The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico exists in a semi-autonomous state and its relationship with the United States is complex. Although Puerto Rico and its citizens are still under the jurisdiction of the US Congress, ever since the passing of the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act in 1952 the Puerto Rican Government still has the majority of control over the main institutions, including the education system.
This education system remains closely modelled on its American counterpart. Puerto Rico has a strong economy founded on a well-educated population, and compared to its Caribbean island neighbours the island is thriving. However, schooling in Puerto Rico is distinct from the American system in a number of ways and still under local control. This article will explore the main differences between schooling in Puerto Rico and the USA.
An Overview Of Puerto Rican Schooling
The structure of schooling in Puerto Rico looks similar to that in America. Schooling is compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 17, as it is in the United States. This means that children and young adults gain a necessary standard of education before moving on in life, and this fact has led to the high rates of literacy in Puerto Rico. There are over 2000 schools on the island with over 400,000 students attending, and of these 500 are private schools, although the standard of public schooling in Puerto Rico is high.
Further education is a common next step for Puerto Ricans graduating high school, and there are many universities and colleges for students to choose from. As well as multidisciplinary academic institutions, there is a specialized medical school, the Ponce School of Medicine and a performing arts university, the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico.
The most significant difference between schooling between the territory of Puerto Rico and the United States of America is that the first language in schools in Puerto Rico is Spanish. Across elementary schools and high schools, classes are primarily taught in Spanish and English is taught as a foreign language. Although some schools in the United States offer teaching in Spanish, the first language of American schools is always English – Spanish, and occasionally French, are taught secondarily. In Puerto Rican schools this order is reversed, and English is the secondary language.
Another divergence between schooling in the USA and Puerto Rico are the differing rates of graduation. In the United States, around 85%, or six out every seven students, graduate with a high school diploma. In Puerto Rico, the graduation rate is considerably lower, and only three in five students graduate from high school – 60%. Part of this difference is explained by the rates of college intake, as fewer students in Puerto Rico pursue further education. 18% of Puerto Ricans possess a bachelor’s degree or a higher certificate of education, meaning more Puerto Ricans pursue non-academic options after high school, potentially reducing the value of the high school diploma.
The Puerto Rican school schedule reflects its American counterpart in a number of ways. In the United States, school commonly begins for students at 8am and finishes at 3pm. This timetable is found in Puerto Rico as well. The school year in Puerto Rico is also similar to that which is found in America, and many of the holidays taken by pupils in Puerto Rico are shared by American students. A break around Thanksgiving is followed by a longer break over the Christmas period, and Puerto Rican pupils have a summer holiday that matches up with schools breaking up in America.
Schools in Puerto Rico follow a standard curriculum that is set by Puerto Rico’s sitting government, and the standardization of this curriculum means that students from urban and rural areas of Puerto Rico experience similar outcomes in their schooling. The curriculum in arts, sciences and languages is similar to that found in the United States, but especially in the arts the focus is on those taking place within the Spanish speaking world, so the reading lists, for example, diverge significantly from what American pupils are given.
The standard of education in Puerto Rico is high, as reflected in their overall literacy rates. Structurally, schooling in Puerto Rico is very similar to that found in America and any pupil transferring from America to Puerto Rico will understand the way the curriculum is organized. With its focus on Spanish language arts, schooling in Puerto Rico diverges from an American syllabus – but ultimately the pedagogic approach is broadly similar.
Katherine Rundell is a school writer at Paper Writing Service and UK Writings and a blogger at College Paper service. She is a former teacher with a keen interest in pedagogical methodologies from around the world.