Education Model for Life and Work, Mexico

  • Date published:
    4 March 2016

Programme Overview

Programme Title Education Model for Life and Work (Modelo Educación para la Vida y el Trabajo, MEVyT)
Implementing Organization National Institute for Adult Education (INEA) in partnership with the States Adult Education Institutions (IEEAs), NGOs, Local governments, Private Companies
Language of Instruction Spanish and indigenous languages
Funding The federal government and INEA
Date of Inception since 1997


The Education Model for Life and Work (Modelo Educación para la Vida y el Trabajo, MEVyT) is an innovative model of basic education for youth and adult learners. The programme, which is being implemented by the National Institute of Adult Education (INEA) in partnership with Federal States Adult Education Institutions (IEEAs), offers distance education and various other learning opportunities that enable youths and adults who missed out on formal education to catch up on primary and secondary education. The programme integrates basic literacy learning with skills training and allows the learners to obtain officially recognised and accredited 6th and 9th grade qualifications. The model is flexible and thus allows learners to exercise great autonomy in the learning process. Most importantly, the programme also offers tailor-made modules for Mexico’s many indigenous ethnic groups – the country’s most disadvantaged social group. Special modules have also been designed for migrants, disabled persons, prisoners and isolated rural populations.

Background and Context

With an estimated population of 109 million, Mexico is one of the most populous, ethnically diverse and multicultural countries in Latin America. The Mexican economy has experienced stable growth in recent years due, in large part, to the growth of its service and oil industries. This has resulted in general improvements in living standards. For example, about 75% of its population live in urban areas. Positive developments have also been witnessed in the education sector. These include, above all, the provision of free and compulsory primary and secondary education as well as the intensive implementation of bilingual education programmes to cater for the nation’s ethnic diversity, in general, and the needs of indigenous communities, in particular. Additionally, the government has expanded distance education programmes in response to the growing demand for education and in order to make education accessible to indigenous communities in remote villages.


These educational policies have led to an increase in the number of children and youth enrolling at both primary and secondary schools. Net enrolment at primary schools rose to 98% by 2006, and since the introduction of free and compulsory secondary education (1993), enrolment in secondary schools rose from 50.4% in 1991 to 76.6% by 2005. As a result of increased access to education, literacy rates for youth (15-24 years) and adults had risen to 98% and 92%, respectively, by 2006.

Despite these positive developmental indicators, huge socio-economic disparities continue to characterise Mexican society. For example, more than 10% and 25% of all Mexicans live on less than 1 dollar per day and below the national poverty line, respectively. Additionally, about 30.1 million people (43.9%) of the adult population has not benefited fully from the formal education system. According to the Minister of Education, about 10.5 and 17 million people failed to complete primary and secondary school, respectively. INEA estimates that 14.3% and 21.2% of the adult population has not completed primary and secondary education, respectively. Furthermore, sharp variations and disparities in literacy rates exist between regions and ethnic groups, as well as between urban and rural areas.

Thus, while the national total illiteracy rate among youths and adults (15 years and above) is 8.4% (6.8% and 9.8% for men and women, respectively), illiteracy rates in the less developed regions and/or rural areas are much higher than in urban areas. In Chiapas, one of the poorest states in the country, 69.2% of the population has no secondary education, compared to only 32.7% in Mexico City. In 2005, the indigenous population of Guerrero – another state with some of the country’s lowest human development indicators – had an illiteracy rate of 47.7%. Nationally, one third of the indigenous population is considered illiterate and the average duration of schooling among indigenous people is only 4.5 years, which is less than half the national average of 8.1 years. The INEA has been implementing the MEVyT programme to address these gaps and inequalities in the education system as well as to provide education and lifelong learning opportunities to youths and adults who have failed to benefit from the formal education system.

The MEVyT Programme

The MEVyT programme is an innovative basic education model for youths and adults. The programme was piloted by INEA in 2001 before being established as its principal national adult learning model. The programme is being implemented by INEA in cooperation with the IEEAs. The principal aim of the MEVyT programme is to provide educational catch-up opportunities to youths and adults (aged 15 years and above) who have not benefited from the formal education system.


