** Caribbean school systems

Latin American School Systems: The Caribbean

Figure 1.--Cuba had devoted a great proportion of its Government's budget than any Caribbean or industrial country. And despite high educational standards, the country has virtually nothing to show for it. Cuba despite being one of the wealthiest Laton American countries before Castro and Communism is today one of the poorest countries in the world and dependent on Venezuelan oil deliveries for its meager existence.

The Caribbean is the most diverse area of Latin America. The rest of Latin America is dominated by Iberian culture, either Brazil or Spain. The Caribbean has a much wider cultural diversity. Britain is very important in the Caribbean with several former colonies (the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad, and a number of smaller islands). Spain certainly is important in the Caribbean. Several of the larger islands (Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico) are former Spanish colonies. And other European counties (Denmark, France, and the Netherlands) had colonies. The United States is also present with Puerto Ricio. And there are ethnic differences. The Native Americans on the islands were largely exterminated during the early Spanish era and replaced with African slaves. The African populstion is greater in the Caribbean than most of the rest of Latin America. The economies are also different with relatively limited natural resources. The public education system on the islands has been generally underfunded, primarily because of the generally poor economies of the area. Unlike other countries with limited natuaral resources (Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and others), no Caribbean country has suceeded in building a modern prosperous economy. Limited expenditures on educatioin is not helping the coutries involved build modern economies. Cuba of all the counties in the region has placed the greates emphasis on eduction. But because of Castro and Commnism, Cuna has been transforned from the wealthiest Caribbean country to one of the poorest.


Anguillan uniforms basically followed British styles. In recent years, however, they have changed substantially. Virtually all school children now wear long pants to school despite the island's warm tropical climate.


Barbadian school uniforms basically followed British styles. There have been substantial changes, but schools continue to insist on British style uniforms. Short pants, for example, are still commonly worn.


Cuban education in a modern sence began in the Spanish colonial era, but only for the Spanish elite (16th century). The University of Havana was founded (1727). Cuna achieved its independence (1903). Only limited resoureces were devoted to education. Few workinh class children advanced beyond the primary years. The well to do sent their children to Catholic private schools. With Castro's 1959 revolution, the Communist Government seized control of all educational institutions. All forms of private education were banned. As in other Communist countries, the Governmet established a monompoly on both education and youth groups. The system Castro has created has both strengths and weaknesses. The Cuban Government devotes an estimated 10 percent of its budget to education which is much higher than any industrialized nation. But because Cuba is such an economic failure, the percapita expenditure is realtively low. This is offset somewhat by the low salaries paid staff. But it means that Cuban students to not have access to many modern tools like omouters. Nor is thge Government anxious to allow their students acces to the intnet where they can not control the information flow. Te Cuban schools do provide access to all education for all children regardless of family background, althouhn in modern Cuba, vurtually everyone is poor so there is no longer a elite sector of the population--except for higher ramking officials in the Party, Governmnt and military. Eduvational standards are high, especially in math and the sciences as wellas some of the humanities. There is a strong ideological. Te Cuban constitution manndates that ting that educational and cultural policy is based on Marxism. This significantly affects outcomes. As in Russia which also has schools with high standards, a Marxist econmy ceates few opportunities for talented individuals, even those with a solid technical skills. And the Marxist content of history and economics as well a state contol of the media meams that few young Cubans are asking the questions that might lead to the market reforms that are not only changing tghe face of Easrern Europe, but even more prominntly China. Cuban school children wear standardized school uniforms. red pants or suspender skirts. Many of the younger elementary children wear short pants. I don't know if this was a requirement, but most of the younger boys wear shorts. The children wear white shirts with blue and red Young Pioneer kerchiefs. The two colors signify different stages of participation in the Communist Party youth group. Once the boys ear their red scarves, more and more wear long pants.

