Education in Dominican Republic
Girls’ education in the Dominican Republic is faced with many challenges. The Dominican Republic has one of the highest rates of adolescent pregnancy in Latin America. For every 1,000 pregnancies, 90 are by teenage girls. Twenty-five percent of female teens in the Dominican Republic are likely to become pregnant. Regionally, only Nicaragua at 28 percent and Honduras at 26 percent have higher rates of teen pregnancy.

Healthwise, younger women may not be physically developed enough for the stress the body endures during pregnancy and birth. Socially, teens are typically not mature enough to handle the stresses and responsibilities of becoming a parent. According to many studies, teen brains are just not grown up yet.

Furthermore, teen pregnancies compromise education and lead to higher rates of dropping out of school. Financially, teens are usually unable to provide much or anything for their family, possibly creating or extending a vicious cycle of poverty for themselves and their children.

Many organizations recognize the complex issue of adolescent pregnancies and are taking steps to help empower women through education, vocational training and proper medical care and treatment for women/girls and child. Here are just four among them:

  1. The Mariposa DR Foundation: This organization’s top priority is girls’ education in the Dominican Republic. It seeks to minimize the gender gap and generational poverty through the education and empowerment of young girls. The organization assists in funding the education, health and empowerment of a girl, as “she will reinvest 90 percent of her income back into her family and her community, making her the most influential figure in today’s world.”
  2. Sister Island Project: This organization’s mission is to foster “community empowerment, cultural exchange, diversity and equity awareness,” particularly in the Dominican Republic. The Sister Island Project has also built houses for community members, given scholarships to university students, coordinated micro-enterprise projects and distributed many donations.
  3. The DREAM Project: This organization was founded to make up for the lack of resources in Dominican Republic schools. The organization supports quality education for more than 7,500 children with 14 programs implemented across 27 communities in the nation.
  4. World Bank Dominican Republic Youth Development Program: Its mission is to “[improve] the employability of poor, at-risk youth by building their work experience and life skills and expanding second chance education programs to complete their formal education.”

World Bank senior director for education Jaime Saavedra says that “the Dominican Republic is facing a great opportunity to improve the education system and tackle the challenge of the global learning crisis. Improving the quality of education is a fundamental condition for expanding opportunities for all.” The World Bank currently supports the education sector in the Dominican Republic with a total investment of $49.9 million.

Over the years, the Dominican Republic has been a great trading partner for the United States. It supplies the country with medical appliances, electric components, textiles, minerals, tobacco and produce. Many U.S. citizens are also retiring there now. The country as a whole has seen economic improvements but is still facing many educational and economic pitfalls.

Girls’ education in the Dominican Republic is of great importance to each of these organizations. Their work and the work of others like them is providing the country with a much-needed boost and giving girls a much greater chance of success.

– Jonathan Jimenez
Photo: Flickr

Education in the Dominican Republic
Although the Dominican Republic has been known to have one of the most underperforming education systems in the world, efforts are being made to improve education in the Dominican Republic.

Education in the Caribbean nation is split into three stages: preschool, primary school and secondary school. Preschool, or nivel inicial (initial level), includes children from ages 3 to 6. Only the last year of preschool is compulsory. Primary school, or nivel básico, is compulsory for children aged 6 to 14 but is not strictly enforced.

Secondary school, or nivel medio, for students 14 to 18 is not compulsory. Students are awarded a bachillerato, or high school diploma, after completion and may go on to university.

Some of the issues facing education in the Dominican Republic include overcrowded classrooms, poor-quality facilities and outdated curriculums. Dominican law mandates that four percent of the GDP must be spent on education, but only about two percent of the GDP is invested in education in the Dominican Republic.

Teachers are paid so little that instructors cannot earn a living to support themselves or their families. This makes teaching an unpopular vocation in the Dominican Republic, resulting in very high student to teacher ratios in classrooms. Students don’t get the individual attention they need, and a large number of teachers have not fully mastered the material they teach.

About 40 percent of students drop out of school before eighth grade. One in four girls drops out of school due to pregnancy. While the literacy rate of the Dominican Republic is about 92 percent, studies have found that students who complete high school enter university at a sixth-grade reading level.

After teachers campaigned across the country to make education reform a national focus, all candidates running for president in 2012 promised to double the education budget if elected. President Danilo Medina and his administration have made efforts to improve education in the Dominican Republic since then, including building more schools and increasing the school day from five hours to eight hours.

However, these reforms are not fully effective without adequate teacher training and increased teacher salaries. There is still a shortage of teachers for schools that already exist in the Dominican Republic, and children only learn for a small fraction of the time they are in school. Students end up sleeping or talking to peers instead of studying, and some teachers do not know what to do with the extra classroom time.

These reforms are beginning to occur, with World Bank announcing in September of 2015 that the global financial institution will invest $50 million over five years to assist the Dominican Republic government’s education reforms. The loan will be used to train teachers and assess student learning in primary and secondary schools. The funds will also be used to improve preschools in order to increase school readiness, decentralize management of public schools and promote community involvement in education.

Cassie Lipp

Photo: Flickr