The programme offers a wide range of learning options, such as basic literacy skills (reading and writing), business and environmental training. It is highly flexible and combines thematic areas which are relevant and pertinent to the existential needs of the learners with literacy learning that enables learners to gain either 6th or 9th-grade qualifications. This in turn opens the way for higher educational learning opportunities. The MEVyT is not, therefore, intended to be a literacy programme in the narrow sense; instead, it represents an attempt to improve the national system of non-formal adult education.

Aims and Objectives

The aims and objectives of the programme are to:

  • develop basic and essential skills among learners (literacy, numeracy, oral expression and comprehension of the environment);
  • enable youths and adults to access education and lifelong learning;
  • strengthen the learners’ basic abilities with regard to life and work,
  • strengthen the values and attitudes that are conducive to good and responsible citizenship and social co-existence;
  • promote personal and livelihood skills development among learners based on their prior knowledge, experiences and needs; and
  • promote gender equality, human rights and development.


Guiding Principles

In aiming to satisfy learners’ specific needs, the development of the MEVyT programme was guided by the following principles:

  • Adult learners live in different circumstances and face different challenges in their lives and work. Consequently, they need to acquire competences, knowledge and skills that are of immediate benefit to them;
  • Each learner has his/her own particular learning history and contributes to the learning process in a different way. Hence, the curriculum of MEVyT takes the learners’ prior knowledge and experiences into account as the basis for learning progression.

Implementation Approaches and Methodologies

The MEVyT programme and curriculum have been fully institutionalised in Mexico’s national non-formal adult education system and form part of the national development plans. INEA and the IEEAs organize and run the programme. Materials and courses are offered free of charge to all participants. Annual programme costs are about US$ 750 per learner, including costs for administration, material, salaries, etc.


Module Design and Development

The curriculum of the MEVyT literacy programme is modular, i.e. it comprises a series of self-contained yet complementary modules leading to accreditation (certification) at initial (basic/foundation), intermediate and advanced levels. 60 modules have been developed and produced to date. On average, learners need between seven and ten months to complete the basic level; however, completion of remaining two levels is dependent on the individual’s ability and the speed at which he/she learns. Modules have been tailor-made to reflect and respond to the linguistic, cultural and social circumstances and needs of various ethno-regional groups of learners. As a result, the modules have been sub-divided into:

  • Modules in Spanish

Although all languages spoken in Mexico are officially recognised regardless of the number of speakers, Spanish is the most widely-used language. MEVyT modules have been developed to reflect this linguistic demand and 60 modules are currently available in Spanish. These modules cover a broad range of themes, as outlined below.

  • Modules in Indigenous Languages

Special modules have been developed for Mexico’s indigenous population. These have been tailored to satisfy their specific linguistic, cultural and social profile and needs. Due to the diversity of indigenous languages in Mexico, the modules are produced regionally by native speakers and local academics. To date, 25 modules in indigenous languages have been developed and produced. Since the level of Spanish language skills among Mexico’s indigenous population varies, two types of modules have been developed:

  • The MEVyT Integrated Bilingual Indigenous (MIBI) modules address learners with a good command of both Spanish and specific indigenous languages. Hence, the programme employs the bilingual learning approach which has proven to be effective and efficient for learners.
  • The MEVyT modules for monolingual indigenous learners who learn Spanish as a second language (MIBEs) are designed for indigenous learners who have an insufficient command of Spanish and therefore learn Spanish as a foreign language. Learning is consequently based on indigenous languages and Spanish is introduced gradually as a second language.
  • Modules for People in Special Circumstances

Several regional and thematic modules have additionally been developed to meet the needs of learners in special circumstances, such as prisoners, the blind and migrants.


