Leticia Speaks of Her Education in Mexico

“I never imagined that the difference between the private and public sectors of educational institutions in Mexico could be so vast.

“I went to a private high school and liked it a lot. Its buildings were always neat and clean. The gardens were well kept and it was always agreeable to be there.

“We had plenty of rules that couldn’t be broken without getting in big trouble. For example, we all had to be on time for our classes; if for any reason we were late we had to request permission from the teacher to be allowed into class (and it wasn’t always granted). After our exercise hour we all had to change shoes since tennis shoes weren’t allowed in class.

“Most of our parents were professionals—doctors, architects, lawyers, politicians. They were quite involved in our education and followed closely developments at school. They were always aware if there were any problems.

“Our teachers knew most all of us pretty well. I think this was due to the small size of the classes or to earlier generations of brothers and sisters. They usually knew our parents too, and never hesitated to call them if they considered it pertinent.

“When I went to enroll in a public college I had a completely different experience, unfortunately not a very pleasant one. It is located in a beautiful colonial building with a superb facade. In the interior there was a majestic spiral staircase. However, the walls that were supposed to be white were covered with red and black murals featuring Che Guevara’s face and other communist guerrillas. The halls were full of trash, with students sitting on the floors and smoking cigarettes that didn’t smell like regular tobacco.

“The classes were usually packed with more than fifty students, including students from all the social backgrounds of Mexico. Some students had to work to pay for their schooling while others were chauffeured daily to college.

“In the U.S. we set our own rules. Most teachers never took the roll; (maybe it was a waste of time considering the size of the classes). Students dressed as they wished, tennis shoes were among the favorites. We could easily miss all the classes if we wanted to, we just had to be sure to be there for tests and finals.

“I think most teachers were great, with the exception of a few, who were there because they had to be. It was hard to get to know them, once again for the size of the classes. But they were there if we needed them, if we wanted to ask questions after class.

“For most parents it was difficult to know what was going on. Changes in schedules and classes were sometimes hard to follow. From now on was up to the students to keep the parents informed of what was going on. Only few parents were as involved as had been the case in high school. Most students were now doing everything by themselves and for themselves.”


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