Ana Paula González Villalobos


The general purpose of the paper is to introduce different approaches on the challenges of the access to education in México. Firstly, a brief résumé on main economic indicators on poverty in México will be set out. Secondly, an overview of economic and cultural situation of the families that encountered poverty conditions will be given. Lastly, the prime reasons for inadequate access to education will be outlined and the role of poverty will be explained. The paper will specifically address the children and adolescents that live in poverty or abject poverty.

Based on the principal economic indicators, it can be concluded that poverty in México is widespread.[1] Between 2012-2014 the number of people living in poverty increased from 53.3 million to 55.3 million. The share of people under 18 years old that live in poverty is 42.3% which equals to 16.8 million people.[2] In México, the possibilities of building a cohesive society is affected by the presence of a profound inequality. Owing to this, people’s interests, aspirations, life expectations, and access to opportunities to develop their capacities and knowledge are highly remote.[3]

Moreover, a set of criteria should be considered in order to better assess the implications of poverty. The multidimensional poverty measurement in México consists of eight different indicators. For the purposes of this research paper, I will apply three: current income per capita, average educational gap in the household, and quality and spaces of the dwelling.[4] All of those indicators help to establish links between poverty and access to education in México.

The statistical averages of indicators must be interpreted with caution in case of México. Whereas disposable income per capita was 12,806 American dollars a year in 2016[5],  the minimum wage per year only equals to 21,610 Mexican pesos (approximately 1,150 American dollars). This means that a high share of people live in poverty. Due to the unstable economic conditions in the country, the families that live in poverty conditions (with the minimum wage) are forced to seek for new ways to have enough income to satisfy their basic needs. In México, people living in poverty often live in conditions of permanent anxiety, despair and insecurity. As a result, the parents are often forced to send their children to work, and hence, the children do not have other option but to drop out of school. Due to this, the children face arduous obstacles in order to access education which entails a serious violation of their human rights. Poverty affects children and young people more intensely, so they are extremely vulnerable.

This vulnerability leads children to be more inclined to be lured by the organized crime, human trafficking, and other criminal activities. The aforementioned situations could be avoided, if the economy would be stronger and labor market more efficient. However, private enterprises find it difficult to employ people with insufficient education. As a result, poverty reproduces itself as children from poor families do not have access to education. To solve resulting skill mismatches at the labor market, the government should carry out structural reforms in order to create a more dynamic and competitive economic environment. This is one of the key prerequisites for reducing extreme poverty. Consequently, it would also improve the access to education and the parents would not be in need to send their children to work.

Educational gap is also strongly connected to culture, customs and traditions of the households. A custom or tradition to sell or marry the girls (as young as 10 years old) in exchange for cattle or money is still widespread in numerous communities (mostly indigenous or working class). In this regard, one of the most pressing matters is educating the parents of these girls that their daughters have human rights and dignity and it needs to be respected. It is essential to enlighten them, in the way they understand, that their daughters or any children have the right to a dignified childhood and they inherently deserve it. These rights include the right to education, health, or access to food. For this reason, if the parents are informed and educated about human rights, it will be possible to cease this chain of ignorance that passes from generation to generation. Consequently, these types of customs or traditions which entail unawareness of what human rights are, would come to a halt, even if it may be a time-consuming process.

In addition, it would be recommended that the ministry of education, the ministry of health and NGO’s would combine their know-how in permanent programs. The programs should set clear objectives and offer workshops for parents with simple activities to teach them to be self-sufficient and come out from poverty condition. The academic education and education on human rights should become a constant part in the life of the children and future generations. It would be desirable that these programs would evaluate the achievements of the parents at least monthly. Only then, after some time the level of ignorance and poverty that reigns in certain communities of the country would diminish. As a result, more children would have a dignified life.

Finally, the quality and spaces of the dwelling is another key determinant for the access to education. This indicator also includes the access to food. A household living in poverty is frequently not able to buy enough food to provide necessary nutrients for a healthy life. Due to dismal living conditions, it is not possible for the children to exercise the most primary human rights.

Apart from poverty-induced issues, another impediment to the right to education in México is the large share of indigenous people and the population living in small villages. These people commonly do not even enter the education system. So there is a greater educational lag among these groups. This situation is the result of policies that for decades only deepened discrimination and oblivion, and today represent a great challenge of social debt. In México, being indigenous means either accessing to education of mostly poor quality or not at all. In addition, indigenous people often suffer discrimination (especially the girls/women) from teachers and other students.[6] Thus, they won’t receive an education that is linked to the cultural aspects of their communities.

Overall, the main hindrances to overcome are poverty and social exclusion. The families that live under poverty conditions have been forced to develop diverse strategies to survive. These strategies include sending all members of the family to work, including women, children and elderly. That has immensely changed the relationships between members of the families and decreases levels of well-being. Hence, the upbringing and care of the children, the care of the elder, the time for studying, rest and other basic needs are often sacrificed. Despite the efforts by the government, there is still a long way to go to eradicate poverty and social exclusion in México and thereby to guarantee the right to education for everyone.


[1] Mexico’s National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL)

[2] Idem

[3] Diagnostico Sobre la Situación de los Derechos Humanos en México, Oficina del Alto Comisionado
de las Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos, 2003, P.70

[4] Consejo Nacional de Evaluación de la Política del Desarrollo Social, Methodology for Multidimensional Poverty Measurement in Mexico, 2010. P.10

[5] OECD Better Life Index, Mexico, 2016.

[6] Diagnostico Sobre la Situación de los Derechos Humanos en México, Oficina del Alto Comisionado
de las Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos, 2003, P.129


Edited by Mariann Rikka

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