Just like any other type of schooling, homeschooling is an international endeavor. Millions of families around the world have made the decision to take their child’s education into their own hands, especially during and in the wake of COVID-19. And, like the United States, every country has its own opinions, philosophies, and laws surrounding homeschooling.
In this monthly series, we’ll take a look at different countries around the world and how they view homeschooling as well as the types of laws (if any) those countries have to govern homeschooling. The first country we visited was the second-largest country in the world, and northern neighbor to the United States–Canada. Then we went island hopping to the Philippines and Puerto Rico before cruising on over to South Africa. Now let’s head back to the Caribbean–the island nation of the Dominican Republic!
Located near Puerto Rico and encompassing most of the island of Hispaniola (with neighbor nation Haiti), the Dominican Republic is home to nearly 11 million citizens, ranking number 85 among the world’s countries by population. Santo Domingo, the country’s capital city, boasts a population of more than 2 million, and with several more cities that are home to hundreds of thousands of people each, it’s not surprising that 85% of the island’s population is considered urban.
Rules and Requirements for Homeschooling in the Dominican Republic
There really aren’t many specific laws when it comes to homeschooling in the Dominican Republic. The country’s Constitution states that “The family is responsible for the education of its members and has the right to choose the type of education of their minor children.”
So, to loosely interpret the Constitution of the Dominican Republic, you can pretty much do whatever you want when it comes to educating your kids.
Generally speaking, however, education in the Dominican Republic consists of three stages: preschool, primary school, and secondary school. Preschool includes children from ages 3 to 6, and only the last year of preschool is compulsory (mandatory). Primary school is compulsory for children ages 6 to 14, but this is not strictly enforced. Secondary school is for students 14 to 18 and is not compulsory. If students do decide to complete their secondary education, they are awarded a bachillerato, or high school diploma, after completion and may opt to continue on to college.
Take a moment to digest what you just read…once you turn 6 in the Dominican Republic, you can drop out of school if you’d like, considering the law requiring primary school students to attend class is not strictly enforced! That may explain why approximately 40% of Dominican students drop out of school by eighth grade. Even the ones who do make it through 12 years of school wind up entering college at a sixth-grade reading level, according to a Dominican universit-y study. Why? Because of…
The Dominican Republic’s School System
This may be a chicken-or-the-egg scenario, but perhaps it’s that leniency or lack of any firm rules or guidance that results in the Dominican Republic ranking near the bottom of many education categories across the globe. Or maybe it’s because the education system is so poor that parents have decided not to make their child’s education a priority. Again, the chicken or the egg? One thing is certain though–homeschooling is a far more appealing option than the Dominican public school system.
Schools in the Dominican Republic are dealing with overcrowded classrooms, untended-to facilities that are now in shambles, and outdated learning materials. Most schools are without technology or internet access. And despite Dominican law mandating that 4% of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is to be spent on education, only around half of that (2%) is actually invested in the country’s education system (though funding has increased a bit over the past few years).
The lack of funding means that teachers are paid minimal wages, so much so that they are unable to earn a living to support themselves or their families. Because of the low pay (think the equivalent of around $350…a month), it’s difficult to attract any qualified teachers to instruct in the Dominican Republic. In an interview with Deutsche Welle, a German news outlet, Dominican teacher Yovanny Gomez said, “We don’t make a living wage for a family. A teacher can’t have his own house, a car, or support his family. A teacher might want to have children, but can’t afford them. We can’t even afford internet with this salary. We want a salary that will pay for these things.”
The paltry wages lead to either a complete lack of interest in the profession or the necessity to hire unqualified teachers. According to a study by education experts, math teachers on the island only understood 42% of the math they were teaching. It’s no wonder that not many people want to teach in the Dominican Republic, which leads to very high student/teacher ratios in classrooms (see below). As a result, students receive minimal individual attention.
