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Mexico, officially known as the United Mexican States, is a federal constitutional republic located in the southern portion of North America.  The country is bordered by the United States of America to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the south and west, Guatemala and Belize to the southeast and the Caribbean Sea to the east by the Gulf of Mexico.  With a total geographic area of 760,000 square miles, Mexico is the fifth-largest country in the Americas by total area and the thirteenth-largest sovereign nation in the world.  Mexico is a federation consisting of thirty-one states and one large Federal District, the capital city of the country, Mexico City.
 
Mexico has a total estimated population of 112.5 million, making it the eleventh-most populated country in the world and the world’s largest Spanish-speaking country.  Mexico is very ethnically diverse, with the various indigenous people and European immigrants united together under a single national identity.  Seventy percent of the country self-identifies as Mestizo, a designation that is defined as a combination of European and indigenous Amerindian heritage.  Another fifteen percent claimed “white” on the last census, or only their European heritage, while nearly ten percent identifies as Amerindian only.
 
Spanish is the lone official language of Mexico and is used for all official purposes, including government administration, commerce, education and the courts.  It is also the most commonly spoken language in the country, spoken as a first language by nearly all of the population.  Religious freedom is guaranteed to the Mexican people, although Roman Catholicism, which is practiced by approximately 90 percent of the population, is generally considered the state’s national religion.
 
Education in Mexico
 
Education in Mexico is overseen and regulated by the Secretariat (Secretary) of Education, and education standards are set by the Ministry of Education at each level.  All public schools in Mexico are secular institutions and religious instruction is not permitted, although private parochial schools are allowed to offer religious education as part of their curriculum.  The education system is divided between four distinct levels:  primary education, junior high school, high school and higher or tertiary education.  Education is provided free to all Mexican citizens, while foreign residents must pay tuition, and school is compulsory through high school.
 
Primary education in Mexico begins at age six and spans six years, representing grades one through six.  The curriculum is very broad at this level, beginning with instruction in reading, writing and basic arithmetic, and later supplemented by introductory courses in science, history, geography, civics, social and cultural studies, physical education and the arts.
 
Secondary education is divided into two stages:  junior high school and high school, each spanning three years and representing grades 7-9 and grades 10-12 respectively.  The instruction at both of these levels includes many of the same subjects listed above, although gradually becoming more advanced with each grade.  Other subjects introduced include biology, chemistry, physics, technology and foreign language, especially English.
 
University education in Mexico offers students a number of undergraduate and graduate degree options and is open to all students who successfully complete their high school education and earn a diploma.  There is no national entrance examination as a prerequisite to university admission, but many universities do require students to pass a basic proficiency examination prior to enrolling in certain programs.

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