Schools Around The World: Puerto Rico

This post is written for inclusion of the Multicultural Blogging Carnival "Schools Around The World," hosted by The Educators' Spin On It.

Public education:  The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico grants the right to an education to all of its citizens. Therefore, public schools are free at the elementary and secondary levels.  Classes are provided in Spanish, with English being taught as a secondary language,  and as a mandatory class.

School structure:  Concrete with windows that have aluminum blinds. No air conditioning in any of the classrooms,  which needless to say is torture! The heat is unbearable until the "cooler" months in November, December, and January.  

Transportation:  Walk, parent drive and drop off, and very seldom school bus.

Uniform: Required in all public schools.

Growing up during my teenage years we lived in a small town in Puerto Rico. The town has one or two public elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school.

The enrollment for both middle and high school was very high. In order to offset the high enrollment an alternate school schedule was put in place. This schedule was called "interlocking." How did this work? In the beginning of the school year you were placed in either one group that would have classes during 7:30 a.m. through 11:30 a.m then another group from 12:30 p.m. through 5:30 p.m. I had the good fortune of being able to attend high school from 8 a.m.- 3 p.m., but my sister and brother went to school with the "interlocking" system. 

As I look back, I wonder how the school system in Puerto Rico is working today? So I posed the question on Facebook: "Do they still have the "interlocking" schedule in schools?" I had responses from my niece, and my nephew who are both students in a public school system, and answered yes. However, the answer that really resonated with me was my sister's. She is a teacher in Puerto Rico.
"Yes, the Department of Education still uses the interlocking schedule. For instance, a school in Barceloneta established the interlocking schedule to be able to receive during the morning up to 690 elementary school students and, in the evening to welcome the nearly 800 middle school students."  - Quote from Gladys Cancel, ESL Teacher, Puerto Rico 
Of course, I am floored that the school system in Puerto Rico hasn't changed, and there hasn't been any improvements since my school days. So my next question to her was, "How can the public school system provide a quality education in such few hours? This is not conducive to learning. There's so much you can do in a certain time."
"We, the teachers have to do wonders with a half hour of class. Since the regular schedule is 50 minutes. From the reflection during the first 10 minutes of class, up to meeting with all of the criteria established by the department of education. It is mandatory to start a class with reflection, and continue with the beginning, development and conclusion.  Also, knowing what kind of strategies will be appropriate for the different types of learning outcomes. Above all know we need to know how to manage our time so we don't deviate from the subject  because of lack of time. It's when you have 50 minutes and it's not easy,  imagine just having half an hour. It is extremely important to integrate the strategies and techniques developed in the learning process so that learning is optimal."  - Quote from Gladys Cancel, ESL Teacher, Puerto Rico 
It's a very sad situation for children attending a flawed public school in Puerto Rico. Children are not receiving a quality education, and the teachers are trying to make "miracles" with 30 minutes of class.

In my research about "interlocking",  I came across a resolution project presented to the Puerto Rico senate looking for a resolution to this problem. You can read it here. (It's in Spanish).

Furthermore, I found these interesting statistics on the education in Puerto Rico:   Click here for the source.
  • "According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, ninety-five percent (95%) of public school students in Puerto Rico graduate at a sub-basic level while sixty percent (60%) do not even graduate."
  • "A recent study by the Department of Education of Puerto Rico showed that about 40% of all the students that enter tenth grade in public schools in Puerto Rico drop out and never finish secondary education."
  • "Over half of the students entering college level institutions in Puerto Rico, never graduate: only 41% of 4-year students in public universities and 33% in private institutions get a diploma."
I do have to mention that Puerto Rico does have private schools, but admission, and enrollment is very expensive. Not everyone can afford it. Homeschooling is not very common either.  

My sister and I are one of the few that fall in the 33% that graduated at a college level from a private institution. We are truly blessed that although we are a product of a failed public school system, we were able to pursue a higher education. In all honesty if I was raising my child in Puerto Rico I'd probably be homeschooling him, or he'd be in a private school.

To read more about the other schools around the world be sure to visit  The Educators' Spin On It.