Look at some of these statistics, based on PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) scores from 2018. For some background, PISA measures 15-year-olds’ ability to use their reading, mathematics, and science knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges. These scores rank 76 PISA-participating countries and economies. Here’s how the Dominican Republic stacked up:
- 342 PISA Score, ranked 75 out of 76 in reading performance
- 326 PISA Score, ranked 75 out of 76 in boys’ reading performance
- 357 PISA Score, ranked 75 out of 76 in girls’ reading performance
- 79.1% of low performers in reading, ranked 2 out of 76 (this is not a category you want to be ranked high in–this includes 83.9% of boys and 74.3% of girls ranking as low performers)
- 0.1% of top performers in reading, ranked 70 out of 76 (this includes 0% of top-performing boys and 0.2% of top-performing girls)
- The worst change in reading performance from 2015 to 2018 (-16, ranked 29 out of 29 countries/economies)
- 325 PISA Score, ranked 77 out of 77 in math performance
- 324 PISA Score, ranked 77 out of 77 in boys’ math performance
- 327 PISA Score, ranked 77 out of 77 in girls’ math performance
- 90.6% of low performers in reading, ranked 1 out of 76 (again, being ranked #1 is not a good thing here–this includes 90.3% of boys and 90.7% of girls ranking as low performers)
- 0% of top performers in reading, ranked 77 out of 77 (this includes 0% of top-performing boys and girls)
- 336 PISA Score, ranked 77 out of 77 in science performance
- 331 PISA Score, ranked 77 out of 77 in boys’ science performance
- 340 PISA Score, ranked 77 out of 77 in girls’ science performance
- 84.8% of low performers in science, ranked 1 out of 77 (this includes 85.9% of boys and 83.8% of girls ranking as low performers)
- 0% of top performers in science, ranked 75 out of 77 (this includes 0% of top-performing boys and girls)
When you start breaking down overall student performance, the numbers are just as grim:
- 75.5% low performers in all subjects (math, reading, science), ranked 1 out of 76
- 93.2% low performers in at least one subject among math, reading, and science; ranked 1 out of 76
- 32.5% of students who have repeated a grade during primary, lower secondary, or upper secondary school; ranked 6 out of 75
- 47.1% of disadvantaged students who have repeated a grade, ranked 9 out of 75
- 11.7% of advantaged students who have repeated a grade, ranked 7 out of 75
The school environment also appears to leave much to be desired:
- 21.8 student/teacher ratio in socio-economically disadvantaged schools, ranked 5 out of 76
- 16.56 student/teacher ratio in socio-economically advantaged schools, ranked 9 out of 76
- 22.56 student/teacher ratio in schools attended by 15-year-olds, ranked 3 out of 76
- 43.9% of students who reported being bullied at least a few times per month, ranked 3 out of 75
These numbers, on the surface, wouldn’t appear to paint a rosy picture for the future of Dominican children.
- 1% of students expecting to work as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) professionals at age 30, ranked 71 out of 78
- 0.1% of girls expecting to work as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) professionals at age 30, ranked 75 out of 78
That said, there are some surprisingly positive numbers coming from these teenagers–numbers that bode well for future homeschooling in the Dominican Republic:
- 8.09 PISA Index of average level of student’s life satisfaction, ranked 7 out of 70
- 0.39 PISA Index of students with strong positive feelings, ranked 5 out of 69
- 0.31 PISA Index of 15-year-old students that strongly believe in their own ability to perform, especially when facing adversity; ranked 10 out of 77
So, what conclusions can be drawn from these figures? That may be left to interpretation–my view is that these Dominican teenagers are generally happy, positive kids who believe in themselves and their intelligence, but that the school system consistently lets them down. I may be right, I may be wrong–but my feeling is that many of these students are like clay waiting to be molded by the right artist in the right environment.
And that environment just may well be homeschooling.
Unlike some other countries, there is very little information or data out there to determine exactly why Dominican families choose to homeschool–or even how many homeschool families there are in the country. But between the failing school system and the enthusiasm and drive of these students, it’s a safe assumption that homeschooling could be the way for Dominican students to re-engage with school, experience academic success, and go on to have bright futures.
Bridgeway in the Dominican Republic
Bridgeway Academy is the homeschool choice for many students in the Dominican Republic–in fact, nearly 160 students in the country are enrolled with Bridgeway! And now they’re enjoying the benefits of a high-quality, flexible education that’s personalized to fit each child’s learning style.
If you’re currently living in the Dominican Republic or you’re planning on moving there, remember that Bridgeway offers plenty of amazing homeschool programs–plus accreditation, record-keeping, and support–that can be used anywhere in the world! And just like we did for our current Dominican-based students, Bridgeway can help your family choose the right program to fit your needs. You can download our free PDF about homeschooling with a U.S. based program and then contact our admissions team today at (800) 863-1474 to start your homeschool adventure.
Stay tuned–we’ll be bringing you homeschooling info from another international location soon!