Free public education is available to all children up to the age of 14 in the Dominican Republic, regardless of immigration status.
However, citizenship is required in order to progress to secondary education at the age of 14. The Dominican government and charities continue to try and reduce the number of kids dropping out at 14 after basic level education. The quality of education in public schools has not improved over the last few years due to lack of government spending, and because teacher training is not up to scratch. Learning is impeded as classes are often overcrowded and facilities are insufficient.
An academic year in the Dominican Republic is divided into two terms with a Christmas break in the middle. There is an eight week summer holiday, which begins mid- to late June and schools reopen mid-August.
A typical school day begins early at 7.30am/8am and finishes at around 2pm. Only going to school for half a day is the norm in the Dominican Republic but it can also happen in the afternoon, for example, starting at 12pm and finishing at 6pm; it will vary from school to school. The Dominican government, however, has recently opened the first full-day school in Puerto Plata.
Subjects taught at primary level in public schools are primarily academic and there are no provisions for students who would perhaps benefit more from practical learning. If students do go on to secondary education there are more options available to them in the way of teacher training, vocational courses and polytechnics.
In Santo Domingo, teaching in other languages can be found in public schools with curricula in both Spanish and foreign languages.
Students in all schools, whether public or private, have to wear uniforms. This is considered a contributing factor to the number of dropouts and poor attendance, as families are unable to afford the expense.
There is a long history of private education in the Dominican Republic, and the number of pupils enrolled in private school continues to increase.
Around 15% of primary school students, and 22% of secondary school pupils, attend private schools. In Santo Domingo 72% of schools are private and enrol more than 50% of all primary education students in the city. The growth of the private sector is due to the deterioration of the public school system.
Private schools in the Dominican Republic tend to have more children of various nationalities than public schools, much of the instruction is therefore in English. A level of proficiency in English must be met before being enrolled in the majority of private schools.
Tuition fees and other costs vary from school to school; but as a rule, the older the child the higher the fees. English language private schools will command a premium and fees are considerably higher than at the private schools where instruction is in Spanish.
Religious private schools, on the other hand, are partially funded by the state as well as the Catholic congregation. Scholarships for high achievers are available from the government to enable them to attend a private school, usually of their choice.
Both private and public schools have to follow the national curriculum, adhere to the academic timetable set out by the ministry and take the national exams at the end of basic and secondary education.
The international schools in the Dominican Republic, however, have more flexibility with regards to academic timetabling and curriculum.
For example, the Carol Morgan School and American School of Santo Domingo are both private international schools that follow a curriculum much like U.S. schools; with students undertaking the PSAT and SAT exams.
Santiago Christian School is another noted international school, where the curriculum followed is similar to that of a U.S. preparatory school.
Private and international schools are also permitted to enhance their curriculum as long as the set material is covered, and the academic year can be changed as long as they can prove the curriculum has been fulfilled.
Grading in all Dominican schools follows the A-F system found in the US, whether public, private or international.