Mexico City pays families to keep teens at school

14:03, October 13, 2009      

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The government of Mexico City is promoting an incentive program to keep 16- to 18-year-olds in school by paying families monthly allowances if their children continue their education.

Since the program was launched in 2007, Mexico City's dropout rates have been reduced from around 18 percent to about 6 percent, according to statistics published by the city government.

Inspired by this success, the city government, which has few schools of its own, began to fund students in their first year at university, the year that has the highest dropout rate.

"When we thought up the program, we noticed there was a bottleneck at the end of high-school education," the program's executive coordinator, Marcelino Zamora del Angel, told Xinhua on Monday.

"At 16 to 18, children have to work, even though they only spend on internet, books, food and bus fare to stay in school," he explained.

Before the program, less than 20 percent of children in Mexico City's poorest quartile were still pursuing their education at the age of 19, and around 25 percent of the city's top quartile children had stopped pursuing full-time education.

"We are improving both rates of staying and grades," Zamora announced. He added that the city pays children who maintain a passing 6.0 to 6.5 grade 500 pesos (37.79 U.S. dollars) a month to keep them in school and those that get a 6.5 to 9.0 grade 600 pesos (45.39 dollars). Finally, those that average a 9.1 to 10 grade are paid 700 pesos (52.95 dollars). Under Mexico's marking system, students who receive grades below 6.0 points do not pass.

Although 700 pesos are only around 53 dollars, this can make a significant difference to the city's poorest families, whose children are most likely to drop out.

According to city statistics, the bottom 10 percent income bracket earns close to 30 percent more by keeping their 16-year-olds in school than by sending them out to work.

Prior to the program, nearly 60 percent of adolescents working in the city said they had to quit school to contribute to the family income.

Even if the students do not choose to pursue a higher education, "we want to send them to the job market in a better condition. Someone with their last two years of high school completed has a much better chance of being better off," Zamora said.

"Those that don't finish the last years always end up doing manual work," he continued.

According to Zamora, education was also a social boon that created happier families, better social interactions and positive outcomes across the city.

Over the long term, it is estimated that better educated citizens would earn more so as to boost city taxes. They would also enjoy better health and would be less likely to commit crimes.

"We are not only thinking of the financial and mercantile aspect of the program. We believe that more study means a better family life," Zamora argued.

Source: Xinhua
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