Bilingual Literacy for Life

Country Profile: Mexico


112,336,538 (2010 census)

Official Languages

Spanish and 364 Indigenous Language Variants e.g.: Nahuatl de la Huasteca, Náhuatl de la Sierra Negra, Maya, Mixteco, Zapoteco, Tseltal, Tsotsil, Otomí

Total Expenditure on Education as % of GNP


Primary School Net Enrolment/Attendance

98% (2005–2009)

Total Youth Literacy Rate (15-24 years)
  • Male: 98%
  • Female: 98%
  • Total: 98%
Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 1995-2004)
  • Male: 94%
  • Female: 91%
  • Total: 93%

Programme Overview

Programme TitleBilingual Literacy for Life (BLL) / MEVyT Indígena Bilingüe (MIB)
Implementing OrganizationThe National Institute for Adult Education (INEA)
Language of InstructionSpanish and indigenous languages (bilingual)
FundingThe Federal Government (through the Ministry of Education and the National Commission for Development of Indigenous Populations – CDI)
Programme PartnersThe Federal Government of Mexico (through the Ministry of Education), State Adult Education Institutions (IEEAs), NGOs, Local governments and professional institutes (see below under Institutional Partnerships)
Date of Inception2007 (ongoing)

Context and background


In recent years, Mexico – one of the most populous, ethnically diverse and economically advanced countries in Latin America – has made significant progress in promoting access to basic education for all through increased public funding of education and the implementation of various educational programmes. A recent study noted that “since the 1980s, public spending on education has been steadily increasing in absolute and relative terms [and] represented about 26% of the federal budget in 1999, up from about 12% in 1983”. Universal access to basic education has also been promoted through the institutionalisation of various educational policies and programmes such as the promulgation of the universal education law (which guarantees every child aged 6 to 15 years access to primary and junior secondary education), the OPORTUNIDADES (opportunities) programme which provides financial assistance to school children from poor families); the Telesecundaria (which promotes distance learning through the use of multi-media technologies at secondary school level) and the Educational Model for Life and Work (Modelo Educación para la Vida y el Trabajo – MEVyT), which provides basic education to youths and adults.

As a result of these proactive measures, Mexico’s educational system has expanded rapidly at all levels, the most significant being the expansive growth in the net student enrolment rates across the entire formal educational system. According to government reports, school enrolment rates increased more than eightfold from 3.25 million students in 1950 to 28.2 million in 2000, of which 81% were enrolled in basic education. By 2006, the net primary and secondary school enrolment rates had risen to 98% and 77%, respectively. The primary school completion rate also increased from 74% during the 1993–94 school year to 83% by 1997–98 and to 87% by 2000–2001. As a result, the percentage of people with 9th grade education (i.e. basic education) rose from just 9% in 1970 to 41.4% in 1998. Overall, the 2010 national census established that Mexico had achieved near-universal primary school net enrolment and youth literacy rates while adult literacy rates had improved significantly (see above).

Despite the impressive progress in promoting access to basic education for all, Mexico’s education system continues to be plagued by major challenges such as the lack of basic learning resources, shortages of qualified teachers and the lack of gender equity with regard to access to education. These challenges, which are more acute in rural than in urban areas and are exacerbated by the high levels of poverty among rural families and the predominant use of Spanish as the language of instruction, have created significant barriers which preclude the meaningful participation of indigenous peoples in the public education system. As a result, school enrolment, retention and achievement rates are particularly low in rural areas and, more specifically, among indigenous people. According to recent studies, indigenous Mexicans have an average of 4.6 schooling years compared to a mean of 7.9 years among non-indigenous people. The 2010 national census established that the illiteracy rate for indigenous people was about 27.2% while the national average was 5.4%. Illiteracy rates are substantially higher among indigenous women (about 40%), due in part to entrenched cultural practices which often put the girl child at a disadvantage including less parental support to access education. At a local level, literacy rates in the more developed areas such as Mexico City and Nuevo León exceeded 95% as of 2005 to 2008 but were around 75% in the less developed (and mainly indigenous) states such as Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca during the same period. Overall, one third of the indigenous population is considered to be functionally illiterate.

Hence, in an effort to address these challenges and disparities, and in particular to create quality and sustainable learning opportunities for the traditionally disadvantaged indigenous communities, the federal government (through The National Institute for Adult Education – INEA) initiated the Bilingual Literacy for Life Programme (BLLP) / MEVyT Indígena Bilingüe (MIB) in 2007.

