I for many rural Haitians. Public schools do

I would like for
you to recall the first decade after gaining independence in 1804. The geographical
divide that was prevalent before independence began to cause extensive
bloodshed and political rift among the founding generals, Henri Christophe and
Alexandre Pétion (Prou, 2009). This political and geographical divide became
the starting point of Haiti’s educational stratification. Although, both
leaders created primary and secondary schools in the areas they controlled,
they were only accessible to the children of the urban elites. This created a
type of “social apartheid,” where the leaders wanted to reinforce the elitist
class structure that had existed before independence and widen the gap of
resources available between the rich and the poor. Due to this division, “Haiti
has not been able to design and implement any well-intended national public
policies in education for achieving social and economic justice for all its
citizens (Prou, 2009).”

Today, private
schools are the predominant form of education for many rural Haitians. Public
schools do exist, but these schools are few and scattered throughout the
countryside. Public schools are so inaccessible to many students that they are
required to travel long distances if they want to attend these schools (Prou,
2009). Although public schools do not require tuition, parents are still
required to pay for their children’s uniforms, books, school supplies, and
other school materials in addition to a registration fee. This is not possible for
many disadvantaged rural families. As a result, many families do not send their
children to either public or private schools because of the financial burden it
generates and because it reduces the number of members contributing to support
the family (Prou, 2009). The cause of low graduation rates and high dropout
rates of rural and private schools is influenced by many issues such as severe
and chronic undernourishment that affects the mental development of students, overcrowded
classrooms in poor conditions, teachers who are not properly trained to teach, and
classrooms that have multiple grade levels. Outdated teaching methods, such as
rote memorization and instruction in French, are another cause of low graduation
rates because it prevents many rural students who only speak Haitian Creole at
home from understanding the lessons (Prou, 2009). As a result of these issues,
many students end up repeating grades or dropping out.

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In addition, less
than ten percent of the country’s national budget from the early 1970s through
the late 1980s was used for education while in contrast, fifty percent of the
budget was used for military. According to the World Bank, the government
expenditures on education for many Caribbean countries, including Jamaica,
Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas have overall increased their
spending for education from 1970 to 2015. Haiti has made little improvements
towards increasing spending for education and has a GDP (gross domestic
product) of 1.074, which is the lowest in the Caribbean (“Government
expenditure on education,” 2017). The comparison of education spending between
other Caribbean countries and Latin America show that it is a matter of
priorities and not so much a matter of resources (Solino, 2011). The issue here
is that lack of financial allocation for education exacerbates the inequality that
is seen in Haiti between the rich and the poor. It also decreases educational
opportunities that could benefit the amelioration of the impoverished masses
since privatization of education is dominant and inaccessible.

A handful of
educational reforms have been created to improve education in Haiti. The
Haitian Constitution provides the right of education to every individual but it
has not been able to achieve this with past reforms for various reasons (Solino,
2011). The Bernard Reform of 1978 was the first attempt to modernize education
and make it accessible to the rural poor. One of its goals was to introduce
vocational training to support the labor market and make Haitian Creole the
official language of primary instruction in order to dismantle the inefficient
teaching of French during primary education (Prou, 2009). In later education,
French would be implemented so that students could be competitive in the job
market. One reason why this reformed failed was because the most influential
Haitians spoke French and they feared that the lower socioeconomic classes
would threaten the power that they currently had in Haiti. In addition, many
parents saw the technical schools as less prestigious than sending their kids
to university in other countries so the reform did not achieve its goal of
increasing the labor market since there were no jobs for students who obtained
degrees in liberal arts instead of a technical field (Prou, 2009). 

The National Plan
on Education and Training of 1997 (NEPT) was another reform that was created to
dismantle the French education system and instill unity and appreciation for
Haitian culture, which was extensively being ignored because of the teaching of
French culture and the desire of students to be more French (International
Business Publications, Inc, 2013, 109- 114). One of the goals of the NPET was
to ensure that primary education would be free and compulsory. However,
decreasing budget allocations for education and weak state institutions have
caused an increase in school privatization (Solino, 2011). As a result, more
than 90% of Haitian schools are privately owned and charge high tuition rates
which cannot be met by many of the parents in rural areas (Solino, 2011).

The most recent
reform is the Operational Plan of 2010 – 2015 which was created after the 2010
earthquake and was a partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank,
Haiti’s largest lender (Carbrol, 2010). After the earthquake, thousands of
schools were destroyed and over half of primary school-aged children were not
enrolled in school (International Business Publications, Inc, 2013, 109- 114).  The reform was a five-year plan supported by
grants and donations and had goals to call for private schools to be publicly
funded, which would increase the access of education for many children, pay all
teachers and administrators participating in the new system, improve teacher
training and student tracking, build new schools, and improve facilities (Carbrol,
2010). Unfortunately, many of these objectives have not been accomplished (United
Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2017).

