Life In Mexico:Focusing on Schools

From: Aileen Garcia
Course: Cd 170 Context Influencing Cognition
College: San Jose State University
Instructor: Eugene Matusov
ChildrenObservations: No
Date: 23 May 1997
Time: 19:18:23
Remote Name:


Mexico is a poverty stricken country that highly effects its’ education. For this paper, I interviewed three men who grew up and attended school in Mexico so that I could find out what kind of schooling goes on Mexico. After interviewing these men, I found that the citizens of Mexico do not focus much on education. They have the need for survival and so food and shelter are the number one priority. Education becomes secondary for the children because their families need them to work and bring home money. Mexico does provide funding for their schools so the schools are not of best quality. Most of the kids that do attend school are not able to fully concentrate because they have to go to work right after school and lack the time they need to work on their school work. It was hard to see if the people of Mexico are less developed in cognition than people of other countries because I did not find any exact statistics or studies that illustrated it. I can only guess that because of the unfortunate circumstances in Mexico, their cognition may not have had the chance to reach its’ full potential


Mexico is a country that has a high population of poverty without any finances available for their school system. Many of the citizens are starving and need to worry about working for food rather than worry about education. Mexico is a country that has little emphasis on their school system because there are not as many opportunities available there that would require an extensive education if any at all.

For this paper, I interviewed three different men people who now live in the United States, but grew up and went to school in Mexico. Omar, a seventeen year old, who was born and raised in Rosario, Mexico. He attended and finished elementary school and high school in Mexico and moved here when he was sixteen. When he came to the United States, he had to enroll in school because he was under eighteen so now he attends a local high school here. Omar is a cook at the restaurant I work at and I was able to spend a few hours with him talking about Mexico and especially about his schooling.

Elisiar is also a cook at my restaurant. He is twenty years old and also grew up and went to school in Mexico. Elisar only attended elementary school and never went to high school in Mexico. Elisar does not go to school here and never plans to.

Beto was the last man I interviewed. He is a waiter at my restaurant and is twenty-eight years old. He has lived in the United States for about ten years now, but he also spent his schooling years in Mexico. Beto did go to elementary school and high school in Mexico, but never attended school here in the United States.

Most of the contents about Mexico and it’s schools is from the information I gathered from these interviews. Schools in Mexico start with Kindergarten which starts when a child is four years old and goes up until the child turns six. Children learn to color and play with children and sing songs in their first year of Kindergarten. They do not start to learn their counting numbers and ABC’s until they are close to the end of their second year of Kindergarten or until they reach first grade. Once a child is six, they start elementary school which goes from the first grade all the way through to the sixth grade. Children in elementary school are between the ages of six and twelve. The academic subjects taught in the schools are Math, Social Studies, grammar, writing, reading and physical education.

I thought that the teachers might not only stress academics in their classrooms, but also family values because they are so important in Mexico. After talking to Beto, he informed me that family values were left for the home. Teachers stuck strictly to teaching their school subjects. I asked all three men what a typical student’s day was like and all of them said that they went to school and worked on their subjects they were learning, played and socialized with their friends and then two of them would have to go to work after school and never had time to do their homework. Omar and Elisar lived in poor parts of Mexico and their family needed them to work to help support the family. Omar started working when he was seven years old. He said he used to work in a field up the road from his house. He said that it was not uncommon for many of his friends to work at the same age. He also said that not all of his friends were able to go to school. Many of them never had the opportunity because you have to pay for your own books and school supplies and his friends families could not afford it. Because their is no law that children must go to school, families have the option to send their child to work instead of school.

There is no law in Mexico that says children of any age must attend school. It is not against the law if a family decides to have their children work for money for the family rather than attend school. Many families can barely afford to put food on the table and so they need their children to help with the family finances. Unfortunately, this rules out the option of going to school for many. If a child does go to school, it is very likely that they have an after school job and still are not able to spend as much time as they should on their school work. Elisar said that it was very hard to go to school and then go to work right after school, but he felt lucky that he could go to school. His friends that could not go felt like they were missing out on a social event, but he said that they did not worry too much about not getting an education.

