|Official Country Name:||Puerto Rico|
|Region:||Puerto Rico & Lesser Antilles|
|Compulsory Schooling:||10 years|
|Educational Enrollment:||Primary: 385,903|
|Educational Enrollment Rate:||Higher: 42%|
|Student-Teacher Ratio:||Primary: 22:1|
History & Background
Puerto Rico is the smallest of the three islands, including also Santo Domingo and Cuba, that make up the Caribbean chain known as the Greater Antilles. The first governor, Ponce de León, set a pattern of common interests for Spain and Puerto Rico, but later this commonality of interests ceased to be, and the Spanish captains-general who held all authority on the island came to represent a Spain that became increasingly foreign to the inhabitants of Puerto Rico. The island consequently was transformed into a colony much as the American colonies would have been had there not been an American Revolution. After the euphoria felt by Puerto Ricans at their "liberation" by the United States in 1898 and with appointment of an American civil governor at the end of the military régime, it became clear that Puerto Rico, a Spanish-speaking tropical island possessed of four centuries of recorded history, and in virtually all respects culturally different from its new masters, was being ruled by Washington in a manner not so very different from that practiced by the former Spanish authority. If anything, the change in régime reinforced Puerto Rico's colonial status. The American governors were instructed to charge Puerto Ricans with the task of convincing Congress that they deserved to run their own affairs. They succeeded at this, at least for a while, and it was the main source of their very concentrated power. Meanwhile, Puerto Rican politicians and statesmen not only had to satisfy their constituents at home—or at least keep them tranquil—they also had to gain the approval of their American governors. With the advent of the Commonwealth (Estado Libre Asociado ) in 1952, it was no longer a matter of "political maturity," but also one of money. Puerto Rico was too poor to survive as a "real" country; it needed American help, and so, while the Commonwealth galvanized all its energies into industrialization schemes, banking, and more recently in high tech projects to prove the country's moneymaking capacities, the colony went on, and the extremely powerful governor was its most effective agent.
It has been said that when the colonial metropolis sneezes the colony catches pneumonia. Such was certainly the case with both Cuba and Puerto Rico. For these two islands, the illnesses visited upon them by the turmoil in nineteenth century Spain resulted in general paralysis. Nowhere was this paralysis more endemic than in the area of education. Plans for much-needed educational reform agreed to by a few liberal Spanish governors were regularly undone by their traditionalist or reactionary successors. The captains-general governors throughout the century retained all real power. What was required of the island population and its élite was collaboration. While some Puerto Ricans took another course of action, such as living in exile, the island leaders, like Muñoz Rivera and other autonomistas, who remained felt constrained to negotiate within the colonial parameters set by Spain. Formed in the Spanish mold, these same men negotiated in a similar way with the American conqueror—first with the American military commander and then with his civilian successor, the governor dispatched from Washington. The basic and essential colonial structure was maintained and solidified with the help of the President, the Congress, and the U.S.
To attempt briefly to analyze Spanish educational policy in Puerto Rico during the nineteenth century would be an exercise in futility. Let us refer to the Report written by the Secretary of the Insular Board of Education, Enrique C. Hernández in 1899 and presented on 2 January 1900 to his superior, the American President of the Insular Board of Education, Dr. Victor S. Clark. Until 1850, Hernández states:
Public education was practically left to private initiative. . .[and] primary education was confided to those whose education and training left much to desire, and. . .this was supplemented only by an exceedingly scanty secondary instruction given by the teachers employed by the Economic Society and the few private schools and academies that then existed.
The Jesuits came and went; more or less durable, private, essentially Puerto Rican initiatives were taken and lasted for (usually) rather short periods of time. Perhaps the most significant of these was the Civil Institute of Higher Studies, founded in 1882 and opened in 1883. In 1883-84 a total of 172 resident pupils were enrolled in the Institute, 170 matriculated at private schools affiliated with the Institute, and 77 home tutored students were not resident at any school, for a total of 419. The official plan of study included Spanish, Latin, the geography of Spain, universal history, and elements of physiology and hygiene, as well as elements of agriculture, French or English, and religion and moral instruction. A parallel, but quite short-lived, professional school for the preparation of surveyors, builders, commercial and industrial agents, and engineers was also established with very strict standards of admission, which probably contributed to its rapid demise. Similar difficulties also attended the opening of a trade school in 1886 that was designed to furnish an opportunity to workmen and others to acquire a broader knowledge of their particular arts and trades. Diverse religious institutions were allied in one way or another with the Secondary Institute (e.g., the Mothers of the Sacred Heart, for girls—now the coeducational Universidad del Sagrado Corazón, in Santurce; the Central Academy, El Estudio and the College of the Paulist Fathers, in Ponce; the Lyceum, in Mayagüez, as well as the Lyceum in Guayama). All of these institutions received some taxbased financial support. After renewed petitions to found a university in Puerto Rico were turned down by the Spanish government, the Society for the Protection of Intelligence was founded by Laurano Vargas. It still existed in 1900, and its object was to provide funds for study abroad to talented, but needy youths. At the initiative of the Ateneo de Puerto Rico, the colonial régime authorized the founding of an Institute of Higher Studies linked to the University of Havana in 1888 that lasted only a few years. Its most notable achievement was the establishment of a scientifically-based course for midwives. Finally, a school of Enseñanza Popular (People' Teaching) was established in 1896 for the education of workmen; subjects taught included reading and writing, the history of Spain, political economy, the geography of Puerto Rico, popular law, and ethics. About 100 workmen attended the lectures and workshops of this school; it disappeared after the United States conquest and occupation. Hernández made the following comments:
So it resulted that in the principal towns (by the time the régime changed) the culture of the Porto [sic] Rican students was much superior to that of the Spaniards, as is evidenced upon mere cursory examination of the periodicals and publications of the time. This naturally was not the case in the smaller towns, especially in the country, where the inhabitants were under the complete domination of their masters, without other means of defense than their innate intelligence and wit, sharpened in the struggle to evade laws they believed oppressive and to escape obligations that they believed unjust, and when their natural acuteness was not sufficient to effect this they took refuge in a passive resistance against which all the efforts of the Government were fruitless.
Thus, at the time of the American takeover, the bankruptcy of the Spanish ancien régime in matters of education was complete, and the initiative had passed into the hands of a rather disparate Puerto Rican leadership. Secondly, faute de mieux, stress was placed less on elementary or primary education than on the more advanced levels (although the 1880-98 period saw the establishment of two Normal Schools designed to train elementary teachers). Finally, a rather traditional, humanistically oriented program of study remained at the core of secondary study, complemented by a set of complementary practical courses, such as ship navigation, agronomy, pharmacy, and midwifery.
At the close of the school year 1898-99, less than a year after the American arrival, the wretched conditions of public education in terms of the children served are evident in the following numbers given in Dr. Clark's above-cited Report. Out of a total island population of 857,660, some 203,373 boys and girls constituted the school age cohort. Of these students, 14,720 boys and 7,153 girls were actually in attendance at the schools that existed at the time—a bit over 10 percent.
It is erroneous to believe, however, that a pupil enrolled in September stayed in the course throughout the school year. Some dropped out; others came in late to take their place. As best as could be determined for the island's schools in 1907 some 65,436 pupils were enrolled. However, of these only about 35,000 received a full year's instruction. Thus, despite much school reform and rhetoric, great expenditures of money, and an extraordinary amount of planning (including passing laws that declared school attendance obligatory), in the decade following 1886, school attendance increased a little over 50 percent. One is led to speculate that mass schooling had not yet entirely entered into the Puerto Rican cultural mentality or perhaps that the population, recalcitrant to government-inspired initiatives, failed to see the advantages in having their children taught in the schools.
