Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sending a Child to School in Baja

Your kids have had a blast in Baja. You have as well. They’re sold, you’re sold. Everyone is caught up in hyper-speed towards relocation until you realize... yikes! It is time to pull back on the Baja-bound, super-shuttle throttle – your children have to go to school.

You have three basic options for schooling your child in the Baja California Peninsula: public school, private school or homeschooling. My personal advice, based upon experience with both private and public school systems on the mainland and in Baja, is this; if your child is bilingual, and speaks Spanish fluently, you have any school in the country available to you, pick and choose.

If your child is not bilingual, and has little familiarity with the Spanish language, tread cautiously. A private school may best suit his or her needs, where Spanish is taught for half the day and English the other half. For the English-learning part of the day they get to be the star student, counter-balancing the initial struggles and frustrations during the hours of Spanish instruction.

In immersion programs the instructors are trained to deal with issues faced by non-native speakers. They have to be to teach Mexican children English. In public schools they most likely are not. The cost of private schooling runs anywhere from $150 to $350 U.S. a month and up.

Mexican schools will welcome you as a foreigner – to a certain extent. In deciding what option may be best for your child, keep in mind that public schools in Mexico will not provide support for a non-native speaking child, as is common in many areas of the U.S, and other First World countries. Your advantaged and/or bright child may succeed effortlessly from the ages of three to seven years of age (approximately) when language acquisition is at its peak and little academic stress is put upon them.

Your middle school-aged child or teenager may or may not. A less-stressful first leap into the culture may be a summer program or volunteer abroad program. There are summer programs in Baja and on the mainland.

Another alternative is to start-out homeschooling and take it from there, making decisions based on how it goes and what resources are available in your particular Baja town. Some expat parents send their children to the local public program in the day or afternoon and homeschool English curriculum.

To enroll a child in public or private school in Mexico you must show proof he or she has successfully completed the previous school year and therefore is eligible to continue on to the next grade level. If there are no school records available, or the student does not pass final examinations, they have to repeat the previous year. In my sons’ fourth grade public school class one child was 12 years old.

The school will ask for a copy of the child’s birth certificate, a copy of school records showing completion of the previous year of study and photo identification for the child and for the parent. If your child has been homeschooling in the states independently of any school system you must create an official report for him or her that is validated in a way acceptable to the school.

Mexican public school hours are typically from 8 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Private school hours commonly follow the North American norm of 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Private schools have independent control over curriculum and hours of operation but must adhere to the same government-mandated guidelines for enrollment.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula, available for order at


Anonymous said...

Great post, we are a family of three moving to Cabo in two months and is just the type of information we need, thank you!

Anonymous said...

anyone know a biligual kindergarten in La Paz

Molly aka BajaBad said...

Hi anon - check out the blog entry with listings of private, bilingual schools!

Best of luck, Molly

J'aimee Howard said...

i need to find an english speaking school for my third grader in rosarito. does any one know of the names of any or contact info?

Anonymous said...

I need to find an english speaking for my 5 grade and high school in La Paz or Cabo San Lucas.

Thank you.

Ptarmigan said...

I have two young kids who will be 4 and 6. Their father is from Mexico and family is in Ensenada. I am looking for a 1/2 day school where they could work on Spanish language next summer. Does anyone have any suggestions? They have beginning Spanish, at best.


Francis Moreno said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Francis Moreno said...

I have a 2 year old daughter that I want to put in preschool in Rosarito. Does anyone know of any safe bilingual preschools?

Beth Sherry said...

Can you provide me a list of bilingual private schools in La Paz Mexico? We are considering moving there for a year and will have a 2nd grade boy and a 5th grade boy (neither speak Spanish).

Thank You!