Post-Independence Era, 1821-Present

When Antonio López de Santa Anna put his Liberal vice president Valentín Gómez Farías in charge of running the government, the vice president created in 1833 a public education system. This preceded the establishment of a Ministry of Public Education. This reform was short lived, but with the Liberal Reform in the mid-nineteenth century, a normal school for teacher training was established. The Liberals push for public education awaited the end of the War of the Reform and the ousting of the French Empire in Mexico (1862-67). The restored republic of President Benito Juárez reaffirmed the liberal principles separation of church and state, which in the educational sphere meant supplanting the Catholic Church by the Mexican state. Primary education in Mexico was henceforth to be secular, free of fees and tuition, and obligatory.

A key figure in higher education in Mexico was Gabino Barreda, who chaired Juárez's commission on education in 1867. Barreda was a follower of French intellectual Auguste Comte who established positivism the dominant philosophical school in the late nineteenth century. The Juárez government created a system of secondary education, and a key institution was the National Preparatory School (Escuela Nacional Preparatoria), founded in 1868 in Mexico City, which Barreda directed. Education at the Preparatorio uniform for all students and "was designed to fill what José Díaz Covarrubias identified as the traditional void between primary and professional training."

In 1910, the government of Porfirio Díaz under the minister of education Justo Sierra established the secular, state-controlled Universidad Nacional de México. The Pontifical University of Mexico under religious authority was suppressed in 1865.

The government expanded normal schools after the Mexican Revolution of 1910
The 1960 national census illustrates the historically poor performance of the Mexican educational system. The 1960 census found that as to all Mexicans over the age of five, 43.7% had not completed one year of school, 50.7% had completed six years or less of school, and only 5.6% had continued their education beyond six years of school.
In 1950, Mexico had only three million students enrolled in the education. Today, there are 32 million enrolled students.

In 2012, some teachers from rural areas, specifically, from Michoacan and Guerrero states, opposed federal regulations which prevented them from automatic lifetime tenure, the ability to sell or will their jobs, and the teaching of either English or computer skills.

In 2015, 96.2% of six to fourteen year-olds attended school, up from 91.3% in 2000. The state with the highest attendance rate was Hidalgo (97.8%) and the state with the lowest attendance rate was Chiapas (93%). In the same year, 63% of three to five year-olds attended preschool or kindergarten, up from 52.3% in 2010. Also in 2015, 44% of 15 to 24 year-olds attended secondary or tertiary school, an increase from 32.8% in 2000.