Volume 44, Number 172,
January-March 2013
Higher Education and Research for
Productive International Competitiveness
Iris Guevara

In Mexico, support for public education, based on the adoption of neoliberal policies, was insufficient and irregular. Moreover, as already indicated, it tended to favor primary education, despite the fact that the greatest educational demand was for secondary and higher levels, due to the demographic structure of the country. Previously, the Mexican State had invested in education from the Mexican Revolution to the beginning of the 1980s, when the national project changed.

One of the factors that can explain the growing demand for secondary and higher education is the change in the national demographic structure.

Since the 1980s, Mexico has seen its birth rate fall, going from 3.4% in 1980 to 2.1% in 2005.

Two five-year age groups have shown large percentage growth: the group of 15 to 19 years of age (10.4 million) and the group of 20 to 24 years of age (9.8 million), together representing 20.2 million people, nearly one-fifth of the entire country’s population (18.7%), which rose to 108.4 million people in 2010 (conapo, 2010: 13).

The strong growth in this population segment increased pressure on educational demand for secondary and higher levels. However, educational finance policies continued to send more resources to primary education. The reduction in resources for higher education has limited access for 70% of young people who are at the age of beginning higher education.

From 1982- 2010, the number of youth without access to secondary and higher education doubled; in 1982, 8 million persons between 16 and 24 years of age were excluded from this level of education, while in 2008, the figure reached 16 million.

Despite this, public spending on higher education still has not reached 1% of gdp, which is what the unesco recommends allocating for this educational level. During the presidential term of Vicente Fox from 2000-2006, he proposed meeting this objective, but in the best year, 2002, the number only reached 0.66% of gdp. In the rest of the years, an even smaller percentage was spent.

According to information from the oecd, in 2007, Mexico allocated 1.2% of gdp to higher education, adding up public (0.9%) and private (0.3%) education. In the same year, the US destined 3.1% of gdp to higher education, Canada was at 2.6% and Chile 2%, just to mention a few of our commercial partners and another Latin American country with similar development to ours (oecd, 2010: 220).

Higher educational coverage in Mexico was 30% according to a government report from 2010. However, our commercial partners have reached coverage of more than 80% in the United States and more than 60% in Canada. And if we compare ourselves to a country with similar development, like Argentina, we see that this nation already had 56.3% coverage of higher education in 2002. Higher education coverage is important to insert the country into the best processes of globalization.

Another element to take into account to evaluate how Mexico can improve its competitiveness is spending on science and technology, which in Mexico, comes mainly from the government. This type of spending has been below 0.5% of gdp since 1980, with the exception of one year when it reached 0.51%.

Figure 2. Spending on Science and Technology as a Percentage of gdp

Source: Prepared by the author with data from conacyt http://www.siicyt.gob.mx/ and inegi: www.inegi.org.mx

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PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 195 October-December 2018 is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
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