Thematic Focus Areas

MEVyT modules (for the different target groups) are designed to satisfy learning levels and cover a broad range of themes, including, for example:

  • civic education modules focusing on gender equality, peace and human rights education, human development and multi-/intercultural education, among others;
  • language and communication modules providing literacy and communication skills;
  • mathematic modules that range from elementary numeracy skills to complex calculations;
  • natural and social sciences modules such as “The Earth: our planet” or “Let’s live a better life” that teach scientific knowledge related to the learners’ immediate environment;
  • social development modules covering personal and relational development. The aim is to provide learners with opportunities to reflect on and develop social skills such as parenting and the prevention of violence;
  • work modules that aim to establish strong links between education and work life and enable learners to combine general knowledge with basic technical or business skills;
  • youth modules addressing age-specific concerns such as drugs and adolescent sexuality; and
  • citizenship modules that provide administrative and bureaucratic orientation, look at citizens’ rights and address social values and skills.

Training of Trainers/Facilitators (ToT)

INEA has a strong team of around 80,000 voluntary facilitators (trainers) working in the MEVyT programme, 33% of whom are long-term volunteers. All facilitators receive professional training before commencing their duties, after which they are obliged to attend regular follow-up training. The ToT programme is conducted through modular workshops/conferences, group supervisions and regular local meetings to exchange experiences. In addition, facilitators are provided with module-specific distance learning and self-study materials. The training familiarises facilitators with teaching methodologies, module content and strategies for evaluating the learning process.


Learning Structure and Process

The MEVyT programme is based on three accredited learning levels, each with a specified number of study modules:

  • the initial (basic) level is dedicated to the acquisition of basic literacy, numeracy and writing skills;
  • the intermediate level offers modules for learners with basic literacy and numeracy skills and leads to the competition of primary education; and
  • the advanced level offers modules that lead to the completion of secondary education and pave the way for advanced, post-secondary learning.

As a module-based learning system, the MEVyT programme is highly flexible. Rather than using a pre-determined learning structure and process, the modular system allows learners to design their own curriculum and thus to determine the learning process by selecting modules according to their prior skills/abilities, needs, interests and the speed at which they learn. Furthermore, it allows learners to decide when, where and how they want to learn (i.e. whether they want to learn individually or in groups, with or without advice from facilitators). The current trend, however, indicates that most learners prefer to join learning groups organized by INEA and the IEEAs and facilitated by volunteer teachers.

To address the demand for group learning, INEA, the IEEAs and local government authorities have, since 2000, established around 3,500 community learning spaces/centres (plazas comunitarias) nationwide. In addition, INEA has introduced mobile community learning spaces (buses fitted with computers, wireless LAN, videos and television sets), and equipped standard community learning spaces with information and communication technology (ICT) and library facilities so that they can promote the acquisition of ICT skills and ICT-based learning. The centres are also used as a hub linking learners with employers as well as for the distribution of information. Often, they serve as a meeting point for the whole community and for facilitators’ training sessions.

As well as using trained facilitators to assist and advise learners, the learning process is also facilitated through the use of self-study core modules and motivational and user-friendly learning materials, such as magazines, songbooks, newspapers and posters which are provided free of charge and help to structure the learning process and thus guide the learners. Each chapter of the core modules is followed by a self-evaluation test. Apart from the printed editions, modules are also available on CDs and online (internet). Learners can study at home on their own but have the option of meeting and exchanging with others learners using a free Internet platform provided by the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).


Programme Impact and Challenges

Monitoring and Evaluation

The learning process is constantly monitored and evaluated by facilitators/trainers, regional coordinators and INEA officials (through field visits). In addition, learners evaluate their own learning through self-assessment tests taken at the end of each module. Learners are also evaluated for final accreditation at the end of each level. Furthermore, since 2001, annual external evaluations have been undertaken through a selected opinion research institute. These studies focus on the programme’s coverage, efficiency, impact and costs, as well as assessing the extent to which it has achieved its goals and the degree of satisfaction of learners and facilitators working with the model.