The decades following the Congressional passage of the Jones Act in 1917—the Act that replaced the first Organic Act of Puerto Rico, known as the Foraker Act (1900), that accorded United States citizenship to the residents of Puerto Rico—witnessed the further attempted implementation of what has been called the three educational objectives common to the entire sequence of powerful American Commissioners of Education on the island: "Americanization or de-Puertoricanization, physical extension of the school system, and the teaching of English" (Osuna). However, these goals were never attained. Many schools were built; however, the early experiment of bringing in American teachers to teach in them was a failure. It became necessary to train native Puerto Rican teachers and then to police their command of English through annual testing. The training was attempted through the creation of Normal Schools. One of these, first located in Fajardo and then in Río Piedras with a faculty imported from the United States, was joined to various other institutions and declared a university by law in 1903. However, it constituted little more than the nucleus for a new humanities and sciences-based University of Puerto Rico created over an initial period of five years (starting in 1924) by its American Chancellor, Thomas E. Benner. A tripartite primary-middle-high school model was transferred more or less as is to Puerto Rico and was expected to function as it did in much of the United States at the time, with pupils advancing year by year in the grades. It succeeded only partially.
Thus, despite the genuine enthusiasm felt by many Puerto Rican thinkers, economic and political leaders, and patriots for educational reform and progress, American efforts in these directions (or viewed as such by Americans) met with mixed success. Henry K. Carroll's assertion that the people of Puerto Rico "will learn the art of governing in the only possible way—by having their responsibilities [e.g., education] laid upon them" was systematically ignored. Indeed, the Foraker Act invested the entire responsibility for education on the United States-appointed Commissioner of Education whose "reports. . .[were] annually [to be] transmitted to Congress" (Section 18). Yet, already in 1899 General Miles had warned: "A careful and painstaking study of local conditions and laws, occupying many months at least, should. . .[precede] any attempt at legislation on a subject as important and difficult as that of public instruction of a million people of Spanish origin" (Negrón de Montilla).
Besides the traditional inertia of the upper socioeconomic classes with regard to the education of their laboring compatriots-Blacks, jíbaros, and factory workers (often women in the sewing industry), resistance to the United States's English-language policy in the schools (implemented at least temporarily in 1907) was rampant both among the teaching staffs and their pupils and would continue until well into the fourth and fifth decades of the century. By this time textbooks were almost all in English and even Spanish translations were culturally exotic to Puerto Rican children, e.g., white Christmases; light brown-haired Bill, blond Mary and their dog, Spot; the small-town American suburban house with its white picket fence; and the total absence of Blacks and dark-skinned people. Meanwhile directives from the Commissioner of Education continued to require school attendance on Epiphany, the Day of the Three Kings when Puerto Rican children traditionally received what is called in the United States their "Christmas presents." Also, the foisting on the school system by the last United States Commissioner of Education, Puerto Rican-born J.B. Huyke, of textbooks written by himself was seen as a public scandal, as was his consistent affirmation of the power invested in him by his office to choose whatever textbooks he wanted.
The end of the 1920s and start of the 1930s saw new perceptions and opinions voiced by a generation in the process of succeeding its fathers. The son of Muñoz Rivera, Luis Muñoz Marín was the most charismatic of these new voices. In March 1928 he wrote in The Literary Digest, "We demand a form of government that shall give us ample power to deal with our internal affairs, unhampered by documents and policies not made for Puerto Rico and not decently applicable to Puerto Rico" (Negrón de Montilla 1971). And, in The American Mercury (February 1929): "Two major problems perplex the old Spanish province of Porto Rico arising out of its enforced relationship to the United States. One deals with consequences of American economic development, the other with the cultural Americanization." In this same article Muñoz focuses on the students of the University of Puerto Rico, finding in them the effective means to face "the two instruments of Americanization, the bayonets of education and the contagion imminent in close commercial relationships, because they want Porto Rico to be Porto Rico and not a replica of Ohio [or] of Arizona." It should be noted that the University administration passed in 1926 from the control of the Puerto Rican legislature and the United States Commissioner of Education in Puerto Rico to a separate status entirely.
By the start of the 1930s, the three elements that would constitute the basis of Muñoz Marín's gradual assumption of power in Puerto Rico and that would be the raison d'être of his Partido Popular Democrático (founded in 1937) were already in place. These were (1) the affirmation of Puerto Rican identity and reaffirmation of its "true" culture, to be accomplished particularly by strengthening the position of Spanish; (2) the everincreasing participation of Puerto Ricans themselves in the economic life of the island, leading eventually to the creation of Operation Bootstrap and governmental planning agencies like Fomento; and (3) the integration of the dispossessed poor into full participation in the political, economic, and social life of the island.
These goals, it was felt, could be achieved only by education, led by higher education. The schools were the key; they would provide a necessary patriotic and hardworking technocracy armed with university and graduate degrees who would be beholden to Muñoz's party for their careers and the chance it gave them to know an upward social mobility unheard of before in Puerto Rico.
On 25 July 1952 the bill approving the new Puerto Rican Constitution was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. Henceforth the governor and legislature of Puerto Rico would be elected by the people resident on the island, and domestic affairs would largely pass into their control. However, Congress had retained the last word.
From 1940 to 1968, the reigning political party was the P.P.D. (the Populares ); it was during this 28 year period that Muñoz put into practice the ideas and principles summarized above. The modern Puerto Rican educational system can be understood only in terms of the Commonwealth objectives as these constitute a response to the complex set of events and factors in the historical background of Puerto Rico.
Constitutional & Legal Foundations
The United States Congress retains ultimate de jure responsibility and power to govern the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. By and large the rights of Congress in this regard have been regularly strengthened over the century by a series of judicial decisions and rulings. The Foraker (1900) and Jones (1917) Acts that constituted the organic Acts through which Congress decided to exercise this responsibility were radically superseded by the passage in 1952 of legislation that set up the present-day Commonwealth structure. Nevertheless, to give a specific example of Congressional power, although the proposed Puerto Rican Constitution contained an amendment requiring that students matriculate exclusively in the public schools (except when these were unavailable), Congress deleted this amendment thereby reaffirming the rights of private, even confessional-related, education on the island.
Specific and de facto control of education is now vested in the Commonwealth's governmental institutions. The Department of Education is a department of state; its head and the second-in-command are known as the secretary and undersecretary of education. They are political appointees named by the island's popularly elected governor and confirmed by the island senate. The Department's executive staff is assisted by such statutorily created councils as The Council of Higher Education and The General Council of Education. Their powers of oversight extend to the private sector as well as to the public one. Thus, the Council of Higher Education, originally founded in 1966 in order to govern the University of Puerto Rico received in 1976 the mandate to regulate (i.e., accredit and license) the growing number of private postsecondary institutions of learning. These two functions—the governance of the University of Puerto Rico and the oversight of private colleges and universities—were separated from one another by Law 17 (1993). The purposes this law laid out were, among others, the licensing and accrediting of private university institutions, as well as the protecting of private institutions from official interference threatening their academic freedom through the agency of a new Council of Higher Education. (Law 17 has no application to such institutions as award religious titles, i.e., seminaries and the like.) In connection with its mission, the Council, whose members are also political appointees, publishes a wide variety of statistics and other kinds of documentation. The Secretary of Education is an ex officio member of the Council. Among the Council's powers are included that of imposing fines, issuing cease and desist orders, appointing committees of experts, and supervising the awarding of student scholarships both Federal and local to name a few. Meanwhile the General Council of Education exercises supervision of public primary, middle, and higher secondary schools, as well as, to a degree, private schools (licensing and curriculum). Thus, its functions correspond to those described in the Organic Law (Law 68) of 1990.
