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For 200 years, the Haitian system of education has been a failure because it neglected the people it was intended to serve. Instead, it favored an influential minority who identified more with France than with Haiti; it was used as an instrument by politicians and the ruling class to maintain power and privileges at the expense of monolingual Creole speakers. In colonial times, Haitians were stripped of their African identity and were taught in the most violent way to define themselves as sub-products of French culture and society.

Even after independence, the only model Haitians had to start building their new nation was the French model. Even though the majority could hardly speak French, and even though Dessalines and Toussaint Louverture addressed their troops in Creole, the only language Haitians had when talking to the world or negotiating formal situations was French. Creole had not gained the status it enjoys today; those who spoke it were not inclined to use it any other way but informally. Furthermore, Creole had become an object of degradation in the eyes of most Haitians. Later in history, French became an instrument of oppression sustained by the educational system. Citizens had no choice but to play the game. Families that wanted their children to succeed in life sent them to school so they could learn French and other subjects in French, but the children failed because to succeed in the schools they had to be fluent in French. Since most of them spoke no other language than Creole, the system of education sacrificed thousands of them for two centuries.

The tragedy of the Haitian system of education is due for the most part to the linguistic dichotomy that characterizes Haiti. Because the declarations of principles to compulsory education failed to address the language issue, they amount to no more than an exercise in futility. Not until the 1980s were solid measures initiated and supported by the government. In fact, a whole reform was launched in education at that point. It featured education in Creole, a more effective rural school system, a more effective basic education system, better teacher training, a literacy program, the creation of an inspection and supervision agency, rational timetables, and experimentation to test the new ideas. Although the world of education was elated to hear the announcement of these long-overdue reforms in 2001, one still does not see any real change. The Livre ouvert sur le développement endogène d'Haïti, a collective work of analysis that tries to tackle the country's problems for ordinary citizens, mentions, among other disappointing statistics in education, the continuing high attrition rate, the extremely high rate of failure in the baccalauréat, and the extremely high illiteracy rate.


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Vernet, Pierre. "Quelques Réflexions Méthodologiques sur l'enseignement du Français en Haïti." In Conjonction: Revue Franco-Haïtienne, No. 168.

Weinstein, Brian, and Aaron Segal. Haiti: Political Failures, Cultural Successes. Stanford, CA, 1984.

—Jean-Marie Salien

Additional topics

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