In the Dominican Republic, alongside a paradise of beautiful beaches, warm and engaging people, and exotic culture exists a fragile society facing numerous challenges. These challenges include a weak democratic system, corrupt public institutions, human rights abuses, an underdeveloped educational system, inadequate health services, and insufficient protections against environmental and natural disasters.
Especially concerning is the state of the public government-run education system. With an average education completion level of 8th grade, Dominican students are not being prepared to solve the challenges facing their country. With an abbreviated school day of 3 – 4 hours, classroom continuity is hopeless and ineffective in most of the public schools. Until 2012, the Dominican government seemed unable to address these problems to turn around what was recognized as most as a downward spiral.
Halfway through his first term in office, the current President, Danilo Medina, has determined that an improved and better-funded education system is one of his top priorities, building more school buildings and creating programs to increase enrollment. His campaign pledge to increase education spending to 4% of GDP and his popular literacy programs have helped, but the big picture is daunting and the likelihood of Medina’s programs continuing after his term of office is remote. Moreover, despite adding school buildings and more educational program, there is a significant shortage of qualified teachers to staff the new schools and meet enrollment demands.
For these reasons, our organization has made education one of its top priorities through efforts like Projecto Educativo of ACES (PEACES). Though ACES works hard to assist and empower local communities in a number of ways, education remains central to our mission. Dominicans cannot demand a more representative and responsive government, stand up against human rights abuses, or experience the quality of life they deserve without increasing and improving educational opportunities.