English in the school system
In Mexico, 16% of public schools teach English, generally for two hours per week. Nine states have no English training program in public school. Parents who have the resources place their children in private school. There are two types of private schools with English-language curricula: the bilingual school, where children begin to learn English at 3 years old, at first full-time and then in primary and secondary school reduced to 2 or 3 hours per day; and the bicultural school, where children spend 50% of their time learning English. Approximately 18.5% of high school students attend some type of private school, although statistics on the students per school type are not released.
Until 5 years ago, the majority of the nearly 60,000 English teachers in Mexico, were certified by the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Today however, English teachers must possess a certificate endorsed by Cambridge University ESOL Examinations, and internationally recognized certification.
Reputable private universities in Mexico require students to pass the TOEFL or another standardized English test. Public universities have no English requirements for applicants.
English at work
The United States is Mexico’s largest commercial partner and as such the demand for English speakers is high in managerial positions and multinational companies. However surveys show that only 2% of adults in Mexico claim to have a high level of proficiency in English.
There are over 6 million companies in Mexico, of which 99% are small and medium sized. They employ 79% of the working population. As a result of the economic crisis, training of employees is no longer a priority in these small businesses. 46% of Mexicans receive no training at work, according to a survey conducted in the third quarter of 2010 by Randstad Work Monitor. Because of the lack of workplace training, the absence of government training schemes, the low level of English taught in public school, and the expense of private language courses, very few professionals in Mexico have enough access to English training to be hired by a multinational company or move into a management position.
Culture and Attitude towards English
English has a positive image in Mexico and is ever-present in small doses in daily life. It is common to see billboards that promote brands with marketing messages in English, or find schools and common recreation places whose names are in English, from cafes, to hotels and prestigious shops. Even in films, Mexicans prefer to see movies with their original audio rather than translated to Spanish.
The geographical proximity between Mexico and United States makes it the international tourist destination par excellence for Mexican travelers. In 2009 more than 4 million Mexicans travelled to United States as tourists. The United States is also by far the largest emigration destination. Approximately 30% of all legal immigrants arriving in the USA in 2009 were from Mexico. While immigration to the US would logically improve English proficiency for the immigrants themselves, there is no measurable wider impact on their families and friends staying at home, nor is there a large population of English-proficient immigrants returning to Mexico after time spent working in the US.
However, 34 million people in the United States speak Spanish according to the 2000 census, and that number grows each decade both in absolute terms and as a percentage of the total population. It appears that the majority of bilingual Mexican citizens are settled in the US rather than in Mexico.
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