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Dominican Republic Table of Contents

Dominican Republic




Student in computer science class, Santo Domingo
Courtesy Inter-American Development Bank

Formal education included the primary, the secondary, and higher education levels. The six-year primary cycle was compulsory. Three years of preschool were offered in some areas, but not on a compulsory basis. There were several types of secondary school; most students (90 percent) attended the sixyear liceo, which awarded the bachillerato certificate upon completion and was geared toward university admission. Other secondary programs included teacher training schools, polytechnics, and vocational schools. All primary and secondary schools were under the formal jurisdiction of the Secretariat of State for Education and Culture (Secretaria de Estado de Educación y Cultura). In 1984 there were an estimated 5,684 primary schools and 1,664 secondary schools.

Despite the compulsory nature of primary education, only 17 percent of rural schools offered all six grades. This explained to some degree the lower levels of secondary enrollment. For those who did go on to the secondary level, academic standards were low, the drop-out rate reportedly was high, and all but the poorest students had to buy their textbooks--another disincentive to enrollment for many.

The government decreed major curriculum reforms at the primary and secondary levels in the 1970s in an effort to render schooling more relevant to students' lives and needs. Expanded vocational training in rural schools was called for as part of the reforms. Few changes had been fully implemented by the early 1980s, however. Primary school teachers were trained in specialized secondary schools; the universities trained secondary-school teachers. In 1982, however, roughly half of all teachers lacked the required academic background. A chronic shortage of teachers was attributable to low pay (especially in rural areas), the relatively low status of teaching as a career, and an apparent reluctance among men to enter the profession.

Education expanded at every level in the post-Trujillo era. Enrollment as a proportion of the primary school-aged population grew by more than twenty percentage points between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s, and that of the secondary school-aged population nearly quadrupled. By the mid-1980s, the primary school population was virtually fully enrolled, but only 45 percent of those of secondary school age were enrolled.

Problems accompanied educational expansion. Teaching materials and well-maintained facilities were lacking at every level. Salaries and operational expenses took up most of the education budget, leaving little surplus for additional investment and growth. In addition, although an estimated 74 percent of the population was literate in 1986, the expansion of educational programs and facilities left a sizable backlog of illiterates largely untouched. Although there were some programs in adult literacy, in 1981 fully one-third of the population over twenty-five years of age had never attended school; in some rural areas the proportion rose to half (see table 3, Appendix A).

Higher education enjoyed the most spectacular growth. At Trujillo's death there was one university, the University of Santa Domingo (Universidad de Santo Domingo), with roughly 3,500 students. By the late 1980s, there were more than twenty-six institutions of higher education with a total enrollment of over 120,000 students. Legislation created the National Council of Higher Education (Consejo Nacional de Educación Superior--CONES) in 1983 to deal with issues surrounding accreditation, the awarding of degrees, and the coordination of programs on a national level.

The sole public institution was the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo--UASD). The UASD traced its lineage directly to the Universitas Santi Dominici, established in 1538. Although the university's administration was autonomous, the government provided all of its funding. This enabled the UASD to offer courses free of charge to all enrolled students. The student body reached approximately 100,000 in 1984. The leading private institutions were the Catholic University Mother and Teacher (Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra--UCMM), located in Santiago and administered by the Roman Catholic Church, and the Pedro Henríquez Ureña National University (Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña--UNPHU) in Santo Domingo. In the early 1980s, UCMM had a student body of approximately 5,000, while UNPHU enrolled approximately 10,000.

Enrollment in private schools also expanded during the postTrujillo era. Private schools, most of them operated by the Roman Catholic Church, enjoyed a reputation for academic superiority to public schools. By the 1970s, they appeared to be the preferred educational option for the urban middle class.

Data as of December 1989

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