Law 149 was passed in 1999 and is also known as the Organic Law of the Department of Public Education of Puerto Rico; it created the possibility of developing Las Escuelas de la Comunidad (Community or Charter schools). Law 158, known as the Ley de la Carrera Magisterial (The Teaching Profession), also came into being in 1999.
Federal, i.e., that of the United States, implication in the island educational system closely resembles that existing between the Federal Government and the states. To give two examples of this, support of veterans' postwar training/education (the GI Bill of Rights) applies fully in Puerto Rico and has done so since its passage after the Second World War, with very important repercussions in the "undereducated" island. Also, Pell Tuition Grants for college and university students whose families' income is low are available and much taken advantage of. Some 90 percent of the 8,000 students registered at the Universidad del Turabo receive Pell Grants. Puerto Rican scholars and research scientists are eligible to apply to various Federal agencies for research support; aid of this sort has been and continues to be essential. The same or even higher percentages apply throughout the system.
For children of elementary, middle, and high school age, Federal programs (e.g., Head Start) have been regularly made available to Puerto Rico. Federal Affirmative Action programs have also resulted in a significant increase in the attendance by Puerto Rican college students at institutions based in the United States, often with considerable financial help. Sons and daughters of the Puerto Rican socio-economic élite, trained in the exclusive private secondary schools of the island, have been especially quick to take advantage of these opportunities.
It must be emphasized, however, that unlike the situation prevailing in pre-1930 Puerto Rico, the United States government plays no ostensible role in determining Puerto Rican educational policy. However, among the numerous laws approved in Puerto Rico over the years in order to meet the challenges of changing conditions are to be found some that respond to Federal laws and educational regulations. Thus, the 1998 Federal Higher Education Act, seeking to better the quality of teaching in the United States, required (in Section 207) the states (and Puerto Rico) to submit a number of reports to the Department of Education, including a regular up to date annual report concerning mainly teacher training. The Puerto Rican Consejo de Educación Superior was charged with implementing these requirements imposed by the Higher Education Act. Similarly, Puerto Rican Law 138 (the Educational Opportunities Act), passed in 1999, created two new programs, Supplementary Educational Aid and Scholarship Aid, which replaced the former Educational Fund and the Legislative Scholarship Program. Henceforth scholarships would be made available solely to entering students who had just earned their high school diploma with at least a GPA of 3.0. The eligibility of students for both aid programs was to be determined according to the requirements established in the above-mentioned Higher Education Act. The money would henceforth be awarded to the institution attended by the grantee and be made available to the students by that institution. Some 165,000 checks were disbursed in this way during fiscal 1999-2000. Thirty-eight million dollars thus passed through 31 college/university-type institutions and 62 other postsecondary establishments. In 2000-01 some 95,000 students are expected to benefit from aid awards totaling $41,000,000.
The public pre-higher education system remains closely modeled on the American preprimary (when applicable), primary, middle, and higher secondary sequence. Higher education also follows the American model with undergraduate associate (two years of study) and bachelor's degrees of various sorts (awarded usually upon the student's successful completion of four years of prescribed study). Graduate research degrees include the M.A. and (more rarely) the Ph.D. The doctorate in Education (D.Ed.) is also awarded by the appropriate university School of Education. The professional post-graduate schools (law, medicine, etc.) have their own degrees comparable to the American J.D., M.D., and M.B.A.. Schooling is legally compulsory for children throughout the island for least for ages 5 through 16, although enforcement is spotty.
In addition, a substantial number of public and private educational/technical programs are aimed at adult audiences. These programs range from basic classes in reading, writing, and the English language to undergraduate and post-graduate university programs. More specialized private postsecondary schools in a wide diversity of fields—secretarial schools, computer use, tourism, TV repair, and business (to name but a few)—have proliferated throughout the island. These institutions vary immensely in quality.
Except for classes in English language, the language of instruction in all primary through secondary schools is Spanish; at the university level, both English and Spanish are used (depending on the subject matter and instructor). Public pre-university textbooks are in Spanish (except for English classes); at the university, they may be in either Spanish or English.
Access to information technology (IT) and other resources is fairly limited in most primary and secondary schools and districts. The availability of computer clusters, work stations, and web-access for students of the humanities even at the University of Puerto Rico is exiguous. Students of science, business, or engineering are much better off. For example, the School of Science at the private Universidad del Turabo requires of its general science majors a course labeled "Scientific Computer Programming" (devoted largely to BASIC), as it also does of its applied mathematics, biology, and chemistry majors. Turabo, however, has no major in computer science. A substantial number of non-public educational facilities at the secondary and college-age level that specialize in practical IT training are located in the larger towns and cities; these are well-subscribed because they lead to positions in enterprises and the government that depend on computer literacy.
Given the highly centralized nature of public education at the pre-university level in Puerto Rico, curriculum development has traditionally taken place under the close supervision of the Commonwealth Department of Education. The University of Puerto Rico's College of Education has exercised much influence in this area. Over the years centralized curricular planning has tended to apply to Puerto Rico various trends in vogue in the United States. The long-standing Commonwealth political emphasis on economic planning has also played an important role in determining what subjects deserve increased funding, with technology and now globalization viewed as the key to progress. Indeed, at present, the Department of Education is in the process of setting up administrative means for the incorporation of private business and banking's informed input in regard to the most promising present and future areas of employment.
Since past economic planning has not invariably produced the desired results, skepticism with regard to so exclusive a reliance on educational centralization made significant inroads during the 1990s and more recently. New initiatives have surfaced. The Universidad del Turabo has made a policy decision to open up areas of close collaboration with the municipalities close to it, mainly the towns of Cages and Kurabo. Recently an imposing sports complex, including a modern stadium, has been built on its campus with funding of its own, contributions from the surrounding municipalities, and from the Commonwealth. This complex is shared by the university and nearby towns. On a different note, the predominantly Catholic Universidad del Sagrado Corazón (in Santurce) with funding and other support from the Ford Foundation, ASPIRA of Puerto Rico, the College Board of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Community Foundation, and the Department of Education created the San Juan Metropolitan Alliance for Education. It works with the municipality of Cattalo, an impoverished town across the bay from San Juan, to effectively improve the primary, middle, and secondary schools of that town.
Finally, public education has been undergoing a series of grave crises. From 1940 until 1968 Puerto Rico was a one party state led by a single all powerful leader. Such a political structure tends to render genuine debate quite difficult. Consequently, in the absence of effective open discussion on the goals of public education, the early Commonwealth failed to develop in the nation an underlying consensus concerning the purposes of mass public education. Consequently, when governing power changed hands from the P.P.D. to the New Progressive Party in 1968, the sort of long range planning possible within the one party political context no longer was possible. The new party in power did what it could to undo what its defeated rivals had put in place.
Preprimary & Primary Education
Apart from kindergarten with which children age five normally begin their primary education, the public school system does not as of yet universally provide preschools or nursery schools. Parents desiring to place their three and four year olds in such classes must have recourse to private facilities. The K-12 system characteristic of the United States is used for Puerto Rican preprimary, primary, and secondary education; it corresponds (ideally) to the age cohort of the pupil. No private nursery or preschooling enrollment figures have been found. Schools are coeducational, and, as said earlier, attendance is in theory compulsory by law. A single curriculum has been designed to be universally applied throughout the ten regional areas of Puerto Rico. Facilities for special education have been made available throughout the island's schools. Great efforts have also been made to provide cost free textbooks and other learning materials.