Mexico is mainly agriculture so white collar jobs are not common or available. The jobs that are available are ones that do not require an education. This is another reason why there is not as much emphasis on school and education. He and his friends and family know that education in their country is not that important because there are no opportunities for someone with an education in Mexico. Omar graduated from high school in Mexico because he said he knew he was coming here and wanted to feel like he had somewhat of a head start when he got here. Once he was here, he immediately enrolled in a local high school where he still attends and once he graduates he plans to try and get a loan to attend a junior college. Although he does go to school daily, he also holds down two jobs because he has been sending money back to his parents who stayed in Mexico.

Elisar and Beto also work two jobs so that they too can send money back to their families. They said that it is the norm that when a family member comes to the United States, they come mainly to find better jobs so that they can make more money to send back to their families. In the United States, the larger majority of jobs available are white collar and do require an education. There is an incentive and a motive to go to school here and to complete college because there is somewhat of a promise that if you finish school you will be rewarded with a good job that pays you good money. There is no such promise in Mexico.

It is not that these people are stupid and can not deal with school or that they are lazy, they do not have a motive to go to school. They do have a motive to go to work, however. They are hungry and want a roof over their head and that is their motive to work and choose it over education. I asked each of my interviewees what was considered smart in Mexico. Each one of them mentioned someone who received good grades in school. I asked them there are no skills that someone could know that would categorize them as smart and they all said no. They said they each had a few students in their elementary schools that did not have to work after school and had plenty of time to study and always received good grades which would be equivalent to A’s here and who were always praised by the teacher. It seems to me that it is not that all the other students that are not receiving the high marks are dumb, they just do not have the time to spend on studying and so they appear as if they are not as smart.

Many people do flee Mexico to come to the United States in hope of a better life here, but many do not take advantage of the quality education that is provided here. The United States has state funding for their school and so our quality of teachers is outstanding compared to theirs, we have computers and up to date text books, many different extra curricular programs. Unfortunately, most still do not partake in this opportunity. In a paper written by Nancy Ullrich she quoted Researcher Spencer Kagan (1994) speaking about Hispanics that came to the United States from Mexico, "half of all Hispanic students drop out of formal education before finishing high school and less than 10% finish college." In Mexico, there is such a diverse population of wealth and poverty that not all school systems have the same standards and curriculum. The schools in then poorer areas lack the structure that schools in the wealthier areas have. Federal and state funding for schools is nonexistent. There is also not a set national standard for the schools and that is another reason why the schools vary in quality. The schools that are available have very few supplies and therefore require the students to provide most of their own supplies. The supplies that the schools do have are old and out dated like text books that should be thrown away instead of used to teach with. Many cannot afford their own and so are left with the option of not attending school at all. The schools also cannot afford to hire quality teachers. The schools are not funded so another said realization is that many students who might have some kind of learning disability are never found and kind of just slip through the seams. If they had some kind of testing to keep track of their students there would probably be children that stayed in school because they could be helped with. whatever disability they have.

The people in Mexico have a very hard life. Because of the low socioeconomic status, many people in Mexico and more sadly children do not have many opportunities to choose from. I would never say that these children have a less developed cognition than those children from more fortunate countries but, I would just say that because of unfortunate circumstances they never were allowed the opportunity to reach their full potential. I would be very curious to see these same children from Mexico taken to say the United States for school and see if there is a difference in their cognition compared to other kids from their neighborhood who stayed in Mexico for schooling. That could be my next paper.


Ullrich, Nancy,1996, Diversity in the Classroom and the Power of a Culturally Relevant Pedagogy , Publishing Web for Student’s Final Paper

Omar Vasquez, 1997, Interview with Aileen Garcia

Elisar Garcia, 1997, Interview with Aileen Garcia

Beto Ramirez 1997, Interview with Aileen Garcia

Excerpts from the interview with Omar. Omar-age 17 from Rosario, Mexico Q: What was life like for you during you elementary school days? A: I did not go to Kindergarten because my mother did not

Last modified August 06, 2015