Viva Cuernavaca | Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Kids & Us Language School, a successful system for teaching English as a second language began in Mexico in 2014 and has announced its intention to undergo a significant expansion in Mexico over the next 10 years.
The school which starts teaching English to children as young as just one year, began operating in Spain in 2003 and has since grown to 322 schools in nine countries, teaching 90,000 students.
Since beginning operations in Mexico in 2014, Kids & Us Language School currently has six learning centers in Mexico City. But it has its sights set on reaching 250 independent language schools, which will operate as franchises.
Founder Natalia Perarnau was an English teacher who was disappointed at the poor level of English being achieved by students despite years of study. So she created her own methodology, one that attempts to duplicate as much as possible the process of learning one’s mother tongue, and her own materials for her English school in Cataluña, Spain.
The concept is based on the premise that if learning one’s first language begins the moment a child first hears it, why wait before exposing them to a second or third language.
From the first idea to shaping the method
I still remember the thrill that opening my first language school gave me when I was only 23 years old. Despite being young, English had always been my passion and teaching it was a good excuse for being able to practice it and continue widening my knowledge of the language.
At first, the school specialized in adolescent and adult clientele, but it didn’t take long to corroborate what the headlines are claiming today: despite the number of years that students spend studying English, their average level was in fact very low. How disappointing.
I was determined to keep my students from being a part of the statistics which confirmed the failure of the educational system and the traditional method of foreign language teaching.
This is why in the year 2000, after becoming a mother, I became interested in early language stimulation. I wanted the best of everything for my daughter and naturally this also included learning English! That same year I expanded the infrastructure of the school to dedicate a part of it to children from the age of three (Kids).
At the time, there were no quality products on the market for my students and watching how my daughter was learning English, in the year 2003, I decided to develop and use my own methodology, which I called Kids & Us English for Little People.
After 3 years of testing, revising, and perfecting the material and methodology in the school in Manresa, Spain, I decided to offer my methodology to other language centers throughout Catalonia. I needed to have more funding in order to be able to continue developing the method while ensuring its high level of quality.
In 2007, we started to open franchises with the name Kids & Us School of English. There are currently 322 centers in Spain, Andorra, Italy, France, Belgium, Portugal, Czech Republic and Mexico with more than 90,000 students learning English through our methodology.
I cannot stop working and developing new ideas in order to keep offering the best products to all of those who have placed their trust in Kids & Us.
British Council Study
In May of 2015, the British Council of Mexico performed an Educational Intelligence study, “English in Mexico: An examination of policy, perceptions and influencing factors.” The key finding of the study were:
- Younger Mexicans today are attaining higher levels of education than previous generations. According to the OECD, in 2011 44% of 25 – 34 year olds had attained at least an upper secondary education, twice the proportion of 55 – 64 year olds (23%)
- The mission of the National English Program in Basic Education is framed by the needs of ‘contemporary society…that demands citizens with the necessary competencies to face and incorporate into a globalized constantly changing world’
- The value of the linguistic capital gained by English competence in Mexico is estimated at around US$27 billion each year via growth in the services sector
- Mexico devotes 93.3% of its education budget to staff compensation, the highest proportion among OECD countries, 13% of whom were apparently not actively employed in schools
- The National English Program in Basic Education has to date been introduced in 18% of Mexican public schools reaching an estimated 6.7 million students
- To achieve its goals for teaching English across the country the Mexican government needs to recruit and train “over” 80,000 additional English teachers
- Mexico has a substantial English learning market with around 20% of the population accessing English tutoring via public or private means
- There is a correlation between occupation, level of education attained, household income and access to English language learning
- English is most widely studied during mandatory school education, undergraduate study and via private tutoring to improve employment prospects
- The greatest motivations for beginners to undertake English lessons are to improve their employment prospects (26%), to improve their quality of life (16%) and to travel abroad (16%)
- On average 58% participants in our primary research viewed English as a skill needed for greater employability, and 49% valued English as a pathway to a better job
- Thirty-three per cent of Mexican businesses participating in this study use English as the main language of internal business communication, while 47% use English as the main language of external business communication
- Fifty-one per cent of businesses surveyed offer English language training and development for existing or new staff, and of this group 50% offer in-house training, 30% via a private external company and 18% provide funding for tutoring
- Sixty-nine per cent of Mexican employers said they felt English was an essential skill when hiring new staff
- Mexican business leaders believe that English is the international language of communication, because it allows them to deal with foreign clients and customers and is a skill in demand due to the fast pace of globalization
Federal Education Stance
The need for qualified teachers has grown tremendously in Mexico. In 1950, Mexico had only three million students enrolled in the education. Today, there are 32 million enrolled students. The current national educational budget is MXN$200,930,557,665. Investment in education in Mexico increased considerably in the early 2000s and has remained largely unchanged since 2009. In 2011, 6.2% of Mexico’s GDP was devoted to expenditure on educational institutions.
