School and Education in Haiti

The school system in Haiti is one of the weakest in the world, and a large part of the population cannot fulfill the right to education. 59 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and the country is characterized by unstable governance and economic challenges, as well as social and political turmoil that greatly affects access to education.

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38.3 percent of the population over the age of 15 are illiterate (UNESCO, 2015). In the 15-24 year age group, almost 83 percent are literate (UNESCO, 2015).

Haiti Country Flag

Haiti flag source:

Education is highly valued among the population. The right to free public education for all is enshrined in Haiti’s constitution. It is the National Ministry of Education that is responsible for the public education program in Haiti. Several former leaders and authorities in Haiti have had stated goals and policy proposals to improve the country’s education system. The authorities have not been able to fulfill this obligation to their citizens. They have underfunded education in their national budgets for a number of years and depend on development assistance.

As a result, the school system in Haiti is heavily privatized and dominated by non-governmental providers of education that have largely eradicated the public offering. Religious, private and non-governmental organizations account for between 80 and 90 percent of the education provision in the country’s approximately 15,000 elementary schools. These enroll more than 80 percent of students. A large proportion of the private players demand school fees despite the constitutional right to free education. On average, it costs $ 80 in school fees for one student per year, excluding school books, uniforms and transportation. This makes education unavailable to most people. The Ministry of Education is responsible for regulating the entire educational program, including the private providers.

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The big earthquake in 2010 contributed to a further weakening of the education system in the country. The earthquake led to major destruction of infrastructure and school buildings. It is estimated that 85 percent of schools in affected areas were destroyed or closed over a long period of time. According to the Department of Education in Haiti, the earthquake caused about 5,000 schools, 23 percent, to be destroyed, causing about 2.9 million children to be prevented from schooling. Thousands of public servants and teachers lost their lives, and between 50 and 90 percent of students and students were internally displaced. In posterity, many parents faced great challenges in paying for their children’s education. There has been a tremendous need for external assistance, and the country relies on assistance to rebuild. At the same time, Haiti has been characterized by internal political power struggles in the post-earthquake period.

As a language of teaching, French has long been the dominant language and is still the language that dominates. Creole, which is the language the majority of the population speaks for, has gradually won its entrance. It is estimated that less than 10 percent of the population speaks French.

Primary school

There are two parallel school systems in Haiti: the traditional, based on the French system, and the reformed schools. In the traditional system, elementary school is 6-years old, followed by 7-year high school. In the reformed schools, the elementary school is 9-years old and high school 3-year-olds. Officially, there is 6 years of compulsory schooling, from children 6 to 11 years.

Although the right to free public elementary schooling is enacted, the lack of public schools means that many have to pay school fees to gain access to education. The proportion of school fees has increased significantly over the last decades, which represents a major financial burden on households. This is considered to be one of the major barriers to access to education in Haiti.

Statistics are deficient, but it is estimated that about 60 percent of children are enrolled in school. Over half of the students do not complete, and a small number continue to high school. To enter high school, students must take an entrance exam. It is estimated that only 2 percent make up this for further education, but these entrance exams vary according to the different school systems. Between 70 and 80 percent of those who go to upper secondary education choose private schools where they have to pay school fees.

There are major geographical differences between city and country. The population living in rural areas has lower education than those living in urban areas. Education is centralized, with about 80 percent in the cities, despite several attempts by the authorities to decentralize. Another challenge to ensure good quality education is the huge proportion of unskilled and unskilled teachers. It is estimated that about 80 percent of primary school teachers are not educated.

Vocational education

Vocational education is offered at various levels after completing primary school. There are a number of different programs, and the majority are run by private players. Most programs have a duration of 3 or 4 years. A majority of the programs provide training in practical occupations and housework. Several of the programs are also offered to uneducated.

Higher education

There are a number of private and public universities and higher education institutions in Haiti. There are few public universities, and The State University of Haiti in Port-Au-Prince is the largest state university in the country. Given the access to education in general in Haiti, a very low proportion of the population takes higher education. The statistics are deficient, but it is estimated that less than 1 percent of young people are enrolled in higher education. Most students rely on scholarships or other financial support provided by religious or charitable organizations to take a higher education and pay school fees. It is also a challenge that most people who succeed in taking higher education move out of the country.

Higher educational institutions were particularly hard hit by the earthquake in 2010, with 87 percent of the institutions suffering major destruction or leveling with the earth.

In recent years, there has been a strong growth in the number of higher education institutions, and a large majority of these are located in Port-au-Prince. It is estimated that there are just over 200, and that only a quarter of these are officially approved and accredited by the Ministry of Education in Haiti.