SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — New school facilities with air conditioning and freshly painted classrooms are popping up in the Dominican Republic according to DW, a publication that promotes exchange between different nations and cultures.
Teachers and students in the Dominican Republic, a country in the Caribbean, have demanded education reform for a long time. Recently, Katie Manning of DW reports that the government has taken an interest in rebuilding academic facilities and mandating longer school days. The president of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina, promised to spend 4 percent of the country’s GDP on education — a significant rise compared to previous years.
In the Dominican Republic, General Education Law 66/97, a law established by President Leonel Fernandez, mandates that the government spend 4 percent of the GDP on education. The government, however, did not comply with this law in recent years, previously spending only 2.2 percent. In 2011, teachers campaigned to increase government spending on education in the Dominican Republic. According to an Educational International article, the teachers banded together to endorse an increase in GDP spending on public education in the country. They demanded that the government spend the required 4 percent.
In 2013, teachers rallied for salary increases. Education International also reported on the salary conflict, stating, “The basic salary for teachers in the Dominican Republic is U.S. $219 per month. The cost of the basic monthly shopping basket, however, as defined by the Central Bank for the poorest in the country, is U.S. $292.68.” Despite the demonstrations, the Ministry of Education only increased teachers’ salaries by 20 percent.
Based on World Bank data, school enrollment rates have remained high in the Dominican Republic, recorded at 103 percent in 2012. The quality of education, however, has not improved in recent years, especially in rural parts of the country. According to UNICEF, some rural areas do not have school facilities and children in these areas struggle to attend school at far distances away from home. As a result, grade repetition and dropout rates are higher in these parts of the Dominican Republic.
Poor school conditions, a shortage of teachers and inadequate lesson material to fill the day also often resulted in students dropping out. Schools and teachers, however, have not had sufficient funds to improve academics in the past.
According to the DW article, the new funding will be distributed among the construction of new schools, the hiring of more teachers and the extension of school days. While the government has plans to build 28,000 new classrooms, the teachers’ demands still have not been met, leaving many new classrooms with dissatisfied teachers or no teachers at all. As a result, Dominicans worry that the funding will not be effective until the government meets teachers’ salary demands. Maribel Hernandez, a communications director for the Dominican Republic government, indicated that the hiring and training of new teachers comes after the opening of the new classrooms.
While the government’s promise to increase spending on education is only in its initial stages, the recent efforts to improve school conditions suggests that the promises may be sincere, and that education in the Dominican Republic will see long-awaited improvements.
– Jaclyn Ambrecht
Sources: Education International 1, Education International 2, DW, UNICEF, World Bank