Reflections about the data and possibilities for future research
As mentioned in previous sections, there are no other studies where the specific data about music programs in higher education institutions in Mexico is shown altogether. By seeing this information side-by-side (state, population, universities per state, and universities with music degrees per state) the problem of geographical access to music professionalization becomes more obvious.
As expected, the availability of music degrees and universities per state is in its majority proportional and consistent with the size of the region's population. For instance, the state of Mexico (the country's most populated state) has the most number of universities and the most number of music degree offerings. The distribution of opportunity in its material forms like spaces and educational programs, however, is not consistent.
To Castelli et. al (2012), “the fundamental idea is that education is a basic right, and that the fair distribution of ‘educational assets’ must be safeguarded; if equity is not present in the educational system, people could be deprived of numerous opportunities for choice, therefore failing to achieve their full potential” (p. 2246). Those numerous opportunities for choice are what I mean when I look at my country and all its states that lack proper music education at all levels. The requirements to apply to a college-level music program do not match with what the education system prepares students for. Basic education programs are failing to give students freedom of choice by the time they graduate high school because most students are not ready to attend any college or program; they are intellectually prepared only for a few options because of the limited set of skills that they acquired through 12 years of schooling. Failing, as Castelli et. al point at, at letting students achieve their full potential. It is not surprising then, that Mexico’s higher education rate is 21.6% of the population (INEGI, 2020).
According to Hillman (2016): “the geographic location of colleges is one of the most basic and obvious dimensions of opportunity, yet policymakers and researchers often overlook how place shapes students’ educational destinations” (p. 988).
He then argues that policymakers have over sought the effect of space and location on their efforts to overcome educational inequities. Contrary to current policies that aim at “fixing” this problem by motivating students to go find their “perfect” college, Hillman explains that:
Having ‘‘better information’’ about a college hundreds of miles away may be irrelevant for a student who prefers to (or needs to) stay close to home, regardless of how well another college might be a good academic fit. The challenge is that many students who need to stay close to home may have very few opportunities nearby, which only serves to reinforce and reproduce inequality (p. 992).
I strongly believe in Hillman’s conclusions and see a very similar scenario—and possibly worse—in Mexico. While this author’s conclusions are expressed in more general terms about the availability of colleges, our focus coincides in that the geographical location of institutions impacts the choices and opportunities that students seek.
In the maps and graphs shown before, one of the states showing this absence of music education at the professional level is Sonora. The state university in Sonora, is limited not only by its number of specializations but by its infrastructure and student capacity. It takes around thirty students per year, and its retention and graduation levels are below the national mean. As shown in the data, from the 112 institutions of higher education in Sonora, only one offers music.
Omitted Variables and Future Possibilities
While cleaning and filtering the data, it was tempting to include other details and variables available, but I omitted them because they were outside the scope of this project. Some of these details were in the data set from ANUIES, and they included gender differences in enrollment, retention, and graduation rates.
There are other possible variables to add here and that are available in public sources, for instance, the number of faculty per state and per university. In addition, and depending on the scope of the project, I believe it would be very enriching to study faculty demographics and professional achievements by region. Some questions that I still have and some that I think would be interesting to explore with bigger data:
How many faculty members are in the National School of Music in Mexico City? How many are there per specialization, and what is the teacher-student ratio?
How do those numbers from the main school of music in Mexico City compare to another city in the country, and how do they compare to smaller programs in the country?
Does the (presumably) lower student-teacher ratio in smaller universities —like in Sonora— gives the program any advantages?
How are gender differences in music programs in Mexico similar (or not) to other art degrees?
Furthermore, I believe that qualitative data could finish framing and untangling the "mysteries" and discrepancies of this higher education pattern in Mexico.
How do music faculty feel about their incoming students?
How do they feel about their institutions/departments?
What improvements would faculty like to see in the spaces they share?
How do students feel about the music programs they enroll in?
What about those that cannot enroll because of the absence of a program near them? What solutions would they like to see?