Notable programme impacts include:

  • The adoption of MEVyT by all 32 states in Mexico in 2004. 98% of learners studying through INEA participate in the MEVyT programme.
  • The production of 179,000 training modules to facilitators in 2005 and 4.469 million modules to learners in 2006, followed by almost 165,000 training modules for facilitators and 5.5 million modules for learners in 2007.
  • The training of 80,000 voluntary facilitators, 50% of whom have permanent voluntary contracts.
  • The constant annual increase in the total number of youth and adult learners enrolled in the programme since its inception. For example, in 2005, 1,411,686 people (4.6% of the total youth and adult illiterate or semi-literate populations) were enrolled in the programme. The following table shows numbers of enrolments per MEVyT study level and the respective completion ratio:


  • The evaluation reports indicating that 92% of the learners are satisfied with the modules. The following were the specific, positive and life-changing impacts noted by the majority of learners:

    • improved standards of living for their families and a better understanding of a range of health issues;
    • better social networking abilities and an improved capacity for establishing functional relationships;
    • enhanced self-esteem after achieving their dream of gaining an education;
    • improved opportunities for engaging in different livelihood activities. For example, 63% of the learners indicate that they have achieved occupational advancement thanks to their studies;
    • a better knowledge and improved understanding of their rights as citizens; and
    • a greater ability to support their children at school.

Challenges and Solutions

MEVyT did not always function smoothly and the major challenges it faced are as follows:

  • financial constraints due to the large number of modules and other learning materials produced, as well as the high turnover of facilitators. Financial challenges are compounded by the fact that the programme is offered free of charge to learners and receives only limited funding;
  • the centralised distribution of learning materials has created artificial shortages of materials and reduced choices of study modules in some areas;
  • the training of the many facilitators coupled with a high turnover of trained facilitators due to low remunerations is a costly challenge for the programme. The high turnover of facilitators furthermore undermines learning consistency and thus the learners’ pass rates;
  • the lack of motivation on the part of facilitators who are poorly paid, which has a negative impact on the overall quality of instruction;
  • the fact that facilitators often struggle with the sheer variety of module options available, requiring them to prepare for many different modules simultaneously; and
  • the issue of poor learning infrastructure and facilities which, despite the establishment of community learning spaces, remains a major challenge.

Lessons Learned

  • Youth and adult literacy programmes are relatively cheap to implement. For example, the overall annual cost per learner is around US$ 750.
  • There is need to improve the ways in which the programme is monitored and evaluated to ensure that the stated goals are achieved. In particular, there is need to constantly revise, update and upgrade learning materials to meet the learners’ changing circumstances and needs, as well as the changing demands of the national environment. In addition, further research, negotiation, political understanding, financial resources, and suitably trained facilitators are needed in order to support the development of appropriate models and modules for indigenous populations.
  • Youth and adult literacy programmes are more successful if they satisfy the principal needs of the learners and their communities. This has been demonstrated in particular by the success of the regional modules, which appeal directly to the learners’ social and geographical environments, as well as their unique circumstances and aspirations.
  • More resources must be invested in the training and payment of facilitators because the success of the programme depends, to a large extent, on their technical abilities and motivation.
  • The quest for accreditation has often caused learners and facilitators to emphasise results rather than the quality of learning.


The MEVyT programme has successfully integrated basic literacy learning into a comprehensive system of non-formal education that encompasses life and work-related issues. The model has also succeeded in opening up flexible learning opportunities to people who would not otherwise have managed to fit into the learning system.



Luz María Castro Mussot
Academic Director
Instituto Nacional para la Educación de los Adultos (INEA)
Francisco Márquez 160
Colonia Condesa C.P. 06140
Delegación Cuauhtémoc
México D.F.
Tel: (55) 5241 2768
E-mail: lcastro (at) inea.gob.mx /
buzon-mev (at) inea.gob.mx

For citation please use

U. Hanemann (Ed.). Last update: 21 July 2017. Education Model for Life and Work, Mexico. UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. (Accessed on: 31 May 2020, 16:56 CEST)

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