Thursday, December 9, 2010

Secondary Education in Quisqueya Part 1

Dominican education, specifically referring to the high school sector, has undergone an evolutionary change through the transcendence of many years by those in charge of making education reform. The decisions made by curriculum specialists in high school education are greatly influenced by the demands made; within the time education reform takes place, to achieve the satisfaction of the people and their needs. There are many different ways in which Dominican education at the high school level has been defined, but throughout the years the definition of this sector in education has solidified. In terms of the region that is known as Latin America and the Caribbean, which is part of the geographical area that the Dominican Republic is a part of, in 2001 this region affirmed that education has to be more than the teaching of specific subjects to adolescents. As they thought, education geared towards youth should be a preparation to the work/job they will embark in their lives and for their participation as citizens in their respective town/city within their nation. The concept of everyone receiving an equal education is very important because it gives great value to the public school system, which is the organism that promotes the philosophy. This way of looking at education promotes the passion to change the structure of the educational system with the goal of bettering it for the youth. For this reason,

“The option to incite new and flexible forms of learning will serve as an answer to the adolescents and young people living in poverty and marginalized communities, who tend to abandon formal education because they have not attained access to good quality education” (1).

Defining Secondary Education 
Education personnel have been aiming towards a new form of pedagogy. In search of this new identity, the question “what is Dominican education?” has to be is defined. Other questions such as, “what is the basis of Dominican education?,” “What’s its purpose and how will it educate and prepare the youth?” These questions could be answered once a concrete understanding of education's meaning and practice has been attained. Furthermore, once educators are able to distinctly provide pedagogical practices and aims for each level of education, one has a wider perspective of the overall workings of the education sector within the island.

In keeping with the later proposition, current basic education provides the tools to youth so that in high school they are able to understand and analyze topics or problems that are of a higher thinking order. Throughout the four years of high school, focus is shifted to learning how to build, do, and live. These coincide with the teachings of the Nation of God and Earth, particularly within the 12 Jewels of Islam, truly summative words that provides us with simple words that express how to think, how to live, and the elements that we must master so that they refine this way of Truth both outside and inside the devil's civilization. The first three jewels (1.Knowledge, 2.Wisdom, 3. Understanding) gives one the tools of how to gain and contextualize ideas, the other three jewels (4. Freedom or Culture, 5. Justice, 6. Equality), express how what is understood by the individual is applied in one's life, which is the culture that we live.  Through the liberation of our mind, attaining the understanding of who and where we are, the principles of freedom, justice, and equality are attained to further a culture in its most supreme form. A freedom that is guided by ridding ourselves of the manifestation of devilishment within and outside of us while adapting a set of ethical codes that are only relevant to God and Earth, so that one is able to move the culture rightly and exactly. It is then that an Equality can be reached again in terms of living within the Earth, using all of the useful land, where we have access and can roam freely without the perils of the once unequal capitalist oppression, while each universe's (black family) shares their "variation" and level of seeing and living the culture. With Justice being naturally served, original civilizations must take shape once again by incorporating the fundamentals, which are 7.Food, 8. Clothing, 9. Shelter. This reality is one that can only be deepened by an endless propellment of 10.Love, 11.Peace, and 12. Happiness. These are the jewels of a true offering in rebuilding ourselves after the death of illusion and devilishment. And even if the illusion has not yet seized after its expiration date, this process of life after the devil, can be applied within the spaces of heaven we make within this Babylonian reality. After emancipation, it was Booker T. Washington who took it upon himself to hustle one of the most successful industrial schools in the United States. With the purpose of serving true justice to his people he freed former slaves from physical and mental bondage. They would no longer depend on "massa," if they could build their own food, clothing, and shelter. Thus, making a space of love, peace, and happiness as best as they could in the devil dominated nation.

In the Dominican case, however, but very much like the African-American case, the reality of attaining self-sustainability is within the confines of the devil's conditioning and imperialist modifications within the island.  They need to make sure that at least every Dominican can do for self when left even in the worst impoverished conditions. This means that the intensity and effectiveness of Dominican education is really a result of Capitalism, Imperialism, and Globalization. Using this framework, High school requires students to use their intelligence, what they've learned, and  how to apply it to their subjects, their lives and within the society at large. Although Dominican education is in a process of reform and change, it has always maintained the purpose of keeping students in educational environments where they are prepared for: higher education, to work/get a job, and for a productive and responsible citizenship (2). Based on this ideology of education, one can say that high school education is:

“Every formal and informal educational offer essentially oriented towards adolescents and youth, that aims at consolidating and amplifying the four pillars of education throughout life, and that according to the normative actual process, it initiates once the person has accumulated at least eight years of basic schooling” (3).

Every Dominican is capable of acquiring a superior education, work productively, and be a citizen adaptable to changes within a society that is in constant evolution. It is particularly a good trait to have had more than eight years of schooling. As a matter of fact, it is encouraged that kids be schooled from the time they are 3 years old. The earlier instruction takes place, the easier it is to mold the characteristics that will allow a person to thrive in Dominican society. This is achieved both through formal and informal educational methods. This means that the person must partly go through educational experiences that are ascribed to a pedagogical institution as well as through experienced knowledge. Once finished with high school, students are able to matriculate in universities and colleges to specialize in a field. It is very common to go into one specialty upon entering college. Once students have passed all required exams and other forms of assessments, they can start looking for employment in their fields. This specialization could not have been achieved without going through eight years of basic schooling.

