Students in 34 secondary schools are going to study French in a pilot program supported by the French government.
Federal Education Secretary Esteban Moctezuma Barragán and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian signed an agreement in Mexico City Thursday to collaborate on the program.
Moctezuma said the government will subsequently seek to extend French language instruction to hundreds of schools across Mexico.
The return of French to public schools “is great news for the country,” he said. “It will be a productive program that will have multiplying effects in the medium term . . . We’re taking an important step to strengthen the bilateral relationship on education.”
The education secretary said the government would like French teachers to attend courses at the Liceo Franco Mexicano (French-Mexican School), which he described as the most important school of its kind in Latin America.
Meanwhile, English language proficiency continues to decline in Mexico.
The 2019 English Proficiency Index compiled by the language training company EF Education First put Mexico in 64th place on the list of 100 countries.
And a study conducted five years ago found that 80% of preparatory school-aged students — their ages are 15 and 16 — had no understanding of English. The research, conducted by the education advocacy organization Mexicanos Primero, also found that 15% of English teachers couldn’t even speak the language.
The French foreign minister signed five other agreements on Thursday which will increase cooperation between the French government and the Mexican secretariats of Labor, Foreign Affairs and Public Administration (SFP).
Eight French companies have committed to participating in the government’s apprenticeship scheme known as “Youth Building the Future” and the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs will assist in the quest to stamp out government corruption.
Le Drian and Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard also signed an agreement in support of “effective multilateralism” to tackle international issues.
“A new page is being written in the bilateral relationship between France and Mexico . . .” Le Drian said.
For his part, Ebrard said that Mexico’s relationship with France “is important for several reasons.”
“The most obvious ones are due to history and the cultural, political and intellectual closeness between Mexico and France that dates back centuries and which has a lot of prospects in the future” he said.
“. . . All these [newly-signed] initiatives are very good for Mexico because we’re beginning a new stage [of cooperation] with France and the European Union. We’re very interested in Mexico occupying the place it should on the international stage and France is a strategic partner in that sense.”