INEA: A brief history of its origins and core mandate


The National Institute for Adult Education (INEA) was established in 1981 as the federal agency in charge of non-formal education – including literacy and basic adult education – in the country. Since then, INEA has developed and implemented various educational programmes – including Plazas comunitarias (Virtual Community Centres), and life skills training programmes for youths and adults. The main objectives of these programmes, which are part of the comprehensive MEVyT programme, were to create an alternative and sustainable route for disadvantaged population groups such as women / girls, indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities, to gaining access to basic education; improve levels of literacy rates in the country; address the specific learning and livelihood needs of various ethnic groups and promote national socio-economic development. Accordingly, people who participate and graduate from INEA programmes are provided with recognised certificates which are equivalent to those provided to learners who follow the formal educational system. In a nutshell, INEA was instituted and is motivated to continue providing a wide range of non-formal educational programmes because the federal government believes that education is a basic human right which should not be denied to any citizen and also one which affords participants the opportunity to appropriate knowledge and skills necessary for both personal and national development. The Bilingual Literacy for Life Programme (BLLP) / MEVyT Indígena Bilingüe (MIB) is indeed one such programme that aims to achieve these integrated goals.

The Bilingual Literacy for Life Programme (BLLP) / MEVyT Indígena Bilingüe (MIB)


The BLLP is an integrated and bilingual non-formal educational (basic literacy and life skills training) programme which primarily targets non-literate and semi-literate people (aged 15 years and above) from socio-economically disadvantaged indigenous communities within Mexico. The programme – which is conducted in Spanish and in local indigenous languages – particularly targets women and out-of-school girls (to date, women have constituted about 92% of the total of programme participants) not only because they constitute a social group that is highly disadvantaged within indigenous communities but also because a majority of indigenous women have, traditionally, failed to effectively benefit from the formal education system. This is due to the fact that most parents prefer to educate boys, as one female programme participant testified: “My father did not want us to study. He told us that as women we would not work so it would be useless”. As such, more than 65% of the illiterate indigenous population are women and are therefore in need of targeted educational interventions.

The programme is currently being implemented in 15 federal states (comprising of 2,223 localities in 263 municipalities) with the prospect of increasing this to 17 states.

The populations of which consist predominantly of indigenous people. To date, the programme has been implemented in 42 main indigenous languages found in the 15 participating states. The fundamental goal of the BLLP / MIB is to create sustainable learning opportunities for indigenous communities in order to address the challenges that limit their ability to access formal basic education (see above) as well as to facilitate their integration into mainstream Mexican society by enabling them to learn and speak in Spanish which is spoken by about 90% of the national population. It also endeavours to empower and promote sustainable development within indigenous communities. To this end, the programme provides learners with literacy and contextually relevant life skills training covering a range of themes including:

The BLLP / MIB curriculum

The bilingual indigenous MEVyT (MIB) programme is based on an integrated, comprehensive and structured curriculum which covers the basic or initial literacy learning level and the middle or functional literacy skills learning level. MIB modules have to take into account the particular linguistic and cultural situations of each ethnic and linguistic regional group, as well as their interests. For this reason, the modules are developed differently by teams located within the State institutes.

As depicted in the picture below, the initial level of the bilingual indigenous MEVyT programme with Spanish as a Second Language (MIBES) has five learning modules (MIBES 1–5) while the middle level has seven learning modules – two specifically for indigenous learners (MIBES 6–7) and five for MEVyT learners in Spanish – but with some activities in indigenous languages. It takes learners an average of 18 months to complete initial level, and 6 to 10 months to complete middle level.


Each module of the integrated curriculum is intended to equip learners with particular literacy and life skills which will enable them to advance to a higher learning level where the previous skills are reinforced. The modules are built as follows:

It must, however, be noted and emphasised that this integrated curriculum only acts as a guide for field technical teams and facilitators because the specific themes covered and learning activities undertaken in each module have to be adapted to suit the participating group’s mother tongue as well as their specific needs and interests. To achieve this, INEA works closely with the communities and local state institutes in order to integrate their specific and unique suggestions into the modules.

