In recent years, the Mexican government has placed increasing importance on teaching English in schools. The Ministry of Education even made it a core element of its New Education Model, launched in 2017. It includes formally incorporating ESL into all levels of its basic, compulsory education levels, from preschool to secondary school.
The curriculum roughly aligns students’ language competencies to the Common European Framework. It requires secondary school students to achieve a B1 level by the time they finish their compulsory educational studies.
In practice, however, the government has not met the demand for the thousands of qualified English teachers that they need. This has been especially true in the public sector. While we may think that this may be a perfect opportunity for qualified foreign native speakers to meet this demand, this is not the case.
Some sort of fast-track visa program to help expedite foreign ESL teachers’ applications would help. Many other countries with similar shortages of skilled workers offer these types of incentives to attract foreigners. Unfortunately, that’s not the case here, at all.
Red Tape Frustration for Public K-12 Jobs
At present, the Mexican public educational system still offers no fast-track options or specialized courses for potential ESL teachers. Furthermore, it has very strict requirements as to the degree programs that are accepted. Only a fully completed undergraduate degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language will be accepted for public school English teaching jobs in Mexico. It is also worth noting that a relevant master’s degree would be not acceptable. The education authorities only accept teachers’ undergraduate degrees as admissible credentials.
This specific TEFL degree requirement narrows the pool of candidates significantly, as the majority of certified ESL teachers possess a bachelor degree in any area and an accredited 120-hour TESOL or TEFL certificate.
Even in case you possess an appropriate TEFL degree, apart from having it apostilled and translated, you will also have to have it re-certified in Mexico. Here, a Mexican university will verify all credits to match an equivalent within the Mexican higher education system. If they cannot re-certify a certain percentage as equivalent, they will not accept your degree as valid. In this case, you will be required to make up these modules at a Mexican university.
Faced with all of these obstacles, it is understandable why most foreign ESL teachers professionals opt for teaching English in Mexico with private language schools.
Private Sector Flexibility
Although all schools– both public and private – at compulsory levels must adhere to the SEP’s strict requirements, many private ESL and bilingual K-12 schools are able to get around some of this. Often, private schools have a large staff than the minimum that they are obliged to disclose to the SEP. This gives them the flexibility to hire foreign teachers who they see as beneficial to their institution.
This is often the case in bilingual schools, especially at the primary school level. Students will often have two teachers – a Spanish teacher and an English teacher – each teaching half of the school day. The school can only report one group teacher per group to the SEP. This is why they can afford to hire foreigners without the exact requirement for undergraduate degree.
Therefore, a native speaker who doesn’t have all the Mexican paperwork but who has a a degree in any area and an accredited TESOL certificate will be able to fill these positions.
Higher Education for Higher Pay
Most higher education institutions, including universities and colleges, are where most foreigners will find the greatest number of opportunities and better pay. They are also much more flexible in their requirements. Not strictly bound by arbitrary federal regulation, most organizations have the authority to develop their own guidelines for hiring – and paying – staff.
The largest universities in Mexico are public institutions and they often hire native speakers with varying levels of experience and training. Most universities’ language departments run semi-autonomously from the university itself and include a diverse staff. Here, you will find many opportunities for daytime and evening classes, as well as summer courses.
Pay per hour will invariably be higher at universities and colleges than at private or public K-12 schools. They may also be able to offer more incentives for the more qualified candidates such as those with a Master’s degree.