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Puerto Rico - Teaching Profession

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferencePuerto Rico - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education


For most of the first half of the past century, public primary school teachers were trained at Normal Schools and/or in university-affiliated Schools of Education. The course lasted two years for students presenting a valid high school diploma, not counting such time as was required, particularly in the early days, for necessary remedial preparation. With the passage of time, teacher preparation came to stress pedagogical methodologies and supervised practice teaching; the two-year Normal School course was replaced by four year programs largely given over to education (pedagogy).

The public secondary-level teacher was required to offer a bachelor's degree (with a major and minor field of specialization, e.g., mathematics, science, Spanish, etc., in addition to a required number of education courses, plus experience in practice teaching). However, pedagogical matters were given ever increasing priority in teacher training, even on this more advanced level, to the detriment, say critics, of sufficient intellectual content. Defenders of this trend claimed that even in high school the teacher's main job was not to transfer knowledge to his or her pupils, but rather to supervise the pupils' independent ability to effectively seek out such knowledge when needed. The teacher's true specialty lay in teaching itself.

Graduate study in pedagogy eventually succeeded in shunting aside such study in the disciplines—history, languages, and the sciences—as were taught: an M.A. in Education earned its holder the same raise in salary and promotion as an M.A. in mathematics and was easier to obtain. According to statistics provided in López Yustos 1997, in 1987 a total of 2,364 accredited teachers possessed a two-year Normal School training, 29,724 held the B.A. or the B.A. with some post-graduate work, and 2,615 held the M.A.Ed. (no other M.A. category is provided, although 22 individuals in the system had earned a doctorate with the field unspecified).

The trends just described went hand in hand with the "professionalization" of teachers. A civics teacher became less and less a political scientist who taught; he or she was a teacher who happened to teach civics—like a lawyer who does tax law or a doctor who practices cardiology.

The 1999 law entitled La Carrera Magisterial (The Teaching Profession) appears to give legal status to these practices. Teachers are declared members of the carrera or profession when they obtain a "regular certificate in the category in which they exercise his/her profession" (Fajardo). There exist four ranks of teacher (seemingly modeled on the university instructor-assistant professor-associate professor-professor track). Rules for certification are not spelled out in this law, but previous laws, presumably still in effect in 1999, required for elementary school teaching a Normal School or two year university Associate of Arts diploma in Education and a four year B.A. for secondary school teachers, with a major in the area to be taught plus a set of required courses in pedagogy. In addition to these requirements, the Organic Law of 1990 formalized a new requirement that each teacher candidate take a Certification Examination that included: (1) a test of "Fundamental Knowledge and Communication Skills" and (2) a Test of Professional Competency. However, those desiring to teach Spanish, English, or Mathematics are required also to take a test in their respective [academic] specialties (López Yustos). The Carrera Magisterial law awards life-long tenure to teachers; it also sets up a clear, though somewhat complex formula for the virtually automatic determination of teacher's salaries.

Many teachers belong to one or the other of two organizations, the older Asociciación de Maestros de Puerto Rico (founded in 1911, affiliated with the National Education Association of the United States) and or the Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico (established as an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers AFL/CIO during the 1960s). The orientation of the first of these organizations is "professional;" that of the second lies mainly with matters of salaries and work conditions.

On the public university level, matters are simpler. As a rule, graduate degrees are a requisite to appointment, and the percentage of faculty holding the doctorate—Pd.D. or foreign equivalent—continues to rise. This is especially true of the University of Puerto Rico and substantially less so of the private universities (where salary levels are considerably lower). Faculty recruitment has encountered new difficulties, particularly in areas (e.g., engineering fields, computer technology) with a strong demand in private industry. Although on the whole Puerto Ricans prefer living at home in their own land, there does exist a notable "brain drain," especially to the United States.

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