Aims and objectives


In addition to the fundamental goals of the programme highlighted above, the BLLP / MIB also endeavours to:

Programme Implementation: Approaches and methodologies

Institutional partnerships

The learning modules have been developed and provided to the indigenous population by the principal partners of the programme:


State Institute


Instituto Estatal de Educación para los Adultos en Chiapas


Instituto Estatal de Educación para los Adultos en Oaxaca


Instituto Estatal para la Educación de Jóvenes y Adultos de Guerrero


Instituto Estatal de Educación para Adultos en Puebla


Instituto Veracruzano de Educación para Adultos


Instituto Hidalguense de Educación para Adultos


Instituto de Educación para Adultos del Estado de Yucatán


Instituto Chihuahuense de Educación para Adultos

San Luis Potosí

Instituto Estatal de Educación para los Adultos en San Luis Potosí

Quintana Roo

Instituto Estatal para la Educación de los Adultos en Quintana Roo


Instituto Estatal de Educación para Adultos en Campeche


Instituto Duranguense de Educación para Adultos


Instituto Estatal de Educación para Adultos de Tabasco


Instituto Nayarita de Educación para Adultos


INEA’s Delegations:


Delegación del INEA en el Estado de México


Delegación del INEA en Querétaro


Delegación del INEA en Michoacán

In order to facilitate the effective and sustainable implementation of the BLLP / MIB, INEA has established functional working partnerships with local communities (through their representatives) and a wide range of NGOs, community-based organisations (CBOs) and specialised federal and state institutes. These include:

These organisations provide INEA with critical technical support in the design and development of appropriate teaching-learning materials and translation of Spanish texts into various indigenous languages. Such invaluable professional support has not only enabled INEA to tailor the BLLP / MIB according to the particular needs, interests and language-systems of different learning groups but also to implement the programme cost-effectively because some institutions provide their expertise on a no-cost basis. In addition, the institutions also play a critical role in mobilising learners and ordinary community members to support the programme.

Development of teaching-learning materials

INEA has developed various monolingual and bilingual illustrative training / learning materials (including five modules and posters) with technical support from learners’ organisations and institutional partners with expertise in indigenous languages. These illustrative teaching-learning materials (see pictures below) are distributed free of charge to all learners.


As noted above, the themes covered in each module are not uniform across the 15 states because they are informed by and adapted to reflect each group’s specific worldviews, culture, existential realities and linguistic characteristics as well as addressing its needs and aspirations. In addition, INEA has also produced teaching modules for use by programme trainers / facilitators using the same format.

The production and free distribution of these teaching-learning resources not only intends to facilitate the efficient and sustainable implementation of the BLLP / MIB but also to motivate learners and communities to participate in the BLLP / MIB as well as nurturing a culture of lifelong learning (and thus preventing learners from relapsing into illiteracy) by enabling learners to keep and continue to use the materials long after participating in the programme.

Recruitment and training of facilitators

The practical implementation of the BLLP / MIB is heavily dependent on a cohort of locally or community-based volunteer trainers or facilitators. As of 2011, INEA had trained about 5,000 volunteers (72% of whom were women and 28% men) to act as BLLP / MIB promoters and trainers. Most of these have basic education qualifications while a few are high school students and graduates and professionals working with local schools (teachers) and community development organisations. In all cases, however, volunteers are required to be proficient bilingual (Spanish and indigenous language) speakers. The volunteer trainers work under the supervision of an INEA technical team based in each of the 15 participating federal states.

Given that an overwhelming majority of the volunteers have lower educational qualifications and no professional training and practical experience in non-formal educational practices, INEA’s state-based technical teams – with support from INEA’s various specialised institutional partners (see above) – provide them with professional training, in order to ensure the effective and efficient implementation of the BLLP / MIB. The norm includes 72 hours for initial training, and at least 32 hours of permanent training.

The training-of-trainers and mentoring scheme for programme facilitators focus on:

Once trained, each facilitator is entrusted with teaching a class of between 4 and 15 learners over the two-year duration of the programme. For this, they are paid a monthly stipend of 722 Pesos (US$58). In addition to providing training services, programme facilitators are also required to evaluate the learning processes and outcomes on an on-going basis as well assessing the changing needs and aspirations of the learners in order to assist INEA technical staff to further develop the curriculum to reflect these “new” needs. Facilitators are also required to organise and manage the virtual community centers, to promote the programme within their communities and to recruit new learners.

