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Education in Puerto Rico

Education in Puerto Rico
Department of Education
Council on Higher Education
National education budget
Budget $3.5 billion US$
General details
Primary languages Spanish, English
System type state, private
Male 93.9%
Female 94.4
Total unknown
Primary unknown
Secondary unknown
Post secondary unknown
Secondary diploma 60%
Post-secondary diploma 18.3%

Education in Puerto Rico is overseen by the Department of Education of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico Education Council. The Department oversees all elementary and secondary public education while the Council oversees all academic standards and issues licenses to educational institutions wishing to operate or establish themselves in Puerto Rico.[1]

Instruction in Puerto Rico is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 18, which comprises the elementary and high school grades. Students in Puerto Rico may attend either public or private schools. As of 2013, there were 1,460 public schools and 764 private schools on the island.[2]

The literacy rate of the Puerto Rican population was 94.1% in 2002; when divided by gender, this is distributed as 93.9% for males and 94.4% for females.[3] According to the 2000 Census, 60.0% of the population attained a high school degree or higher level of education, and 18.3% has a bachelor's degree or higher.[4]


  • History 1
  • Levels 2
  • Elementary and secondary education 3
    • Public education 3.1
      • Language 3.1.1
    • Private schools 3.2
    • Homeschooling 3.3
  • Higher education in Puerto Rico 4
    • Community colleges & technical institutes 4.1
    • Colleges and universities 4.2
  • Contemporary issues 5
    • Dropout rate 5.1
    • Parents participation 5.2
    • Poor performance in public schools 5.3
    • Market demand for college graduates 5.4
  • Notable Puerto Rico educators 6
  • Further reading 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10


The first school in Puerto Rico and the first school in the United States after Puerto Rico became a US territory, was the Escuela de Gramática (English: Grammar School). The school was established by Bishop Alonso Manso in 1513, in the area where the Cathedral of San Juan was to be constructed. The school was free of charge and the courses taught were Latin language, literature, history, science, art, philosophy and theology.[5]


The educational system in Puerto Rico consists of seven categories.[6] These categories are based on the educational levels covered:

# Level Age Commonly known as Compulsion Remarks
1 nursery school 0–4 pre-K optional comprises Early Head Start, Head Start, and pre-kindergarten
2 preschool 5 K compulsory comprises kindergarten
3 elementary education 6–11 1–6 compulsory comprises first grade to sixth grade
4 junior high school 12–14 7–9 compulsory comprises seventh grade to ninth grade
5 high school 15–17 10–12 compulsory comprises tenth grade to twelfth grade
6 undergraduate 18+ college optional comprises associate and/or bachelor's degree
7 graduate 22+ graduate school optional comprises master's degree, doctorate, and/or post-doctorate

Some Puerto Rican schools, most notably in rural areas, offer kinder to ninth grade (K–9) at the same institution and are referred to as Segunda Unidad (English: Second Unit). Other schools offer seventh grade to twelfth grade (7–12) at the same institution and are referred to as Nivel Secundario (English: Secondary Level).

Elementary and secondary education

Public education

The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico grants the right to an education to every citizen on the island. To this end, public schools in Puerto Rico provide free and secular education at the elementary and secondary levels.

The public school system is funded by the state and is operated by the Teachers' Federation of Puerto Rico. The remaining teachers are either temporary or contracted on a yearly basis.

Public schools in Puerto Rico are subject to the federal No Child Left Behind Act.


Unlike most schools in the United States, public school instruction in Puerto Rico is conducted entirely in Spanish. English is taught as a second language and is a compulsory subject at all levels. In the early years following the 1898 American occupation of the island, the opposite was true: public schooling was entirely conducted in English, and Spanish was treated as a special subject (the practice ended in 1915). In 2012, pro-statehood Governor Luis Fortuño caused controversy when he proposed that all courses in Puerto Rico public schools be taught in English instead of Spanish as they currently are.[7]

Private schools

Private schools in Puerto Rico are operated by non-governmental institutions. Accredited elementary and secondary private schools in Puerto Rico must meet minimum public education requirements for academic work (P.R. Laws Ann. Tit. 18, § 57).


Homeschooling, an alternative form of education, is legal in Puerto Rico but is neither regulated nor legislated.

The issue of legislation has caused a serious rift within the homeschooling community. While some of these parents want the government to establish a public policy on homeschooling, others oppose all forms of legislation. They also allege that the lack of regulation has led them to confront difficulties when interacting with the government, as evidenced in the case of a homeschooled student who was denied federal Social Security benefits.

From the Applicable Law portion of the decision:

Higher education in Puerto Rico

Over half of the students entering college level institutions in Puerto Rico, never graduate: only 41% of 4-year students in public universities and 33% in private institutions get a diploma.[8]

Community colleges & technical institutes

Colleges and universities

The largest public university in Puerto Rico is the multi-campus University of Puerto Rico. The largest private university systems on the island are the Sistema Universitario Ana G. Mendez which operates the Universidad del Turabo, Metropolitan University and Universidad del Este; the multi-campus Interamerican University; the Pontificial Catholic University; Caribbean University; Carlos Albizu University; and the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón.

