English Teachers in Mexico: Initial Preparation and the Realities of Practice

Current English language teaching research in Mexico has shown that junior high school students are not learning English and that English teachers lack linguistic and pedagogical skills to teach the language. Research has evidenced system-wide factors contributing to low learning outcomes such as teacher shortage, poor working conditions, limited teaching resources, inadequate school support, and misaligned professional development. However, little has been said about initial teacher preparation. Therefore, this research sought to understand how English teachers in junior high schools in Mexico viewed their initial preparation program and whether the realities of practice in their specific teaching context match that preparation. The study drew on questionnaire data of junior high school English as a foreign language (EFL) teachers in three different regions of Mexico—northern, central, and southern states, from urban, suburban, and rural classrooms, including three different junior high school modalities. The aim was to understand how initial teacher preparation equipped teachers with language knowledge, teaching knowledge, and contextual knowledge for their practice. This study argues that initial teacher preparation, although a critical component for success in the classroom, has been largely treated in the periphery. This treatment may have resulted in weak initial preparation of English teachers. This study presented both qualitative and quantitative evidence about the realities English teachers faced in their current practice as they attempted to implement the new National English Program in basic education. Some realities seemed to have been ignored and/or inadequately addressed during initial teacher preparation. Therefore, the evidence presented sought to inform English teachers, school administrators, and policy makers about the situation in the trenches. The study also sought to contribute to the current conversation about the direction and content of initial English teacher preparation programs in view of the diverse teaching contexts in the country.