Basic schooling is the period before high school. Elementary education prepares the individual to learn the main components that will allow them to flourish in more complex educational environments. During elementary school students are gaining the tools and preparation to advance intellectually. This is a time where teachers focus heavily on the teaching of skills, through a very demanding, but efficient educational practice. For example, in order for a student to write a sentence they first need to understand the different parts of the sentence, such as the noun, verb, and the adverb. In the future, this will help the student to express intricate ideas to the point where they attain the capacity of writing books. Therefore, teachers will have students dissect sentences to the point where a student can become experts at manipulating the language, and become superb writers. At the high school level, students are then ready for the more difficult language activities, which might include an analytical paper. This is where the students own thoughts can start to be manifested.

The Structure of the High School Educational System
Within the high school education system of the island, there are existing organisms with different responsibilities. All these components, working together, assemble the educational structure and depend on one another to carry out the pedagogical processes. The outline is as follows:

Administrative Organisms
The varying educational bodies can be divided into two sectors that interconnect to make education a reality. These are the administrative organisms, in charge of processing and managing partnerships with the government, containing general information on jobs, pedagogical tools, and schools. Under the administrative organisms are the institutions that deal with carrying out the educational operations. These organisms are responsible for the way the school runs, the culture of the school, the teaching, and all the other facets that surround the everyday life in the schools. Within the administration, The Board of Education is the overarching educational institution in the country. New legislation, modifications and changes to the educational structure are formed as well as distributed by this institution. All the varying levels and departments are under the board. The office of liberal arts and arts education oversees all issues relating to the public high schools (not polytechnic institutes) within the country. One of the main responsibilities of this organism is to develop and implement the curriculum for the educational programs in the liberal arts and the specific forms of art (4). This track of education requires that students continue their academic occupation at an institution of higher learning (university or college) where they can study a career of choice. The Office of General High School Education also supervises the Office of Technical/Professional education, whose main purpose is to increase and accommodate those centers dedicated to technical preparation. The study of commerce, seamstress, mechanics, electronics, and other technical specialties are offered to students who want industrial jobs and a university/college education is not mandatory. However, there are those students who do go on to college with the goal of furthering their specialization or to attain a Bachelor’s in addition to their technical studies.

Operative Organisms
The regional educational office is in charge of overseeing the functions of the different school districts. Every regional office monitors the activities carried out by the district offices in the area of that regional educational office. There are about seventeen regional offices in the country (5). District offices are grouped depending on their region. If they are in the same town, then the same regional office oversees them. Anything that has to do with the school system, such as the infrastructure, hygiene, the curriculum, and other related topics, are taken care of by the regional office. The types of schools that the districts manage are both private and public with students gaining a general education. The district offices also manage the polytechnic institutes that are under the same region.

Polytechnic Institutes
The establishment of polytechnic institutes has a specific history. The growth of these institutes is strongly tied to the rapid industrialization within the country due to the influences of external forces (U.S.A), and the need for the country to catch up to the first world.  Generally, Dominicans who want to continue their education beyond high school attend an institution of higher learning and go directly into studying that specific profession. Polytechnic institutes formed with the purpose of attaining a specialized instruction in a technical/professional field.  The level of depth covered in the study of a technical career varies depending on what position one wants to attain in the working world. For example, an introductory computer course prepares a person to become familiar with the computer system.While a computer engineer has become specialized in all aspects of the computer.Not only is the engineer aware of how programs are installed and how they function, but they can also put an entire computer together. Computer courses have a limit on how much a person learns about the machine. There are about 187 technical centers where people in the island can receive technical instruction (5). One hundred and thirty of those centers offer more than one technical specialty. Similarly to high school, the polytechnic could be private or public.

The rapid formation of polytechnic institutes in the Dominican Republic did not come about until the 70s, a time where there was a drastic growth in the industrial sector.It wasn’t until this time that new machinery (far more technologically advanced) were brought into the country’s industrial sector. The growth in this sector brought in a high demand for manual labor. This means that more people were needed to work under the new system of productivity. However, the industrial growth of the country demanded that qualified people, in technical and vocational fields be permitted to work in the industrial sector.

By 1980, a law called “Ley 116”(6) was created by the Technical-Professional National Institute (INFOTEP)(7)precisely to meet the selection criteria of the industrial sector for those seeking employment. This institution made it possible for youth and adults to obtain a practical education if they wanted to pursue this field of work. A year after its construction, this polytechnic institute served many Dominicans through its course offerings and other educational activities. From the time of INFOTEP’s opening until recently, the institute has served more than one million people (8).This entity continues to serve Dominicans on a daily basis to prepare those that want to get technical/vocational education.

(1)Amargos, Oscar (Coordinador). “Panorama de la Educación Secundaria en República Dominicana 2003.” Secretaria de Estado de Educación: Santo Domingo, 2003. pg. 4
(2)Ibid, 5.
(3)Ibid, 7.
(4) Liberal arts refers to a general course of study, without a focus on any subject in particular.  A student studying Liberal art engages in coursework which includes a specific art (paint, dance, singing), sociology, history, physics, chemistry.  It is not a curriculum based on specializing people in any trade or study.
(5) Ibid, 8.
(6) Ibid, 9. 
(7)“Ley 116” makes it legal and initiates the process of the first politechnic institute in the country.
(8) Ibid, 11.

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