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Dominican Republic - Consititutional & Legal Foundations

education law system educational


General Survey: Although there are a number of programs and rights granted in educational legislation, generally these rights are not enforced by the courts in the way that they are in countries such as the United States. This is largely because the Dominican legal system, which is based on the French Code, is not oriented to the enforcement of the "minor" rights of educational entitlement.

Until shortly after independence in 1865, education in the Dominican Republic was not legally regulated, and most schools were run by Catholic groups. In 1857, the national budget provided for no more than five schools for the entire country. In 1884, Puerto Rican political activist and educator Eugenio Ma. de Hostos enacted the first educational law, making local authorities responsible for providing and financing primary schools and the newly created normal schools, but entrusting the central government with secondary education.

The real base for the educational system was created in 1918 as a direct result of the American occupation, with orden ejecutiva 145 (executive order 145), which reformed the existing system along American lines. Though widely condemned at the time as anti-Dominican in intent, this system was further developed by the Trujillo dictatorship (1930-1961) with law 418, the General Law of Education (1938), and the Organic Law of Education (law 2909; 1951).

The reforms of middle secondary school (educacion media) in 1967 were created by Resolucion 56-66, for the development of the Liceo Laboral (Labor High Schools) and the Laboral Especializado (Specialized Labor High Schools), training schools for work in industry that put special emphasis on the training of women.

Another reform measure for high school level development, Ordenanza 2-69 (Ordinance 2-69), emphasized a humanistic view of individual development and treated those aspects relating to technical and labor development as the means by which the individual could contribute to society. The goals of higher education were also based on integral humanistic development, where those who wished to retrain for a second career could acquire a technical degree and as such create the means by which they could be gainfully employed while furthering their education. These schools were termed Liceos Diversificados.

Institutions of higher education are established by law and their right to award degrees is sanctioned by the government. The Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo (UASD), the only public university in the Dominican Republic, was granted autonomous status and continuous state support in Law 5778 (1962). All private institutions of higher education are regulated by Law 236 (1967), which regulates both their structure and their right to award degrees.

In 1970, the objectives of the Ciclo Comun in middle school education emphasized human development as a goal for the first time. Within the reforms initiated by UNESCO in 1973 were two main efforts: the creation of a network of integrated centers of educational development with the goal of answering to the needs of both school-age and adult education, and technical schools dedicated to training individuals in rural education and agricultural work and health services. Literacy and vocational education scheduled at night for adults began in 1968, and the use of a radio-based program of primary school classes for campesinos began in 1974.


The 10-Year Plan: Between 1988 and 1990, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and UNESCO, working in tandem, began to quietly reinvest in Dominican education. As early as 1985, UNESCO began the formulation of what was to be the Plan Decenal (10-year plan), fostering interest among leaders of the education and business sectors in participating in an overall restructuring of the Dominican educational system. It took some five years from the first legal documents created in 1992 until the final version of the General Law of Education 66/97 was approved in 1997 for the different elements of the Plan Decenal to begin fully functioning. The more important acts are as follows:

  • Ordenanzas 1'92, 2'92 established the legal base for the Pruebas Nacionales, the national standardized tests administered at the end of 4th, 8th, and 12th grades.
  • Ordenanza 1'95 established the curricula for the Initial, Basic, and Middle schools and also for special and adult education.
  • Ordenanza 1'96 established the evaluation model for all academic levels.

The combined law 66/97 integrates all other acts and gives the final version of the general law of education, the organization of its administration, and the relationship of all parts to the whole. Major foundations of the law are:

  • that the universal right to education is "appropriate and free of cost, including those who are gifted, physically impaired, learning disabled and who, as such, must receive special education" (II.4.m);
  • that nutrition and health in general are determining primary factors in scholastic achievement (II.4.ll); and
  • that the goal of Dominican education is to form "people, men, and women, free-thinking, critical, and creative, able to participate in and construct a free society... that they can combine profitable work, community service, and humanistic, scientific, and technological training... to contribute to both national growth and their own personal development" (II.5.a).

The 12 major articles of the law address the principles and objectives of the Dominican educational system; the structuring of the educational system into preschool (inicial), basic, middle (medio), and higher (superior) education; safeguards for quality within the system; the executive structuring of the educational system; the decentralization of the educational system and the rights and responsibilities of the regions, districts, and local centers; professional requirements for teachers and academic staff and their training, rights, and duties; the social benefits due to teachers, including insurance, pensions, and retirement; student welfare; participation within the educational system; the financing of education; the accreditation of studies; and those bodies responsible for the carrying out of the provisions of the educational law and concerning equity within the system.


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