Structure of the Basic Education System

In Mexico, basic education is normally divided in three steps: primary school (primaria), comprising grades 1-6; junior high school (secundaria), comprising grades 7-9; and high school (preparatoria), comprising grades 10-12.
Depending on definitions, Primary education comprises primaria and secundaria, which are compulsory by law, while Secondary education only includes preparatoria, which was not compulsory a few years ago, but it has been made mandatory as well.

Primary School
The terms "Primary School" or "Elementary School" usually corresponds to primaria, comprising grades 1-6, when the student's age is 6 to 12 years old. It starts the basic compulsory education system.

Depending on the school, a bilingual education may be offered from the beginning, where half the day instruction is in Spanish, and the rest is in a second language, for example, English, French, Tzotzil or Tzeltal.

Junior High School
The terms "Junior High School" or "Middle School" usually correspond to secundaria, comprising grades 7-9 when the student's age is 12 to 15 years old it is part of the basic compulsory education system, it follows primary school, and comes before "high school" (preparatoria).

At this level, more specialized subjects may be taught such as Physics and Chemistry, and World History. There is also the técnica which provides vocational training, and the telesecundaria which provides distance learning.

Despite the similarities of the words "Secondary school" and secundaria, in Mexico the former is usually translated to preparatoria, while in other countries, such as Puerto Rico, or within the Spanish-speaking populations of the United States, the term secundaria refers to university.

High School
The terms "High School" or "gymnasium" usually corresponds to preparatoria or bachillerato, and follow "secundaria" comprising grades 10-12, when the student's age is 15 to 18 years old. Students may choose between two main kinds of high school programmes: The SEP incorporated A and a University Incorporated one, depending on the state. Other minority of programs are available only for private schools, such as the International Baccalaureate which carries a completely different system. Nevertheless, in order to be taught, it must include a national subject at least. In addition, there are programs such as tecnología and comercio that prepare students for a particular vocational career.

Preparatoria traditionally consists of three years of education, divided into six semesters, with the first semesters having a common curriculum, and the latter ones allowing some degree of specialization, either in physical sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, etc.) or social sciences (commerce, philosophy, law, etc.). The term bachillerato is most commonly used for institutions that offer a three-year education program that "prepares" the student with general knowledge to continue studying at a university. In contrast, the term preparatioria is most often used for institutions that provide vocational training, in two or three years, so the graduate can get a job as a skilled worker, for example, an assistant accountant, a bilingual secretary or an electronics technician.