Dominican Republic

HBC has very little information on school uniforms in the Dominican Republic. Like most Latin Amrerican countries it is likely that uniforms are commonly worn, especially in secondary schools and all private schools. One available image shows an example of school wear in the 1910s. Dominican school children in the early 20th century appear to have dressed much as American children. The girls wear dresses. White seems to have been popular. Some girls wear somocks and pinafores. Most but not all, despite the tropical climate, wore long stockings. Boys often wore sailor suits. Sailor tunics appear to have been popular for the younger boys.


Grenadian school uniforms have basically followed British styles. As in all the former British Caribbean colonies, all elementary-age boys and presumably many secondary-age boys wore short pants. Knee socks were common. I'm not sure when styles began to differ from British styles. I think the changes began in the 1980s. Girls uniforms are still basically British. All girls wear school frocks, jumpers, or skirts; shorts and pants are not worn. Boys uniform styles have changed considerably. All schools in 1999 still appear to require uniforms. Uniform colors are more varied in Grenada than other Caribbean islands. Boys generally wear white or blue shirts, some with school crests on them. One school has diatictive yellow shirts. The pants are, however, are more varied than the khaki, blue, and more rare grey pants worn on the other islands. Some schools have green or maroon pants. Most boys wear long pants, even in elermentary schools. Some of the very youngest boys in the first or second grade wear shorts, but they are the only ones--at least in St. George's. This appear to be a school rule rather than an option for the boys.


Guadeloupe became a French possession (1636). We do not yet have information on early schools in Guadeloupe. Catholic countries like France were slower to found public schools than most Protesrnt coutries. And France was slower still tofound school system in the colonies. Cathloic missions fojnded some schools. The French Government abolished slavery (1848). We are not sure when schools were opened to the former slaves. After World war II, Guadeloupe like Martinique became a French Department (1946). As a result the modern education system adopted the French system. Schools are both free and compulsory from age 6 to 16 years. The sclasses are taught in French. There are optional free école maternelle (pre-primary) schools which accept children as early as 2 years of age. Children formally enrol in the system for école primaire (primat ) schools at age 6 years. The primary level has 5 grades or forms. There are two two phases or sections of secondary education. The first phase lasts 4 years and is conducted at middle schools called coll�ges. *The term college varies substabtially in France over time nd in different countries.) fter completing the first stag od secondafry school, further educayion becomes optional. Students are free to write a leaving examination and seek employment. The academically inclined children continue their education and remain in secondary school. These schools are called lyc�es, another term which has varied over time. This os a 3 year program. These children choose between a general or a technical stream, aagain following the French model. hose students who do well in the lyc�es can pursue tertiary education, The primary institution is the Universit� des Antilles et de la Guyane. It has schools of economics, law, natural sciences, social sciences, and medicine. Some students from well-off families pursue their studies in France. There is also the Institut Universitaire de Formation des Ma�tres which provide a teacher training program. The Institute requires a BA or BS degree for admission. It is a 2 year program including subject specialization and teaching methods.


Haiti until independence was a hugely profitable slave-based sugar colony of France with no education for the vast majority of the population. The country's Constitution provided for free and compulsory primary education for all children (1805). This provision was absent in American state constitutions. Creating such a system was beyond the means of the new republic. The first leaders Henri Christophe (1807-20) and Alexandre P�tion (1806-18) began the job of constructing schools. The country in a few years had nineteen primary schools and three secondary lyc�es (1820). This essentialy provide for schools in the principal cities, but there wre no rural schools. The Haitian Education Act (1848) created rural primary schools. They were small schools with a shotened curriculum. The law also created colleges of medicine and law. Political turmoil and ecoomic difficulties prevented Haiti from establishing the comprehensive natinal school system that had been hoped for by the country's founders. Thus most Haitans had little opportunity for education. Wealthy Haitains sent their children, mostly sons, to France to be educated. The conclusion of a Concordat with the Vatican dramtically changed Haitian education (1860). The Catholic Church sent priests to Haiti which included teachers. This among other matters cemented the Catholic orientation of Haiti's ruleing class. Haitian public schools developed as Catholic schools in contrast to the secular educational systems fevelopin in Europe. The system was jointly funded by the Varican and the Haitian Government. The teachers were primarily French priests which in addition to instruction promoted an assoiciation with France among the children. The education message was essentially that Hait was backward and should look to France for enlightenment and essentially colonial message despite the fact Hiiti was independent. Essentially the French taught Haitians to look down on themselves and their country. The schools were mostly primary schools and almost entirely in the cities. There were a few secondary schools with excellent standards, but a very small part of the population attended these schools. Rural educatioin was very limited. The curriculum was very similar to 19th century French schools, emphasizing the classic literature and rote learning. The Americans tried to establish vocational education during their intervention (1915-35), but this refom was discontinued when the Americans dearted. Education in Haiti did not begin to change until the 1970s. Administrative and curriculum reforms began during Jean-Claude Duvalier regime and primary enrollments expanded. Even so, most Hautians dropped out of school by age 10 years and only 8 percent of the school age children even began secondary school (1982).


