Dominican Republic needs quality education
Published: Monday, January 30, 2012
Updated: Monday, January 30, 2012 14:01
Public education in the Dominican Republic is in critical condition, threatening the wellbeing of the nation.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Forum, international organizations that assess the quality of education, released information in 2010 ranking the Dominican Republic's primary education as the worst of the Central American and Caribbean region.
The national budget that was approved in 2012 did not meet the allocation of 4 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as established by the general education Law 66-97, which assigns 4 percent of the GDP to be expend on public education.
Students and civic groups continue their protests, calling for a second national demonstration within next four months.
For another year in Dominican Republic, both president and Congress continue to ignore the demands of the people who voted to represent their interest and the laws they have to enforce.
In the midst of all this, people feel more affronted when President Fernandez argues, "the education problem in the country is not just a matter of resources."
The President and Congress deny access to a quality public education for millions of children. No country under these circumstances should call itself a democracy.
A French economist, Jaques Attali, in a report for the International Commission of Strategic Development for the Dominican Republic, stated that even though the country has a competent rate of enrollment the results of the school system classify the country among the least efficient of the region.
Jaques Attali identifies three main reasons for these results. First, public expenditure for education is much smaller when compared to that of other countries in Latin America.
It is 2 percent of the GDP, compared to 4 percent average in the region. There are not enough infrastructures to provide access for all children. As a result, students only receive about two hours of education a day in overcrowded classrooms.
Second, the low educational level of teacher does not allow them to attain higher results for their students.
According to the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations' organization that connects countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help development, by 2006, only 56.9 percent of the professors had levels equivalent to bachelor's degree and less than 5 percent accomplished the official scholar curriculum.
The state does not place public education among the top priorities. The Dominican American Chamber of Commerce reports that more than two-thirds of expenditures in education are covered by the families through monthly tuition payments in private schools.
Those who cannot afford private school might not graduate from high school since only 48 percent of the matriculated students get a high school diploma.
This report shows that many people are not given the opportunity to prepare for a decent job and improve their lives.
President Fernandez declared, "before investing the 4 percent in education, we need answers: how, what and for which reason are we educating."
Sadly, current and past administrations already should have answered these questions.
Perhaps the students from a community called "Brisas Del Este" can provide a hint of how provision of resources can drastically affect many students' education.
Every day for the last seven years, hundreds of children had gotten up early to go to classes in a back yard under trees. Finally, last September, they inaugurated the school year in a new facility with five classrooms.
Now, students are not interrupted by the inclement weather nor have to take classes in crowded classroom.
They will have the opportunity to finish this school year successfully. The Coalición Educación Digna, the education coalition composed of more than 200 civic organizations and activists, led their demand for a quality and dignified education experience.
They have demanded 5 percent of the GDP for education since 2008.
In their 2011 proposal, they suggest reducing public expenditure and high salaries of public officials to allocate the funding to ameliorate this situation.
Education is the most critical issue facing the Dominican Republic today.
The economy in the country is growing at a positive pace and proving to be sustainable, but a competitive market economy without proper investment in human capital development will be difficult to maintain. The government must take leadership to establish quality education.
With momentum in place, the Dominican Republic government is in unique position to take tangible steps and provide a better future for the country