In 2004, the literacy rate in Mexico was 97% for youth under the age of 14 and 91% for people over 15. According to UNESCO, this places Mexico 24th in world ranking. Primary and secondary education (9 years) is free and mandatory. Private schools abound throughout Mexico, especially in the urban centres. School hours vary from region to region. Some start as early as 7:00 AM, shut down for lunch at 1:00 PM, then resume at 3:00 PM till 6:00 PM. Students might be on the streets going to or coming from school at any hour.
In 1968, Mexico established a system of secondary education through "distance-learning" via satellite communications to reach otherwise inaccessible small rural and indigenous communities. Starting with 300 “schools” and 6,569 students, the system celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2008. The system has come under criticism for producing inferior educational results, but perhaps those are better than no secondary education at all. Currently, there are over 17,000 of these “schools” (known as “telesecundarias”) and over 1.3 million students (out of 32 million students nationwide). The Mexican distance learning secondary education is also transmitted to El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, and Colombia, and it is used in some southern regions of the United States as a method of bilingual education.
The largest and most prestigious public university in Mexico, today numbering over 269,000 students, is the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM) founded in 1551. Three Nobel laureates and most of Mexico's modern-day presidents are among its former students. UNAM conducts 50% of Mexico's scientific research and has presence all across the country with satellite campuses and research centers. The National Autonomous University of Mexico ranks 192 in the Top 200 World University Ranking published by The Times Higher Education Supplement in 2007, making it the highest ranked Spanish-speaking university in the world and the third highest ranked in Latin America. The University of Guadalajara celebrated its 200th anniversary in 1992. It is the second largest university in the country, but has had a turbulent history, being closed for most of the time between 1824 and 1925.
There are at least a couple of public universities per state. The public universities have extremely high standards. All prospective students must compete for a limited number of places via entrance examinations and high school marks. Available places are filled from the top of the combined results on down. However, once accepted into a public university, the student only pays what he or she can afford for tuition fees.
One of the most prestigious private universities is Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM). It was ranked by the Wall Street Journal as the 7th top International Business School worldwide and 74th among the world's top arts and humanities universities ranking of The Times Higher Education Supplement, published in 2005. ITESM has thirty-two secondary campuses apart from its Monterrey Campus.
Medical training is carried out primarily at public universities with some specializations studied abroad. Some public universities in Mexico, such as the University of Guadalajara, have signed agreements with the U.S. to receive and train American students in Medicine.