Public Primary Education: Virtually all public school facilities throughout the island identify primary education with the seven year K-6 grade sequence. First grade constitutes the initial year of proper schooling. Grades one through three constitute the first primary level, and grades four through six make up the second level.
All instruction is in Spanish with English introduced (usually in the second year) as a required foreign language. The subjects emphasized on Level I are basic reading, writing, and arithmetic with some exploration of English; drawing and a very elementary introduction to computing are also required. The visual arts and dance are introduced, along with basic hygiene, physical education, and music. Level II builds on the knowledge acquired; for example, there are more advanced mathematics that include elements of geometry within the context of measurements, the metric system, calculation, etc. The social sciences (history and civics) are introduced, as well as beginnings in science and technology (food chains, the physical properties of objects, health, plant structures, weather and climate, the atmosphere, etc.). The history of Puerto Rico is emphasized. Spanish grammar is taught "functionally," i.e., not in isolation but in connection with texts and writing. The Fine Arts, such as the visual arts, dance, theater, and music, are continued.
In 1993 Charter Schools (Escuelas de la Comunidad ) were initiated. In principle the entire school system will eventually be converted to a variant of this system.
Public primary schools generally occupy buildings of their own, but this is not always the case in poorer, remote districts. Thus, the small community of Culebra, for example, crowds primary, middle, and upper secondary schooling into a single dilapidated building where the youngest children find themselves ignored by the older ones (El Nuevo Día, 12 February 2001). According to an English teacher there, whose real specialty is accounting and computer technology, material resources are very scarce and/or difficult to come by. The sole special education teacher takes care of 28 pupils at all age levels. The hygiene and health teacher has no classroom, yet she is required by law to teach kindergarten, third, eighth, ninth and tenth grade pupils; she does so beneath a staircase and wherever she can improvise a space. There are no laboratory facilities for science classes (middle and high school levels). The school has received no computers whatsoever from the Department of Education; 15 older models were made available by a private business for graduating seniors so that they might have at least some exposure to computing. Alienated, unhappy, and bored, Culebra's school population has a significant dropout rate, and, in part because all pupils are thrown together, the understandable cynicism of the older pupils exerts a powerful influence on the younger, primary level group.
About 86 percent of Puerto Rican public school pupils are from families whose incomes fall beneath the poverty level. Some 75 percent of the inhabitants of Adjuntas, Jayuya, and Utuado (small towns in the island's mountainous interior) live beneath the poverty level. It is in such towns that the illiteracy rate is highest. Thus, the child begins his or her schooling under unfavorable conditions.
Very shortly after the story of Culebra's single school broke in El Nuevo Día, the Governor of Puerto Rico, Sila M. Calderón, announced an emergency plan to immediately begin the much needed repair and remodeling of some 1,000 school buildings in the island (there are a total of 1,600 such buildings in Puerto Rico). It is hoped that this work, costing about $82 million, will be concluded by August 2001, in time for school reopenings. Finally, the sum of $105 million has been set aside for the acquisition of computers to be placed in the schools.
The Department of Education is also preparing to undertake a thorough study in order to determine what the island's illiteracy rate truly is and the socio-geographic features that characterize the places where this rate is particularly high. According to the 1990 census figures, out of a total population 10 or more years old of 2,904,455 residents, 307,915 did not know how to read or write.
Enrollment figures officially given by the Department of Education for the public primary schools of Puerto Rico during the academic year 1997-98, which are the latest available, were 360,700 (188,794 males and 171,906 females).
The middle or intermediate school corresponds to the seventh, eighth and ninth grades and, ideally, to pupils aged 12 through 14 or 15. Intermediate school enrollments during 1997-98 school year were 149,863 (77,506 males and 72,357 females). Given its adolescent clientele, the middle school is properly considered as forming part of the secondary education sector. No sharp curricular break occurs between the primary and the middle school, nor does one prevail between the middle and the senior high school, but the pupil's needs and interests reflect his and her growing maturation to adulthood. The task of the school is to respond adequately to these important mental, physical, social, and emotional changes. Thus, in both Spanish and English, the pupil is taught actively to write, think, do an initial draft, revise, correct, and "publish" his or her work. Reading requires analysis and evaluation. Mathematics became more content-oriented, involving (with geometry and algebra) matters of relation or pre-algebra. Elementary algebra, advanced geometry, and intermediate algebra constitute the sequence followed. Science introduces the pupil to the basic principles of biology, physics, chemistry, and the earth sciences. In the social sciences, emphasis is placed on the human being and his historical effort. The subjects taught are the history of Puerto Rico, Latin America, and the world. The fine arts, health, and physical education complete the intermediate cycle.
Efforts are made to provide adequate individual and group counseling, especially to forestall the dropouts that tend to begin at the middle school age. Problems of motivation are severe. Also, it must be said that social issues—delinquency and narcotics—increase in severity at the middle school level and ought to be better dealt with.
Senior high school enrollments in the 1997-98 year totaled 119,428 (57,141 males and 62,287 females). This enrollment number shows a substantial dwindling from a primary school high to a high school low. Also, whereas boys outnumber girls in the primary and middle schools, the reverse is true in the senior high schools. It is at this level that dropout rates increase radically. Whereas, according to statistics released by the Department of Education, in 1997-98 there were some 52,606 pupils enrolled in first grade, only 33,099 were counted in twelth grade that year, a drop of about two-fifths. Causes identified for this high dropout rate range from pregnancy and marriage to getting a job, from academic failure to disciplinary problems. The statistics don't mention cultural and/or family reasons or boredom and peer pressure.
The goals of the tenth to twelfth grade curriculum have been summarized as follows by the Department of Education guidelines: to promote the transition from concrete to abstract thought; to encourage the transformation from individualism and competitiveness to social cooperation; to facilitate the transition of study competence to work competence; to help the pupil go from reliance on memorization to applying what he or she knows in the real world; and to teach the art of "self-apprenticeship." Thus the young man or woman will think critically, be able to make proper decisions, use technology, evaluate and judge, be responsible, and possess a worthy scale of personal and social values. At the same time, the high school diploma means adequate communicative skills; a high level of expression in both Spanish and English; a capacity for creative work; a conceptual mastery of diverse areas of knowledge; and a sense of self-esteem.
The program requires three credit years of Spanish, English, mathematics (including computer science), social studies, and science; 1 credit year of visual arts, dance, music and theater each; one semester (one-half credit) of health (including sexual education); and three years of physical education with the possibility of participating in intramural and extramural sports.
Finally, Puerto Rico maintains 24 selective specialized high schools: 2 in science and mathematics; 11 in fine arts; 1 in sports; 1 in radio and TV; 6 bilingual; 1 pretechnical; and 2 in talent development.
Private Primary & Secondary Education: The history of bitterness and systemic political antagonism between the private (largely Roman Catholic) and public sectors in education has had a choking effect on primary schooling in Puerto Rico. These antagonisms have not yet been laid entirely to rest, although there are welcome signs that they need not be prolonged over yet another century. Much of the prestige attached to private schools in Puerto Rico derives from the unevenness of the public sector. During the first half of the twentieth century, an average of about 4 percent of school children were enrolled in private schools (10 percent in 1960). Growth in this sector has been vertiginous, with, in 1988, some 128,554 children so enrolled. Parents, themselves the product of the public schools, have often reluctantly chosen to place their children in private schools when they can afford it so as not to expose them to the dangers and the inadequacies they perceive their children would face were they to attend local public schools. For other parents of the élite socio-economic class, private education is a social and class tradition. Still others, who have succeeded economically, will place their children in upper-class private schools in the hopes that they will be helped thereby in moving up the social ladder. Critics of the private schools charge, not without reason, that such schools constitute an important means of perpetuating across generations the existence of an impermeable governing and economically powerful élite. Many such critics also say that this class has become increasingly out of touch with the realities of the country; it is absorbed in globalization and safeguarding its own perquisites.