Jamaica was colonized by Spain, but seized by England (1660). It became the only British colony in the Greater antilles. Thus it almot entire educatuinal history is British. The education system is modeled after the British system. Britain as not, however, aleader in public education. And into the 19th century, nost of the population was slaves. There were no schools for slaves and as far as we can tell most whites were educated at home. We have found little information about Jamaican schools before Enancipation. Many of the rich planters sent their sons, but rarely their daughters, back to the mother country for schooling. Others hired private tutors. Other whites sent their sons to one of the 'free' schools that were established, mostly from bequests donated by wealthy planters and merchants. The Act of Emancipation began the freeing of the island's slave (1834). Missionary socities began the limited education of former slave children (1830s). The colonial government began to get involved (1860s). The Jamaican school system expanded slowly in the late-19th and early-20 century. The purpose of these schools was to educate Japaican children to fit what was seen as their station in life. The British began leaving Jamaica as the economy lnguished. The p[ulation became more andmor people of African or mixed-race origins. This Jamaicans haad to be trained for mid-level jobs that were once filled by the British. This was the origin od the country's secondary schools. The Government even began offering scholarships for university study abroad. A comprehensive free public education was not launced until a century aftr emancipation as Jamaica began toward independence (1944). Britain granted independence (1962). Jamaican educators after independence popularized the idea of developing 'homegrown' responses to economic, social, and political issues, including education.


Puerto Rico

Many Puerto Rican elementary schools do not require uniforms, but they are common in secondary schools. Most private and catholic schools do require uniforms at both the elementary and secondary level. Uniforms tend to be simple, often white shirts, both regular and polo knit shirts, and dark pants are common.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines

St Vincenbt offers free primary education, but rather unusually it is not compulsory. We do not have recent literacy data, but when last assessed it was 96 percent, basicallt the same as in most other Caribbean countries. The state primary schools dominate the school system. There are a few private schoolds. Following the British system, secondary education begins at age 11 years. There are also a few Catholic and Anglican religious schools which receive government assistance. As in many Caribbean children, most of the schools have requird uniforms. In addition to the primary and secondary school systems there re a variety of other schools. this includes technical and vocational schools, a school for children with special needs, and Saint Vincent Community College, which has prograns for for nursing and teacher training in zddition o other vocations. The University of the West Indies Open Campus has a facikity on Saint Vincent.


Trinidadian school uniforms have basically followed British styles. As in all the former British Caribbean colonies, all elementary-age boys and presumably many secondary-age boys wore short pants. Knee socks were common. I'm not sure when styles began to differ from British styles. Girls uniforms are still basically British. All girls wear school frocks, jumpers, or skirts; shorts and pants are not worn. Boys styles, however, have changed. All schools appear to have uniforms. Khaki uniforms are particularly common, including all khaki uniforms and colored shirts with khaki pants. White shirts with blue pants are also common. The general pattern is for elementary-age boys to wear short pants and secondary-age boys wear long pants. There also do not appear to be any secondary schools wear boys wear short pants. Boys do not wear kneesocks. They do, however, wear mostly black leather shoes. Sneakers are not worn to school.


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Created: 12:48 AM 6/9/2014
Last updated: 8:26 PM 10/4/2014