It is obvious from
these reforms that constraints to improving education include the desire of the
elite to retain the division between the rich and the poor through a language
barrier, the inaccessibility of primary education to many disadvantaged Haitian
families because it remains privatized and expensive, and the lack of
sufficient budget allocations for education have not been enough to encourage
reforms to follow through. It is clear that in order for Haiti to improves its
education system, it needs to make it a priority. One way this can be achieved is
by allocating more financial resources to education. Government expenditure
have increased in the last couple years, but it remains insignificant to
expanding infrastructure, providing subsidies and other resources to students
of disadvantaged families, and regulating the education sector in general (Filippo,
Alonso, et al., 2017, 11). The Haitian government can increase its spending on education
by reallocating a portion of the money from military expenses and other
expenses to education. In addition, reaching out to banks and donors, such as
the Inter-American Development Bank and the Global Partnership for Education,
can provide loans and donations that can supplement gaps in funding. Under
President Martelly, the government had implemented subsidies that achieved 82%
of coverage for disadvantaged students in 2016 (Fillipo, Alonso, et al., 2017,
11). With increased government spending on education, you can work with the
president to continue subsidizing private education and more subsidies can be
created so that more children in rural neighborhoods can attend private schools
that are close to them. In addition to the subsidies, you can motivate more
private schools in rural areas to become subsidized to compensate for the inequality
in accessing education. With an increased budget for education, it is possible to
create more infrastructure, improve enrollment and retention in primary
education, increase graduation rates, and improve teacher training.

Language is
another issue that stymies access to education in Haiti. Haitian Creole should
be in equivalence of prestige with French because it is the language that is predominantly
spoken by everyone and it has been recognized as an official language of Haiti
since 1960 (Valdman, 2011). The language barrier in Haitian education needs to
close in order for students to receive as many opportunities as possible regardless
of class, and so that more rural individuals can participate in and have access
to politics and economy. If the Ministry does not pay attention to this by
making the instruction of education more inclusive, then education cannot and
will not become available to all. As mentioned earlier, this has been a target
in the Bernard Reform of 1978 and the NEPT of 1997. Some of the initiatives of
these two reforms can be revisited. These reforms mainly failed because of the
influence of the elite. When more financial resources are allocated to
education, free public primary schools can be built where the only language of
instruction is Haitian Creole. Since many urban parents will not send their
children to public schools, these schools will have a greater ability in making
Haitian Creole the primary language of instruction. Private schools can also
participate in this initiative to benefit students receiving subsidies by
implementing classes in the primary level that only teach Haitian Creole. Beginning with this will make lessons
clearer for students at the primary level and will help retain students
throughout each grade level. Gradually, French can be introduced when students
have mastered Haitian-Creole so that they can be competitive in the job market.

In addition,
teacher training needs to be improved in order to increase and retain the enrollment
of students in secondary education. Although the enrollment rate of primary
education is 76%, over 85% of teachers are not qualified to teach at the
primary school level (“Haiti Improves Access to Education,” 2012). As a result,
the enrollment rate is 22% at the secondary level (“Haiti Improves Access to Education,”
2012). More rigorous teacher training needs to be implemented in order to
combat the substantial gap in primary and secondary enrollment, which may be a
result of students in primary education receiving mediocre education. This can
be implemented by subsidizing teaching universities so that teachers are able
to access resources to provide quality education to their students. Recently,
you announced the ongoing mission to pay teachers who have been underpaid or not
paid at all (“Tournée du Ministre Cadet dans la Grand-Anse”, 2017). This is a
great first step in retaining qualified teachers and decreasing teacher
absentee rates. In addition to what your Ministry can do, the IDB has plans to
help increase the quality of teachers by providing teacher certification and
training, technical assistance and training to school directors in effective
management and leadership and to teachers on pedagogical skills and content
knowledge (Filippo, Alonso, et al., 2016, 12).

Currently, most private
schools are running without an official license or supervision by the Ministry
(Filippo, Alonso, et al., 2017, 11). This is a reason why many of them have tuition
and admission fees the general population cannot afford. More adequate
oversight is required by the Ministry in order to decrease the tuitions of
these schools for students who do not qualify for subsidies. The Ministry of
Education needs to be strengthened in order to have a stronger foundation so
that reforms and programs are guaranteed to be implemented and followed
through. This can be done by training the Ministry of Education staff so that
they can plan, manage, and maintain new programs and reforms that you and
future Ministers’ of Education create. Training of the staff can be achieved
with organizations that focus on international education such as UNESCO so that
the Ministry of Education staff have access to the programs focused on
educational planning and management (“Developing capacities for a stronger
education,” 2017). In addition, the IDB plans to strengthen the Ministry by
establishing a Quality of Assurance System (QAS), which is a way of preventing
mistakes or defects in providing management and avoiding problems when delivering
solutions or services to customers (Manghani, 2011).

In order for these
suggestions to improve education in Haiti, there needs to be an increase of
government oversight and government spending on education so that private
schools are better managed, teacher training is improved, the Ministry staff is
more equipped to create and implement educational reforms, and instruction is
united by language. It is important that disadvantaged students have subsidies
to nearby private schools so that they can afford supplies and books for
classes. In addition to increasing subsidies, teacher training needs to be
improved with programs that will improve the quality of teaching in every
department in Haiti, including the rural areas. With more power, the Ministry
of Education can implement rules and evaluations that would eliminate
inefficient teachers who do not show up to teach. Better access to education in
Haiti will help decrease poverty and help sustain development that will promote
economic growth and provide solutions to severe undernourishment as well as social,
and environmental issues. Thank you for your time, and I hope that you and the
Ministry staff take my recommendations into consideration.