According to the Organic Law of 1990, private schools beneath college and university level must be licensed by the Oficina de Licencias (License Office) of the Consejo de la Educación (Council of Education). The existence of a physical plant, presence of labs and library, sanitary conditions, as well as a satisfactory curriculum and properly trained teachers, are all factors considered in the process. By 1995 about 550 schools obtained licenses; in addition there exist some 290 vocational and technical schools that must also obtain licenses (López Yustos).
As might be expected, the curriculum of most private schools rarely departs from that set for public primary schools, except for the more or less strong emphasis placed in many of the former on religious instruction and traditional moral teaching. Resources in the élite schools (buildings, library collections, more individual attention, computers, variety of opportunities of different sorts, and "proper" peers) are generally superior to those of the vast majority of public schools. The classroom atmosphere is usually more tranquil and classes are smaller than in the public sector. Although the erstwhile numerous order-related teaching staff has often given way to lay teachers, teacher morale is generally high. In most instances each private school offers a K (or Pre-K) through 12 track.
In all private schools, as well as in many public schools, rather strict dress codes are imposed and observed. These involve blouse and jumpers for girls and trousers and shirts for boys, often with colors specified.
College/university preparation is generally perceived as the various institutions' common major goal and chief educational raison d'être. Since as far back as 1940, graduates of the better private schools have rather consistently outperformed their public coevals at the University of Puerto Rico, and a significant proportion of them go on to study at prestigious colleges and universities in the United States (Nieves Falcón).
Mention should also be made of the still-increasing importance of Protestant schools, which range from the fundamentalist to such mainstream Anglo-Saxon institutions as the Episcopalian school in Santurce. Although the different denominations often correspond to socioeconomic classes, there remains nevertheless much social mobility between them. In part the flourishing of these schools is due to the perceived social dangers associated with the public schools, as well as to the upper crust character often attributed to the well-known Roman Catholic institutions.
The Public Sector: According to data published by the Consejo de Educación Superior, during the 1999-2000 school year, some 79 public and private college and university level institutions of higher learning existed alongside what are called postsecondary educational institutions. (The figures count each recinto or campus branch as one institution, and they comprise two year colleges, four year colleges, and institutions with graduate programs; some emphasize the liberal arts, and others are specialized.) Of these 22 are public and 57 are private; total full and part time enrollment comes to 174,550 students, of which 73,846 are in the public sector (61.7 percent of which are women, and 38 percent are men). In the 57 private campuses, enrollments come to a total of 100,704 (59 percent are women, and 40.2 percent are men). In addition to the institutions just mentioned, Puerto Ricans also dispose of numerous private or proprietary postsecondary schools that do not quite fit the portrait ascribed to a college and university. Seventy-nine institutions of higher education of varying quality, completeness, and mission constitute a large number for a population of approximately 3,000,000.
The curricular matrix of the public University of Puerto Rico (headquartered in Río Piedras) forms the basis of undergraduate study in virtually all the public and private colleges and universities on the island.
Admission standards at the U.P.R. (Río Piedras and Mayagüez), especially in the postgraduate professional schools (e.g., Law and Medicine), are generally higher than those prevailing in other Puerto Rican institutions. Because of limited enrollments, an entering undergraduate must offer a proper college preparatory high school diploma and a competitive GPA (usually a solid B average); he or she must also take an entrance examination.
The typical Arts and Sciences B.A. candidate spends the first two years in the School of General Studies satisfying distribution requirements of various sorts before concentrating in one of many majors available during the junior and senior years. During the freshman and sophomore years, the student also takes the prerequisites necessary to the anticipated major. Perhaps in imitation of the University of Chicago's graduate "Divisions," the university is divided into "faculties," i.e., Humanities (Humanidades ): social sciences (Ciencias sociales ), natural sciences (Ciencias naturales ). It is also divided into "Schools" (or "Colleges") like Education (Educación, or Pedagogía) and "Programs" (Business, Architecture, Planning [Planificación ], Communications, etc.). Postgraduate programs in Law and Medicine (with special distinction in the field of tropical medicine) have been expanded extensively since the university's inception in the 1920s.
The similarly distinguished institution founded at an early date in the West Coast city of Mayagüez for Engineering and Agricultural Sciences resembles the state "A and M" universities developed in nineteenth and twentieth century North America. This Mayagüez campus, still subject to governance by the central U.P.R. governing board (Río Piedras), has now begun to agitate for its separation from the flagship campus.
Hopes for the island's further economic expansion into fields like petrochemicals and high-technological electronics have led to emphasis on technological and business matters, as well as in the several four and two year universities and regional colleges (colegios universitarios and regionales ) created during the period starting in the early 1960s in such smaller cities and towns as Humacao and Cayey, Carolina, Bayamón, Arecibo, Aguadilla, Utuado, and Ponce. However, these latter institutions also maintained the more traditional curriculum in the humanities and the sciences. By the mid-1990s, the University of Puerto Rico had become a university system (upgraded by some 11 new units since 1962) recognized as such by the University Law of 1966, with an overall budget of about two-thirds of a billion dollars (set by the same Law at 9 percent of the total government revenues), and in the 1999-2000 school year, serving almost 70,000 students on both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels of a total public university student population of 73,846.
It is argued that the expansion of the University of Puerto Rico system has been achieved at the expense of the Río Piedras campus' upkeep, resources, and the salaries it pays its faculty. It has become increasingly difficult to attract and retain top faculty talent, especially in the highly competitive business and technical fields. Requests for increased funding (set in 1996 at 9.65 percent of total government revenues) have usually been made in connection with the university's relation to the research and development needs of business and the job market in the high tech sector of the island economy. The technical and research infrastructure has absorbed more and more of the money available. The university also publicizes its traditional rôle as an indispensable problem solver with respect to various social issues.
In exchange for virtual monopoly control over the island's public higher education resources, under Chancellor Jaime Benítez, the U.P.R (University of Puerto Rico system) embraced the policies favored by the Commonwealth party of Luis Muñoz Marín. It became the ré gime's partner in the P.P.D.'s many projects of social engineering; politically the U.P.R. did its best to marginalize alternatives to the Estado Libre Asociado concept. Educationally the U.P.R. opened the door to the sort of mass higher education through which the P.P.D. hoped to reduce the power of the former élite governing classes. The U.P.R. constituted the single most important factor in the régime's policy (1) of industrialization and (2) of technological research and development. Finally, the U.P.R. became the means through which the P.P.D. created what it most desired: a native middle class largely devoted to its cause. The U.P.R. stood for, and did much to define, what Muñoz loved to call el Progreso. Though itself a hotbed of independentista thinking and feeling, its Department of Hispanic Studies and various pockets within General Studies, the Social Sciences, and elsewhere in the Humanities, the institution as such helped weaken the cause of Puerto Rican independence, at least temporarily. Perhaps ironically, not a few of its graduates came to identify themselves with the cause of statehood for Puerto Rico.
