Throughout the Spanish colonial period, the Roman Catholic Church controlled education in what is now
Mexico. During the 1800's, the newly independent government and the church struggled for power, and the government won control
of the schools. Mexico's present Constitution, adopted in 1917, prohibited religious groups and ministers from establishing
schools or teaching in them. But the laws often were not enforced. Changes to the Constitution, passed in 1991, legalized
church-owned schools and the teaching of religion in them. Before these changes were passed, about 95 percent of Mexico's
schoolchildren attended public elementary schools. Only about 5 percent of schoolchildren attended private elementary schools.
During the early 1900's, less than 25 percent of Mexico's people could read or write. Since the Revolution
of 1910, and especially since the early 1940's, the government has done much to promote free public education. It has built
thousands of new schools and established teachers' colleges. The government spends large sums on education each year. Today,
most Mexican adults can read and write.
Mexican law requires all children from the age of 6 through 14 to go to school. After kindergarten,
a child has six years of elementary school, followed by three years of basic secondary school. Graduates of basic secondary
school may go on to a three-year upper secondary school. Many upper secondary schools are privately run, some by colleges
in order to prepare students for college work. Other upper secondary schools offer business and technical courses.
About 85 percent of school-age children in Mexico attend school. About 80 percent complete elementary
school, and approximately 40 percent finish some secondary school. Few go on to upper secondary school or college.
Courses of higher education at Mexico's many universities, specialized colleges, and technical institutes
last from three to seven years. The oldest and largest Mexican university is the National Autonomous University of Mexico
in Mexico City. See Mexico, National Autonomous University of.