (Doctorado) should be sought.

Adult education

In addition, Mexico offers people over the age of 15 who did not have access to the regular school system or who left it before completing basic education, the opportunity to obtain the desired qualification within the framework of adult education (Educación para Adultos). The program consists of free offers on literacy, primary and secondary levels I and II. In addition, people over the age of 25 who have successfully completed upper secondary level can recognize their informally acquired skills at upper secondary level by passing a series of exams to let. The National Institute for Adult Education (Instituto Nacional para la Educación de los Adultos, INEA) and the subordinate institutes for adult education of the federal states (Institutos Estatales de Educación para Adultos, IEEA) are responsible for the implementation of adult education.

Continuing education and training (Capacitación para y en el Trabajo)

In the area of ​​continuing education, there are courses from public and private providers that are specially tailored to the world of work and convey general knowledge, theoretical and, above all, practical content about basic activities in a specific professional area. The offer is aimed at employees, the self-employed, job seekers and schoolchildren. The courses last 40 to 600 hours and run over a period of three to six months. The venues for this are centers for further and advanced training (Centros de Capacitación para el Trabajo Industrial, CECATI) and institutes for vocational training for work (Institutos de Capacitación para el Trabajo, ICAT), which are often state-recognized, which are similar to the German adult education centers. In addition, these centers offer companies the opportunity to hold courses on individually agreed topics, the so-called cursos de capacitación acelerada específica, as well as extension courses (cursos de extensión) for a specific professional activity. After successfully completing these two course options, a certificate recognized by the Ministry of Education (Constancia) issued.

Operational training

However, direct on-the-job training can be seen as the most common variant of in-company training. A large number of companies use this variant to qualify their specialists. More important than previous professional knowledge is an existing degree from lower secondary level (in the technical area, a primary degree is often sufficient) and corresponding personal aptitude. The transition to employment then takes place smoothly after just a few months.