Puerto Rico’s Education Progress

By: Joseph Y. Cordero & Jennifer Rodríguez

Date: March 22, 2012

Type: Historical

 

MAYAGUEZ, PR – Education is a very important aspect of every country. Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa, said: “Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world.”, because he knew the influence that education has over mankind. In Puerto Rico, education took an active role in society since the beginning of the 20thcentury. According to the Department of Education of Puerto Rico (DE), 79.6% of Puerto Ricans did not know how to read or write. Just a few decades ahead this illiteracy rate went down to 31.5%, and in recent times the illiteracy is around 6%. Regardless of the impressive success in getting people aware of the importance of education, now the task is more profound. We need to start to worry about the quality of education, motivating influential organizations like “JLM Professional Education Services of Puerto Rico” and the Department of Education of Puerto Rico to work together.

JLM Professional Education Services of P.R. is an incorporation that promotes workshops and guidance, to teachers, so they can reach students in a proper way. JLM offers tutoring and educational activities to students of every area, including Special Education Students, with the purpose of helping them to achieve highly academic goals.

According to the US Census Bureau and the CIA – World Factbook, from the 94% literacy rate in Puerto Rico, 60% of them have a high school degree. In modern society, in order to accomplish a comfortable lifestyle it is almost compulsory to have at least a college degree. JLM professional Education Services of Puerto Rico is an incorporation that promotes workshops and guidance to teachers and families, in order for the new generation to stay in schools and finish a complete academic profile. Jose Luis Malavé, Vice-president of JLM, comments: “Every Puerto Rican deserves the education that any other country would aspirate.” Malavé also mentioned: “The key to achieve a higher educational level in Puerto Rico, is to start with our public schools.”

Puerto Rico’s educational methods have remained unchanged for the past 20 to 30 years. The education, as every other field, is ever changing and it should be updated and optimized with time. This implies that it is not convenient to maintain the methodology for too long or the goals might not be reached as intended. Due to the inconsistent system of Puerto Rico’s education, students from the island tend to dropout, since the schools cannot reach the students as they want. One example of this is that students at home are involved in the modernization of our world throughout the technology, and when they go to school they see it lame, old fashioned and boring. Jose L. Malavé does not only blame schools, he is aware of the fact that students dropout of school falls on the responsibility of society itself. Every subgroup of society has a goal, specifically in education. The family needs to attend the necessities of the child, and schools should have prepared teachers to teach students, between other responsibilities. Malavé identifies that subgroups sometimes expects that their responsibilities be fulfilled by other subgroups in society.

On the other hand, a person like Malavé may not have such a direct contact with the students, parents and teachers, but Adabel Nieto’s job has this direct contact. She is a DE’s Supervisor of teacher’s development at the Camuy’s district and her work consists of assisting teachers, so they can achieve the standards established by “Las Pruebas Puertorriqueñas”. According to the DE, the annual standard per class is approximately 66%, 69% and 34%, for Spanish, Math and English classes, respectively. This standard reflects the goal that students need to achieve in order for the school to be considered an institution with the necessary requirements to teach an outstanding education.  “We want to help teachers to give adequately their courses and, fullfil the goals of the the federal law named ‘No Child left Behind’“, said Adabel about the mission of her work. She also commented about the reasons why students are not adequately prepared for the standard tests. “The department has not been orienting teachers about their work, and they have been teaching what they think is correct”, said Adabel. In the past and still today, in many schools the teacher does not have accessible the necessary tools to give their students the best lecture.

Adabel also points out that the blame does not fall directly on the teacher. Students go to school without any support from their family, and teachers end up having to play the role of the parents in the school, a problem similar to the situation described by Malavé. Student’s parents do not attend school meetings or any other important activity that is related to their children’s education. Regardless of the outside factors that affect the development of education in the younger ones, Adabel thinks that the approach of using standardized tests as guidelines, surely, orientates the teacher to follow a format that makes it easier to discuss the topic and makes it more general in every school.

Adabel Nieto beside Raquel Vargas, Director of the Biology Department of the University of Puerto Rico Arecibo (UPRA), in a workshop intended for teachers. The workshop is given to enforce de research area in science in coordination with UPRA and NASA.

Puerto Rico’s actual education unfortunately shows problems that, in real perspective, are the reason for student’s to have lost interest in higher education. Puerto Rico has been changing in educational aspects since the beginning of the 20th century. Although the changes have been made and society can see the difference through the years, the progress in education is still a long way to go.  The motivation exists in students, but is not reinforced. Malavé and Adabel both mentioned that besides all the external factors, the DE and its schools need to evolve as modern institutions. Teachers, currently, have the necessity of updating their educational methods in order to reach students. Parents need to guide their children by dedicating time and giving them the required motivation for their future aspirations. Finally, students need to know that education is the most valuable source that mankind can have. It’s just a matter of time before society’s consciousness awakens with the quality that society is asking for and a complete educational progress is achieved.

 

 

Word Count 970

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