Mexico will be a bilingual country within 10 to 20 years, the new Secretary of Education forecast yesterday.
Aurelio Nuño Mayer said the federal government is working on the creation of a national English program in order to reach that goal.
“English is the language through which we can all communicate; it is a tool and a fundamental part of professional development and modernization,” he said, and necessary for workers to carry out their jobs.
Nuño made the announcement during the official signing of an agreement with the Secretary of the Navy to provide scholarships for English training. The scholarship program will provide three months of total English immersion training to 17 members of the Navy, who will go on to become English-language instructors.
The Education Secretary, who was named to the post August 27, remarked that the Mexican Navy has always been an innovative organization, and offered high praise for the Naval University. It could become the most important naval-military institution in the world, Nuño said.
Navy Secretary Vidal Francisco Soberón Sanz commented on the importance of naval officers being proficient in English to be able to participate in international naval exercises.
Estimates of the number of Mexicans who speak or understand English run between 2% and 5%, a situation that represents a great cost to the country’s competitiveness internationally, says the head of a think tank.
Juan Pardinas Carpizo of the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO) expressed alarm earlier this year that teaching English was not a priority in a country whose major trading partners are English-speaking.
He cited some figures to make his point: 80% of basic education graduates — those who complete primary and secondary levels — have no knowledge of English at all, and in only 48% of Mexico’s universities is English a mandatory course.
Nor do businesses allocate any resources for training staff in English. “It is a subject that has been abandoned not only by the government, but by the private sector as well.”
Pardinas observed that workers who can speak English can earn 28% to 50% more than those who do not.