Staff Compensation Accounts for 92% of Total Budget
Teachers’ salaries in Mexico start low but may increase considerably during a teacher’s career — at all levels of education — to an amount above the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average. At the top of the salary scale, primary and lower secondary teachers who hold the maximum qualifications earn about 50% more than the salary of teachers with similar experience but with only the minimum qualifications – the largest difference among countries for which information is available.
More than 92% of the total budget for primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education in Mexico goes to staff compensation, and about 83% of the budget is devoted to teachers’ salaries alone. These are the largest proportions observed among OECD countries, where an average of 79% of the total budget goes to staff compensation and 63% is devoted to teachers’ salaries.
In Mexico, just over 86% of spending on primary education is allocated to teachers’ salaries (the highest proportion among OECD countries ; the OECD average is just over 63%), while nearly 79% of spending on secondary education is devoted to teachers’ salaries (the third largest proportion after Colombia, which allocates nearly 83% of spending on secondary education to teachers’ salaries, and Portugal, which allocates nearly 81%; the OECD average is nearly 63%).
With approximately 32 million students enrolled in public schools in Mexico, and with only 1,142,857 teachers, there is a ratio of 28 students to 1 teacher.
Compared with all other OECD countries, Mexico has the highest student-teacher ratios in primary and secondary education: 28 students per teacher in primary education (compared with the OECD average of 15 students per teacher), and 30 students per teacher in secondary education (compared with the OECD average of 13 students per teacher). In early childhood education, there are 25 pupils per teacher, far higher than the OECD average of 13 pupils per teacher. To reach the average student to teacher ratio, Mexico needs to hire another 1-million teachers.
However, there are only 50,000 English teachers in the entire country of Mexico, which gives a student-teacher ratio of 640 students per teacher. Since most schools in the world that offer bilingual education offer half of the day in native language, and the remainder of the day in a second language. Mexico needs to train existing teachers in English and begin hiring only teachers that are bilingual in Spanish and English to maintain a true bi-lingual educational program.
Mexico’s federal education authorities are well aware that many of Mexico’s English Teachers are ill-equipped to speak English, let alone teach the subject of English to others.
Meanwhile, a goal of federal education authorities in Mexico has been to improve English-language instruction in public schools. The goal will be challenging. A new education model currently under discussion calls for teaching English at the pre-school level with the goal of graduating high school students who are fluent. The education advocacy group Mexicanos Primero says the government’s goal will require training new teachers and spending more money on educational materials.
Yet education — along with health — was the hardest hit by federal spending cuts in June, losing 6.5 billion pesos, or US $360 million. That reduction followed a 3.66-billion-peso cut in January.
Quality of education in Mexico
In recent years, the progression through Mexican education has come under much criticism. While over 90% of children in Mexico attend primary school, only 62% percent attend secondary school (“preparatoria”). Only 45% finish high school. After secondary school, only a quarter pass on to higher education. A commonly cited reason for this is the lack of infrastructure throughout the rural schools. Moreover, the government has been criticized for paying teachers too much and investing too little into the students. In its annual report on education, the OECD has placed at below average in mathematics, science, and reading.
A program of education reform was enacted in February 2013 which provided for a shift in control of the education system from the teachers union SNTE and its political boss, Elba Esther Gordillo, to the central and state governments. Education in Mexico had been controlled by the teachers union and its leaders for many years. Shortly thereafter Gordillo was arrested on racketeering charges. As of 2016 the government continued to struggle with the union and its offshoot, CNTE.
Hopefully, someone will open a franchise in Cuernavaca soon. At present, the nearest Kids & Us Language School is in Mexico City…
Kids&Us Language School
Plaza Fiesta Coapa, Calz. del Hueso 503 local 8-C, esq. Av. Canal de Miramontes
Col. Fraccionamiento Los Girasoles
Ciudad de México, Mexico
Canal Sur News broadcast a report on how children learn English from an early age and they focused on Kids&Us, Jerez Center and two of its students. You can watch the full report in Spanish by Clicking Here.
You can visit Kids & Us on YouTube to see all their videos on education by Clicking Here.