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.
Supply Can’t Meet Demand
In practice, however, the government has not met the demand for 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.
You might even go further and expect some sort of fast-track visa program to help expedite foreign ESL teachers’ applications. 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
In spite of the overwhelming lack of qualified personnel (and no clear plan to find or train them), the unfortunate specter of Mexican bureaucracy has reared its ugly head.
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.
It is also worth noting at this point that a relevant master’s degree would be not acceptable. The education authorities only accept teachers’ undergraduate degrees as admissible credentials.
Re-Certifying your Degree Certificate
Even in case you possess an appropriate 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 ELT professionals who choose a stable income in a traditional school setting, opt for the private sector.
Private Sector Flexibility
Although all schools– both public and private – at compulsory levels must adhere to the SEP’s strict requirements, many private 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.
Bilingual school programs
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 Mexican undergraduate degree.
Therefore, a native speaker who doesn’t have all the Mexican paperwork but who has a TESOL certificate or experience will be able to fill these positions.
In fact, in many situations, the academic requirements could be a lot lower for a native speaker. In addition, a TESOL certificate or TKT qualification could replace the need for a specific ESL or education degree. This is especially true because native speaker teachers are very highly regarded in most private educational organizations.
Most higher education institutions, including high schools, universities, and colleges, are where most foreigners will find the most opportunities and better pay. They are also much more flexible in their requirements. Not strictly bound by arbitrary federal regulation, most institutes 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, for example.
In this case, pay per hour will invariably be higher than at secondary or primary school levels. They may also be able to offer more incentives for the more qualified candidates (such as with a Master’s degree).
The downside, however, is that contracts are often less stable than in a primary or secondary school. For these contracts, they normally hire teachers for a minimum of one full academic year.
Rewarding your educational background
So, if you don’t possess all the Mexican paperwork and you’re a little daunted by the Mexican bureaucracy, the private sector will offer you the best employment opportunities.
Private institutes at all levels will be more likely to recognize and reward your international education. They’ll be able to accommodate you as a full- or part-time with a lot less hassle than in the public sector.