In the Humanities at least (with the possible exception of Hispanic studies), the University Library, while generally adequate, cannot truly be labeled a research library. There are too many gaps. These occur in, for example, Classics, Modern Languages and Literatures, Oriental Studies, and the like. Thus, advanced scholarly Humanistic research requires study abroad.
However, one of the U.P.R.'s truly enduring accomplishments should be remembered at this juncture. During the 1950s and 1960s, it identified individuals of talent, often from relatively disadvantaged social classes, educated them, and then provided the means to send them abroad to mainly to the United States and to Western Europe for further advanced study. While abroad, these young men and women came into contact with first-rate research facilities (laboratories, libraries, and teachers), as well as with foreign contemporaries of talent. They returned to teaching jobs in Puerto Rico, bringing to their work on the island not merely what they had learned abroad but also their experience of integration into contexts relevant to, yet wider than, the Puerto Rican reality to which they had been born and in which they lived.
The Private Sector: Enrollments in the historically confessional (Protestant, in the case of the eleven campuses of the Universidad Interamericana, and Roman Catholic, as in the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón and the four campuses of the Pontificia Universidad de Puerto Rico), as well as in the secular, establishments of higher education have for some time exceeded those of the public ones. Unlike the principal campuses of the U.P.R., these institutions are almost exclusively dedicated to teaching. The total of their undergraduate enrollments is 90,677 (graduates in Education: 10,027) for a grand total of 100,704 (as opposed to a public grand total of 73,846). Also, more often than not, the private university student tends to come from families whose income is lower than that of public university students' families. In the mid-1990s the average private institution family income was $11,728 while that of the public university was $15,221. Little or no direct institutional financing is provided for private institutions from state funds (except for specially earmarked research projects of interest to the state). Virtually all funding derives from tuition payments, which are considerably higher than those of the public-sponsored colleges and universities.
The low income levels of private school students is a result of the availability of Federal funds for which these students are eligible, especially the Pell Tuition Grants program, a program to help students from low income families finance their college education. As noted above, about 90 percent of the 8,000 students matriculated at the Universidad del Turabo receive Pell grants. The 1996-99 catalogue of Turabo announces average annual tuition and fees set at $2,784; the maximum Pell grant award in 1997 was set at $2,470. In addition, there were available Federal and State funds to students with great financial need, such as the Federal Supplemental Educational Grant; a Puerto Rican scholarship fund for qualifying students; a Puerto Rican Educational Fund for students whose family income is $3,500 per capita or less; a Puerto Rican State Student Incentive Grant, administered by the Consejo de Educación Superior, to which a given cooperating institution may make application on behalf of specific candidates; subsidized Federal and Ford loans to students; Federal Parent Loans (PLUS); and Federal Work-Study Programs. All these sources of funding are also available for students at public institutions. Various Athletic Scholarships are also provided for outstanding student athletes.
The situation at the Universidad del Turabo is to all intents and purposes mirrored at the other private institutions recognized and accredited by the Consejo de Educación Superior. The private institutions of greatest interest are those, like the Universidad del Turabo, which have forged a genuine sense of mission for themselves since their founding, as well as those, like the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón, which have undergone a process of constant renewal over the years. Far less burdened with the kind of bureaucracy characteristic of the public U.P.R., these private schools have been able to exert an influence on island educational policy far greater than their somewhat marginal status would appear to authorize.
The Universidad del Turabo belongs to a network of institutions known as the Ana G. Méndez University System. As a member of the Ana G. Méndez University System, which operates under the auspices of the Ana G. Méndez Educational Foundation, Turabo is governed by the System's Board of Trustees—the body to whom the chancellor and his office are responsible. The Board approves the mission of the Foundation and its several institutions, its budgets, administers its business, confirms appointments, establishes salaries, approves academic programs and long-range planning, and supervises the distribution of funds.
Admission requirements at the Universidad del Turabo include a valid high school diploma (or a high school certificate); if 25 or under, the College Entrance Examination and the Diagnostic and Placement Center test offered by Turabo (students older than 25 must take only the Diagnostic and Placement test); possession of at least the minimum "admission index;" and if the candidate does not reach the level required, a personal interview. Less stringent than the requirements at the U.P.R., these requirements also permit a degree of individual flexibility.
The University is divided into various "Schools" (i.e., Education, Business Administration, Sciences and Technology, Engineering, and Liberal Arts—the latter being further divided into Departments of Humanities and Social Sciences). Each of these has its own requirements and programs of study. A GPA of 2.0 is required for the B.A., associate degrees may also be earned, and certain limited graduate programs are available (e.g., Education). In addition, the University offers programs of Extension and Continuing Education, as well as maintaining Off-Campus centers in Yabucoa, Naguabo, and Cayey whose programs lead to bachelor's degrees in Social Sciences, Education, and Business Administration.
Computing resources are distributed in clusters and work-stations within the various schools. This could be, for example, a SUN SPARCstation network, with 25 SUN workstations, numerous Macintosh Quadras, and Windows-type PCs in Engineering; a computing lab in the School of Business; a 25 unit Apple Share network in the School of Science; and older Macs (largely for word-processing) for Humanities.
Two closely interconnected elements appear to have shaped the mission the Universidad del Turabo has designed for itself. The first of these is the obviously practical nature of the curriculum, with its emphasis on imparting skills to students wishing to move up in the world—to become teachers or to work in business or construction, etc. The second element has to do with the uni versity's sense of its place, which is in the foothills of an impoverished mountain region almost systematically stripped of whatever economic wealth it might have had in times past, specifically in cane, tobacco, and coffee. These resources were taken away, and nothing was successfully put in their place. Much of the population has emigrated to the United States; many of those remaining are dependent upon food stamps and other forms of handouts. This is the region the university identifies itself with and functions in.
However, it has neither the resources nor the inclination to impose upon its region and student body its own predetermined agenda of social improvement. In a profound sense it collaborates with its region. It provides what many of its young people want and are quite willing to work for. The campus consequently insists on providing its student clientèle with a clean, honest, and disciplined place; it is spotless (no trash strewn about; clean, neat, and well kept up buildings), and this is due as much to the students' care as it is to ground crew cleanup squads. (The contrast with the clearly neglected Río Piedras campus of the U.P.R. is striking.) The Turabo campus is identified with the kind of life to which numerous students there aspire; in that way it differs from the all too often overcrowded and perhaps messy quarters in which many students live in at home. In addition, the friendly civility of the Turabo staff reflects little of the bureaucratic hauteur to be found in the larger, more impersonal public institutions.
Much is being hoped of ongoing university initiatives that are both in keeping with its academic nature and innovative with regard to its contemporary and past academic emphases. One of these initiatives is that of the Center for Humanistic Studies, founded in 1981, which, along with the desire to strengthen university library resources—at present quite poor—in the Humanities, recognizes the intellectual and spiritual centrality of the Humanities and Fine Arts to a life well lived.
Another university, the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón (Sacred Heart University), located in Santurce (part of the San Juan Metropolitan Area), came into being (1935) as the outgrowth of a girls' school founded in 1880 by the Mothers of the Sacred Heart. This teaching order was, itself, the creation of Mother Madeleine-Sophie Barat, now canonized as a saint of the Church in the France of 1800, in order to prepare girls for life in the new, "modern" world order consequent to the upheavals of the French Revolution. Thus, its raison d'être is closely related to the issues of change brought about by the emergence of Post-Enlightenment modernity, a matter hardly irrelevant to conditions in late nineteenth century and twentieth century Puerto Rico where, incidentally, women have come to play a central rôle both in education and politics. The University decided to become coeducational in 1973; although still strongly affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, it has become increasingly secularized in administrative and teaching personnel.
