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Educational System—overview

In the past decade, school schedules have not been uniform because of the addition of privately run schools modeled on American and other systems and the need for schools to adapt to the recent suburban phenomenon. Also, the increase of the school-age population and the lack of personnel, facilities, and equipment have prompted the schools to switch from a full six-hour day to a half-day of four hours. This strategy enabled the schools to serve two groups of pupils a day.

In general, the academic year begins in October and ends in July. With two vacations at Christmas and Easter, the number of hours in the school year is considerably reduced. Those parents who can afford it pay for private lessons in subjects where their children show the greatest need. Competent teachers who are poorly remunerated depend on tutoring to make ends meet and sometimes earn more this way than by regular means. In the more traditional schools, children are admitted at age six and are expected to complete the primary cycle in six years.

Secondary school takes six more years that lead to the first part of the baccalauréat (equivalent of the high school diploma), followed by one more year of study leading to the second part. This system, which is based on the Napoleonic Code, was imported in Haiti by the Concordat and was never reviewed since, even though the French themselves have given it up in the rise of the student protests of May 1968. French remains the language of instruction in the private schools, but Creole and French are used in the public schools.

Students are subject to three sets of trimestrial examinations a year, plus finals in July. The grading system on 10 points is rigid. A grade average of 5 points is required to pass a class. In general, schools are not technologically-equipped. Mediated facilities do exist, however, in a few business and professional schools. Textbooks have always been a concern. Mostly imported, they are often in short supply and their price, like all imported products, can be prohibitive for families who must strive to put food on the table. Many children go to school without books. In addition, the books are not adapted to the Haitian environment. The Haitian system of education is heavily influenced by its French counterpart.

The efforts of Haitian governments to educate their people may seem sincere but, so far, they have not yielded remarkable results. A serious reform is in order that will treat education as a true instrument of progress and development. Education does not appear to be focused on the specific needs of the country. From the outset, the orientation taken by the administration of public education had nothing to do with the reality of Haiti except for the fact that it served the particular interest of an elite who sent their children to study in France and considered themselves French.

In talking about Haitian education, there has been a tendency to focus exclusively on the formal system of education designed for the urban elites who only represent a small minority of the Haitian community, while ignoring the fate of more than 80 percent of the population in the countryside. It is imperative to redefine the scope of Haitian education to rectify this error.

Additional topics

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