Updated 2 months ago

This article will discuss the education system in the Dominican Republic including public schools, attended by 80% of the student population, private schools used by more affluent Dominicans and expats, and the University system.

Public schools

The state public schools are free, and previously, school started at 8 am and the first round of classes finished at noon. Those children would have then be done for the day. Another lot would then come in the afternoon from 2 pm until 6 pm. The reason for this is that it dates back to the time when the majority of the population lived off the land and children had to help with the animals and the planting. To ensure that parents sent their children to school, they only had to go for half a day and could then help at home for the rest of the time. However, President Danilo Medina decided that in the future children will go to school for the entire day and be fed breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea. Not only will this improve the level of their education, it will also enable the poorer children to have better nourishment. This has meant that the number of classrooms has doubled and throughout the country, new schools and new classrooms are being built.

Children start school at age 5, or nearly 6, with class sizes between 15 and 40 pupils. They then keep going until Grade 8 which is the end of the first school when they should be around 14 years old. However, every year there are exams to pass and apart from in the first couple of years when there is pretty much automatic progression, if they fail them then they have to repeat the year. According to Unicef, the repetition rate among the more affluent children is 2.3%, and among the poorest is 8.7%. If they make it to the 8th grade, they take national examinations known as the Pruebas Nacionales. There are four subjects: Spanish Language, Mathematics, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences, and the pass rate is 65%.

Not everyone makes it to this grade. It is estimated that out of every 100 students who start school, only 53 finish 8th grade. They leave for a variety of reasons, and even though school is supposed to be compulsory, there are many who do not attend school. The main reason is money, as although the schools are more or less free (enrollment fee is around US$1 and examination fees about the same), children have to buy their uniform, backpack for their books, notebooks, pencils, and shoes. In some areas, they also have to pay for their books, and as the books double as workbooks, they are not reusable and can, therefore, add significant expense.

In addition, apart from those who live close by, they have to pay for transport – usually a motorbike taxi, known as a motoconcho, although in some areas there are free school buses. Some will also drop out so that they can start working, and it is estimated that 9% of children are involved in some form of child labour, although this tends to be mainly boys and more in the countryside than in the towns. Some of the girls will drop out as they become pregnant, teenage pregnancies being a big problem in the Dominican Republic.

Following 8th grade then begins year 1-4 of high school, ending with the exams for bachiller which qualifies as university entrance. The bachiller consists of more exams than the Pruebas Nacionales and includes English, French, Civics, and Human Development.

Private colleges

Private Dominican colleges can vary from only a few hundred pesos a month up to several thousands, and international schools which follow a different curriculum, are attended by Dominicans and expat children with the classes usually taught in English, although some teach in both languages. They are by far the most expensive, with the average cost being US$5,000 to US$10,000 a year. The majority has programs approved by the United States, and many of the teachers are native English speakers, although many do not have a formal teaching qualification.

There are private colleges, most of high quality, in all of the tourist and expat areas such as Sosuá, Punta Cana, Puerto Plata, Las Terrenas, Juan Dolio, and also in the main cities of Santo Domingo and Santiago.

Higher education system

The country does have a developed higher education system which provides quality education through various programs. Moreover, it has many private universities which are attended by foreigners, especially the medical and dentistry programs, many of which are recognized overseas. Fees are more expensive for foreign students and you must remember that you will need a study visa to attend.

There is a more or less free, state university; in fact, it is the oldest university in the Americas, the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD), with campuses throughout the country.

 Useful links:

Ministry of Education
Ministry of Higher Education Science and Technology: MESCYT
Altillo: list of public and private universities

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