In 1999-2000 the student body numbered 5,184 (3,355 women and 1,829 men). Bachelor's degrees may be earned in Liberal Arts (art, education, languages and literatures, history, international relations, economics, commercial studies, mathematics, chemistry, biology, psychology, and sociology), as well as in secretarial and library sciences, business administration, information technology, nursing, and communications; there exist a number of special programs, including educational technology, tourism, public relations, as well) Finally, the U.S.C. maintains an extensive Program in Continuing Education.
The Library has made great strides in recent decades, but it remains inadequate, containing a third of the volumes to be found in a good United States liberal arts college with one-quarter the enrollment of U.S.C. Computing facilities need expansion and upgrading too. Financing is the problem. Like Turabo, U.S.C. depends heavily on tuition, which, of course, translates into Pell Tuition Grants, and on Federal funding—loans and outright grants—for infrastructures (e.g., a Women's Residence Hall and the Library building). Private foundational assistance has been solicited and granted for faculty salaries.
An interesting sponsoring program on behalf of very low income students has met with success at the U.S.C. An adult or a couple may "adopt" a student by contributing $2,500 to his or her educational expenses. The scheme has the virtue of breaking down certain social barriers. A shared interest in the U.S.C. brings together the "godparent" and the young student who then often become personal friends, with the student frequently being invited to his or her godparent's home on social occasions and the latter also serving at times as a kind of extra-curricular mentor.
However, by far the most ambitious and potentially far-reaching initiative taken by the U.S.C. in recent times has been that, initiated in the early 1990s (and referred to above), led by Dr. José Jaime Rivera, its President, with respect to the crucial issue of public educational reform in Puerto Rico, i.e., The San Juan Metropolitan Alliance for Education (see the SJMAE Progress Report 1999).
This initiative owes much to previous thought and writing on education in Puerto Rico including the seminal work of the late Angel G. Quintero, Educación y cambio social en Puerto Rico: Una época crítica (2nd ed. 1974), Undersecretary and Secretary of the Department of Education from 1960 to 1968, and the hands-on experience of the present Secretary of Education, César Rey, formerly Dean at U.S.C.
Structured as a cooperative venture including, in addition to the U.S.C, The Ford Foundation, ASPIRA of Puerto Rico, Inc., The College Board of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Community Foundation, and the Department of Education (Commonwealth of Puerto Rico), the SJMAE established goals and selected initially for their achievement over a five year period three "allied" schools in the Cataño School District. More schools, including senior high schools, have been added subsequently. Eventually, the eight remaining schools of the Cataño District were also incorporated. The total includes public primary, middle, and high schools.
Meanwhile, Public Laws 149 and 158 (1999) passed by the Puerto Rican legislature, establishing the new school—community/charter schools and calling for the creation of a redefined "Teaching Profession" (Carrera Magisteria ), offered an alternative to the previous highly centralized public school system by emphasizing on the most basic level a genuine collaboration of administrators, teachers, parents, and pupils viewed as equal partners in the educational process. The school must no longer act as the vehicle for the imposition by a central authority of values upon the communities served by it; rather, a credible dialogue between the above-named constituents should constitute the bedrock on which the trust and commitment to the ideal of the school—of schooling itself—should rest.
That, precisely, is the doctrine held by the SJMAE. No other approach stands a chance of commanding the indispensable support of the school's clientèle, it contends. Its philosophy thus resembles in interesting ways the "regionalism" being developed by the Universidad del Turabo.
The greater part of the Progress Report 1999 details what the SJMAE has done up to that date, with whom, and how it has proceeded. It has been a member of the Urban Partnership Program since its inception in 1994, and in this connection has defined the following specific objectives: "(1) promote model programs geared to help under-served students develop their talents and skills, and thus [eventually] attain a university degree; (2) promote collaboration and coordination among programs; (3) Identify and disseminate information, including research; and (4) identify and support successful initiatives" (Progress Report 1999. With respect to its having received an award for its work (1998), the SJMAE defined several new objectives "aimed toward the promotion of systemic change": to encourage changes in the school culture; to increase innovative teaching/learning practices and provide continuous professional development; to promote curricular articulation among educational levels; to promote students' development in the personal, academic, social, and occupational aspects by integrating counseling and curricular activities across all educational levels; and to strengthen collaboration between parents, the schools, the district, and the region. (The region constitutes the curriculum level in the hierarchical structure between the school district and the center office of the Puerto Rico Department of Education. There are ten regions.)
The choice of the Cataño District came about because of its location within the general Metropolitan Area, its many problems and poverty, and because students of Education at the U.S.C. had been using some of its schools for its practice teaching programs. The first two schools chosen were Isaac del Rosario and, a bit later, A.S. Pedreira; middle schools Mercedes García de Colorado and Las Américas were selected, and so forth. The teachers were elected to be the first focus of the program's action; also, the special responsibilities of each of the components of the SJMAE were defined.
Not everything went smoothly, however. The fact that a good number of the schools had no principal—a problem endemic in the Puerto Rican school system, especially in its senior high schools—constituted a serious impediment. The effects of Hurricane Georges (1998) were brutally destructive and still have not been entirely remedied. Yet the Project's results have been very encouraging: in 1998 the Isaac del Rosario Elementary School was selected by the Federally sponsored Regional Conference on Improving America's Schools as one of eight schools whose records of improvement were outstanding; it also won the Puerto Rican Dr. Ángel Quintero Alfaro Award for outstanding educational innovation. Generally speaking, school dropout rates in Cataño have decreased significantly; the number of college-bound high school seniors has increased substantially; GPAs and test scores have improved also (although they still remain low and require improvement especially in mathematics and foreign languages); and, perhaps most important of all, students report a much greater sense of their own self-confidence as students and a more determined desire to succeed academically. The Progress Report 1999 states: "From mistrust, doubt, and skepticism there has been a movement to a growing faith that change is possible. This transformation brings with it the conviction that common goals are attainable through unity and the actual testing of programmatic alternatives. [There is a] palpable movement towards a growing receptivity to change [which will provide] the groundwork for the next stage of the Alliance work."
A team of five professors of mathematics at the University of Puerto Rico has accepted a task to work at developing a new math curriculum that will be used (and tested) by the Alliance. This effort may help bring about an improvement in the disappointing scores just mentioned.
Thus, each of the two private universities has committed to play a significant rôle in what surely looks like a reincorporation of democratic and people-oriented values into the educational system of Puerto Rico. Provided that the island's political authorities support their efforts and similar efforts by what appears to be a revitalized and open Department of Education, there are reasons to believe in the future of Puerto Rican mass education.
Administration, Finance, & Educational Research
Administration: The Puerto Rican Department of Education (Departamento de Educación, formerly the Departamento de Instrucción ) is by the Organic Law of 1990 (Law 68) charged with the responsibility for all schooling on the island, from preschool to university; it is headed by a cabinet-level secretary and an undersecretary—both political appointments made by the island governor and subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. The secretary reports to the governor and, on occasion, to relevant committees of the Puerto Rican legislature. The Departmental Secretary is assisted by the two aforementioned Councils (on Higher Education and on General Education), as well as by various offices in charge of vocational and technical training, relations with the community, finance, extension/long distance learning, and the like.