Recruitment of learners


INEA’s technical field teams and programme facilitators, with support from community leaders, former learners, CBOs and NGOs, are responsible for mobilising and recruiting new learners into the programme. This system is based on the 80 zone coordination offices that are involved in the 15 states.

Potential learners are invited and motivated to enrol by using state, zone or local institutional joint campaigns, local census, door-to-door invitations or linkage with other social programmes, such as Oportunidades (Opportunities) which brings economic benefits to mothers who are responsible for their children’s schooling and their families’ health.

When individuals show an interest in studying, an initial interview is held to find out about their background, interests, level of reading and writing skills, and degree of mono- or bilingualism. This step is very important, as it enables the learner to be placed on the best educational route to encourage learning, in particular literacy skills. Especially motivating for learners is the possibility of being registered on the national accreditation system and database (SASA-I) which has special provisions for the Indigenous Programme. For initial registration a valid identification (ID) is requested, and if the applicant does not have any, technical officers from the micro-region help to obtain it.

Teaching-learning approaches and methods

BLLP / MIB classes (or study circles) are conducted by facilitators but in some instances and often in response to learners’ requests, facilitators also conduct home visits in order to provide learners or groups of learners with specialised or face-to-face assistance. Programme study timetables are flexible as they are often arrived at after consulting the learners. In this way, learners have the opportunity to choose the times which are best suited to their situations. For instance, during the agricultural season, classes can be conducted in the late afternoon after learners have tended to their fields while in the off-season, classes are often conducted mid-day.


Similarly, since each indigenous language has its own linguistic structure and characteristics, INEA does not prescribe the use of a unique method of literacy training across all the states. Nonetheless, facilitators are encouraged to use a variety of learner-centred (participatory) teaching-learning methods such as games, dialogues, formal activities and group discussions which are inspired by the “meaningful word-generating discussion” and the “meaningful topic-generating discussion” principles developed by Paulo Freire. Through this approach, the learners’ literacy and life skills are nurtured by using their local environment and relevant teaching-learning aids as the basis of learning and thus for developing their literacy skills. While learners develop their oral and written language, they also acquire life skills which enable them to cope with and improve their situations.

Programme impact and challenges

Monitoring and evaluation

The impact of the BLLP / MIB, including student learning outcomes, is closely monitored, assessed and evaluated on an on-going basis by INEA’s technical field teams, programme facilitators and learners themselves through a combination of class observations, final examinations at the end of each module and student self-evaluation. In order to facilitate student self-evaluation, for example, INEA has developed standardised instruments such as questionnaires which guide learners through the process of assessing not only their learning progress and achievements but also the teaching methods and the overall impact of the programme on their lives. Additionally, external professionals are also engaged by INEA on an annual basis to undertake summative evaluations of both the student learning outcomes and the impact of the programme on literacy and community development. To date, several external evaluations have been undertaken by various experts (see sources below). Together, these programme evaluation and assessment processes feed into the national information system, the Automated System for Monitoring and Assessment (SASA-I), “which aims to collect reliable data on the progress of the adults who enter the INEA programmes” with a view of, among other things, facilitating the certification or accreditation of learners and future planning.


As established by several evaluation studies, the BLLP / MIB has created alternative and viable learning opportunities for indigenous peoples. In so doing, the programme has played (and continues to play) a critical role in combating the scourge of illiteracy and cultivating a culture of learning among indigenous peoples as well as in promoting social empowerment, economic development and poverty alleviation within indigenous communities. More specifically, the major impacts of the programme include:


In light of this, INEA was awarded the 2011 UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize for this programme (more information is available at:


Despite its major contributions towards the development of indigenous communities as noted, the BLLP / MIB is also encumbered by numerous challenges. These include:

Lessons learned

Over the past few years of implementing the BLLP, several critical lessons have been learnt. These include:


The long-term sustainability of the BLLP / MIB hinges on several critical factors including:


Evaluation reports


Ms Celia Solís Sánchez
Dirección Académica
Ms Carmen Díaz González
Subdirección de Contenidos Diversificados

Address: Francisco, Márquez 160, Col. Condesa 06140
Telephone and Fax: +52 (55) 52412750; / +52 (55) 52412764
Website: http://www.inea.gob.max

Last update: 8 September 2011