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School dropout, another pandemic; three million students no longer continued their education


The desks of 36.5 million Mexican students have been empty for six months.

The first negative balance in education left by confinement are the three million young people who dropped out of school, adding to the 4.1 million who were already out of the educational system.

Data from the Ministry of Public Education (SEP) released last month indicate that dropouts in the 2019-2020 school year for the basic level reached 10% of enrollment, which means that two million 525 thousand 330 students of preschool, primary and high school abandoned their studies in full health contingency. In addition, 305 thousand 89 university students, equivalent to 8% of the enrollment at that educational level, also did so.

It is also estimated that 800 thousand students no longer went from secondary school to high school.

Schools were the first to close and will be the last to reopen to the new normal, when the epidemiological green light allows it.

The 2019-2020 school year was 75% complete when the quarantine began. Suddenly, 30 million 148 thousand 677 preschool, primary, secondary and high school students stopped going to the classrooms.

Learn at Home was the government response to save the school year, through television, radio, textbooks and virtual contact between students and teachers.

But not everyone was able to “connect”, since doing homework at home implies having electricity, internet, telephone, computer, television or radio.

Less than half of Mexican households have a computer, that is, 44.3%, while 56.4% have an internet connection. The situation worsens in rural communities, where in eight out of ten houses there is no computer or internet.

According to a survey by the SNTE, three out of every ten teachers do not have internet at home, half used the cell phone to communicate with their students and only 52% reported receiving support from educational authorities for the implementation of the program.

Digital illiteracy was another problem that evidenced the pandemic. Estimates refer that 60% of teachers are digitally illiterate, as they have been trained to teach their students face to face and not through a screen.

In this context, three million students who did not follow the Learn at Home program were lost, although the SEP qualifies it as a success, since nine out of ten maintained their learning at home.

The agency did not report, however, what happened to that 10% with whom it had no contact. Two out of ten teachers were also not contacted.

Experts in education and childhood have warned that this absence has to do with multiple factors, such as economic ones, because there are those who joined child labor; the lack of connectivity; reluctance and tiredness, or the loss of a relative.

On June 5, a month earlier than planned in the official calendar, the school year ended. It was at a distance, away from the classrooms, without generation photos, parties or goodbye hugs.

Blow to private schools

With the closure of schools, private education was also affected.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the National Association of Private Schools expected the closure of 25% of private schools. With the return to virtual classes, he now warns that four out of ten private schools of all educational levels are in danger of disappearing.

Private education Mexico represents 14.5% of the entire educational system. Of the 36 million 518 thousand 712 students enrolled in the 2019-2020 school year, five million 281 thousand 759 attended a private school.

The sector serves 10% of the enrollment in basic education, that is, two million 874 thousand 625 students.

As a result of the pandemic, an exodus of students to public schools or to the so-called homeschooling, due to the inability of some families to continue paying tuition due to the crisis or simply because they do not see an advantage of continuing in the private system.

So far, the SEP has not released whether its enrollment in this school year increased due to the migration of students from private schools. In August, it guaranteed that its system, with 200,000 schools and 1.2 million teachers in basic education, was prepared to serve those who left the private schools.

But the National Association of Public Schools considers that when face-to-face activities are restored, public schools will not have room to receive more than two million students, so the crisis will also be for the public system.

On August 24, five months after the lockdown, Mexican students faced an unprecedented return to class. The path to the school was another. Without their books under their arms, or rushing to get there, they started the 2020-2021 school year, which includes 190 days of classes at home, on television or on the internet.

Online they met their teachers and their new classmates. The SEP has not released the report of how many did not return even virtually.

The government bet for Aprende en Casa II is television, with content under the responsibility of the educational authority.

On August 3, President Andrés López Obrador signed an agreement with four national television stations: Televisa, TV Azteca, Imagen and Multimedios, to return to classes with an official scheme on six television channels that would allow national coverage 24 hours a day, during seven days a week.

Programming begins at 7:30 am and ends at midnight. There is content for fathers and mothers and also at lunchtime.

Four thousand 550 television programs and 640 radio programs in 20 indigenous languages ​​that will be produced and transmitted are part of this educational offer.

For those who do not have television, a radio scheme, free textbooks, workbooks and special attention were implemented. In the most marginalized communities in the country, where the National Council for Educational Development provides educational services to 301,000 children, half of the homes do not have television and seven out of ten do not have telephony.


While in Wuhan, China, where the covid-19 pandemic began, it took four months to return to the classroom, Mexican students still do not have a set date for their return.

Amid this uncertainty, academics and researchers envision a complex return to classrooms in Mexico.

According to México Evalúa, three out of ten teachers have a high risk of complications if they fall ill with covid-19, so they could be absent, and 20% of schools do not have drinking water.

For a safe return to schools, the WHO recommends physical distancing of at least one meter through the spread of desks, modification of schedules or classes in the open air.

However, in Mexico the average density of students per classroom is higher than in other OECD countries: 25 students in primary versus 21 and 27 in secondary versus 23, respectively.

The OECD warns that an eventual return to face-to-face classes implies for Mexico the reorientation of infrastructure, disinfection of classrooms and the development of strategies to keep the educational community safe. Despite these needs, the Expenditure Budget Project 2021 does not contemplate a single weight to meet them.

From distance

The federal government implemented a new educational strategy.

  • 23 of March. The Learn at Home program starts.
  • 28th March. SEP announces online updating and training program for teachers, during the period of confinement
  • April 4. Special Learn at Home programming is included during Easter and Easter.
  • April 22. Agreement with Google to maintain the provision of educational services through platforms such as Google Classroom.
  • April 29. The SEP reports that the diffusion of more than 1,140 educational programs through television reached 94% of the students.
  • May 4th. Eleven million 111 thousand 458 users participate in the different distance learning platforms.

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