Puerto Rico is divided into various school regions (whose number varies from time to time according to movements of population); each region is assigned personnel charged with revising and/or designing curricula (in conjunction with teachers). Meanwhile the administration of schools falls under the purview of the district. Each district is directed by a superintendent (aided by an assistant superintendent) and other officials. The principal of each school within a given district must report to the superintendent's office. The individual school is headed by a director and a sub-director, or principal and assistant principal; he or she is aided by the teachers, a social worker, a person responsible for orientation (orientadora ), and food service and custodial personnel. The shortage of candidates willing to take on the responsibilities of the school principal has reached critical proportion in recent years.
Finance: The public educational system is virtually entirely financed by the island government; its funding is dependent on yearly budgets voted by the legislature. As noted above, the amount set aside by law for the University of Puerto Rico system equals 9.65 percent of the total revenues accruing to the State; meanwhile López Yustos  estimates that the cost per pupil in the public schools was about $2,000 in 1990 (i.e., if this is so, and basing the calculation on official enrollment figures, the total amounts to about one and a quarter billion dollars for the primary, intermediate, and senior high schools alone). This figure does not count students in institutions of higher learning or in such special programs as long distance learning. Puerto Rico allocates about 30 percent of its total annual revenues to the Department of Education, the most expensive of all government agencies and the country's largest employer.
However, the figures just given are very approximate; what they mean is extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, to determine with real precision. For some analysts they bespeak the people's faith in education, while at the same time that they are often cited by critics of the system who point out the mixed results achieved by these expenditures. It seems certain, however, that education is closely identified with the material progress achieved over the past half-century by the Estado Libre Asociado.
The University of Puerto Rico system (with a 1994 total budget of $622,300,000) received 68 percent of that figure from state funding, 17.5 percent from federal contracts and institutional grants, and 8 percent from student and tuition fees.
Perhaps due to the Commonwealth's mistrust of the private sector, contributions to private schools and institutions of higher learning are not tax deductible. This has surely done much to limit fund-raising on the part of these entities in Puerto Rico and to the establishment of significant endowments. The major exception to this rule has been the Universidad Católica (Ponce), which has benefited handsomely from private donations.
Federal funding also enters into the picture. The above-mentioned Pell Tuition Grant program is indispensable to the survival of private-sector institutions of higher learning. To take an example, the eligibility of 90 percent of the 8,000 students at the Universidad del Turabo brings into the university's annual operating budget a sum located between 17 and 18 million dollars. Few students could afford to study without this aid, and without such students and the university would close its doors. Certain capital expenses are also met with the help of Federal funding, especially such expenses as result from Federally-mandated requirements. Finally, Federal funding, e.g., the N.S.F., N.E.A., N.I.H., and N.E.H., is of great importance for scientific, social scientific, and humanities research—especially the first of these three. It has proved impossible to put a dollar figure on totals regarding Federal educational support, but the sums involved are surely impressive.
Educational Research: Research dealing with education is an important industry in Puerto Rico. Most of it is social scientific, statistics-based in nature and has to do with remedying perceived deficiencies of various kinds and/or planning. Considerable attention is paid to historical matters, some to historico-political aspects (e.g., Negrón de Montilla 1971), but much more has to do with reform and what ought to be done.
The Department of Education sponsors studies of many kinds and publishes statistics. This research is accomplished mainly on behalf of its own planning programs and also for various governmental purposes (e.g., budget). A departmental division—that of planning and educational development—is more or less in charge of these kinds of research. The Department also maintains an important documentary library for research and consulting purposes.
The island's various Schools of Education also constitute a source of research on educational matters, as does the work accomplished by Puerto Rican candidates for advanced degrees in education in many United States graduate schools.
Programs of adult education began in earnest with the 1940s initiative of Fred Wale and others to provide practical aid to the new communities formed by the breaking up of old latifundios into small farms (parcelas ) that were awarded to disadvantaged rural citizens. Engineers volunteered their time to help these communities build a needed bridge; architects and builders helped with construction. Others developed programs of adult eduction (reading and writing, arithmetic, etc.). Artists, writers, and theater people also intervened.
These efforts led to the creation, in 1949, of the División de la Comunidad (Community Education Division) under the auspices of the Departamento de Instrucción Pública as the Department of Education was then known (Wale). This was the starting point of the diverse set of offerings and programs over which the Community Education Division and its various offices has jurisdiction. By means, first, of itinerant teachers and of correspondence courses, and then through radio and public TV broadcasts, it became possible to complete a high school diploma and take college-level courses or classes in various technologies. In 1958 (and reformed in 1985), the Community Education Division was renamed the Area de Extensión educativa (Area of Educational Extension).
In 1997 the Administración de servicios de educación de adultos (Administration of Adult Education Services) replaced the Area of Educational Extension. This was done pursuant to the passage of the Federal Public Law 105-220 or the Workforce Investment Act. Federal funding has been made available to "raise the level of school of youth and adults" and "to reduce illiteracy" (Fajardo) in response to project proposals made by the various school districts, community (i.e., charter) schools, and by specific public and private not for profit institutions. Evening, night, and weekend schools are supported as are approved applications by individuals.
Thus, as time has passed, the community-focused nature of these special programs has tended to give way to more classic, adult education-type offerings with an increased emphasis on basic skills and technology. Therefore, by the mid-1960s, the Program of Adult Education and Cultural Extension had come into existence, under the leadership of an Assistant Secretary of Public Instruction: adult education was henceforth integrated into Public Instruction more and more as a remedial, or "catch up," addendum to the general educational purposes of Public Instruction with a decided emphasis on vocational preparation, individual "recycling," and technology. The communitarian vision that had inspired Wale and Isales was downplayed, which they deplored:
There are those who assume. . .that the physical solution of a problem is a part of growth, but it is so only when it emerges as the result of the entire involvement of a community in the process of solution. . . [If this involvement does not occur,] the methods employed by the leaders can perpetuate dependence instead of aiding true development (Wale).
Like the 1990s theorists of community schools, Wale and Isales appear to be suggesting that the progress of the individual is contingent upon a wider community-oriented commitment, and that it is the job of the government to encourage such a commitment.
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.
Familiarity with the story of the Puerto Rican educational system commands respect for the high level of its protagonists' commitment to the values of learning as these apply above all to the creation of social, economic, and political citizenship of a democratic sort. The fact that the leadership class in government has accepted to devote so high a proportion of the island's resources to education tangibly confirms this commitment.
While the accomplishments of the past century, especially of its second half, can be judged a success, there are several shortcomings. These have to do with the tendency within the Estado Libre Asociado to undertake projects of social engineering. Although recognition of the distinctiveness of the Puerto Rican experience as a colony is a recognized fact, this fact has seldom received the practical importance it merits in plans drawn up for the island's present and future. Thus, what ought to be done tends to replace what can be done, and what the people want to be done. Also the Commonwealth has relied on the social sciences to furnish studies that justify what its leadership wishes to do, often despite values deeply ingrained in the culture of the people. However well-meaning, passing a law that declares schooling obligatory and attendance at school compulsory does not mean it will work. If anything, the State's acting this way is less effective than the early practice of cédulas reales (royal decrees) issued from the Spanish monarchs; and it is as ineffective as the American attempt to make "good Americans" out of Puerto Ricans by foisting English language teaching on their children.
Developments like the Turabo "regionalism" and the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón Cataño initiative seem quite promising. The Cataño initiative has replaced the centralized vertical (from top to bottom, i.e., from government and specialist to people) model by a horizontal, communitarian view. In a school there are teachers, pupils, and administrators; there are families and parents; and there are social and economic characteristics. All of these components have an equal stake in a school; they should be brought together and made to heed one another.
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—Karl D. Uitti
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
ORIGIN OF STATE NAME: Spanish for "rich port."