Puerto Rico has over 50 institutions of higher learning.

University Public/Private Locations
American University of Puerto Rico Private Bayamón, Manatí
Atlantic College of Puerto Rico Private Guaynabo
Caribbean University Private Bayamón, Carolina, Ponce, Vega Baja
Carlos Albizu University Private San Juan
Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe Private San Juan
Colegio Universitario de San Juan Public San Juan
Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico Public San Juan
Escuela de Artes Plásticas de Puerto Rico Public San Juan
Facultad de Derecho Eugenio Maria de Hostos Private Mayagüez
National University College Private Arecibo, Bayamón, Ponce, Rio Grande
Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico Private San Juan
Ponce School of Medicine Private Ponce
Pontífica Universidad Católica de Puerto Rico Private Arecibo, Coamo, Mayaguez, Ponce
San Juan Bautista School of Medicine Private Caguas
Seminario Evangélico de Puerto Rico Private Rio Piedras
Universidad Adventista de las Antillas Private Mayagüez
Universidad Central de Bayamón Private Bayamón
Universidad Central del Caribe Private Bayamón
Universidad de Puerto Rico Public Aguadilla, Arecibo, Bayamón, Carolina, Cayey, Humacao, Mayagüez, Ponce, San Juan, Utuado
Universidad del Este Private Cabo Rojo, Carolina, Manatí, Santa Isabel, Utuado, Yauco
Universidad del Sagrado Corazón Private San Juan
Universidad del Turabo Private Gurabo
Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico Private Aguadilla, Arecibo, Barranquitas, Bayamón, Fajardo, Guayama, Ponce, San Germán, San Juan
Universidad Metropolitana Private Aguadilla, Bayamón, Jayuya, San Juan
University of Phoenix Private Guaynabo

Contemporary issues

Dropout rate

A recent study by the Department of Education of Puerto Rico showed that about 40% of all the students that enter tenth grade in public schools in Puerto Rico drop out and never finish secondary education.[4][9]

Parents participation

A January 2014 news report stated that 55% of parents with children in public schools picked up their children's grades for the first semester of 2013–2014 school year on the scheduled day.[10]

Poor performance in public schools

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, ninety-five percent (95%) of public school students in Puerto Rico graduate at a sub-basic level while sixty percent (60%) do not even graduate.[11] Furthermore, according to the Department of Education of Puerto Rico, thirty-nine percent (39%) of public school students perform at a basic level (average performance) in Spanish in the Puerto Rican Tests of Academic Achievement.[12] Likewise, 36% perform at a basic level in Mathematics while 35% perform at a basic level in English and 43% at a basic level in Science in said tests.[12]

NAEP scores 2005

Moreover, studies published in 2003, 2005, and 2007 by the United States National Center for Education Statistics as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) concluded that Puerto Rico falls below basic levels when compared to the United States[13][14][15]—being basic defined as "partial mastery of the knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work" according to NAEP. In particular the findings showed that:

  • Overall, fourth- and eighth-grade students in Puerto Rico scored lower, on average, than public school students in the United States.[13]
  • Twelve percent (12%) of students in Puerto Rico scored at or above basic in fourth grade in comparison to the United States where 79% of students scored at or above basic in the same grade.[13]
  • Six percent (6%) of students in Puerto Rico scored at or above basic in eighth grade in comparison to the United States where 68% of students in the United States scored at or above basic in the same grade.[13]

As a result of this, 1,321 out of 1,466 public schools in Puerto Rico (about 90%) do not comply with the academic progress requirements established by the No Child Left Behind Act.[16]

Market demand for college graduates

Puerto Rico is atypical as many youngsters pursue post-secondary studies even though the local market has no demand for them. For example, in 2012 50,000 students graduated at the undergraduate and graduate level while the labor market generated only about 6,000 jobs per year of which only 25% of those required that level of education.[1] This effectively means that the Puerto Rican market has no demand for 97% of those who graduate with an undergraduate or graduate degree in Puerto Rico, although many find jobs out of the island.

Notable Puerto Rico educators

Further reading

  • La Junta Local de Instrucción Pública de Ponce: una Experiencia Histórica (1900-1910). Cristina R. Torres. Caribbean University, Recinto de Ponce. 2011. (Accessible through La Revista de Investigación Cualitativa, ISSN 2164-7216, Unión Puertorriqueña de Investigadores Cualitativos (UPIC), sistema de acceso abierto (OJS). "Revistas de la Universidad de Puerto Rico." University of Puerto Rico.) Discusses the topic of the municipalization of public education in Puerto Rico.


  1. ^ Calderón (2013; in Spanish) "En 2012, se graduaron cerca de 50,000 estudiantes de nivel subgraduado y graduado y se proyectaba que el mercado laboral generara en promedio cerca de 6,000* empleos por año, de los cuales sólo el 25% requiere esos niveles de educación."[2]


  1. ^ "Conoce el Departamento de Educación | Departamento de Educación de Puerto Rico". Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  2. ^ a b Calderón, Jaime (October 2013). "Panorama del sector educativo" (in Spanish).  
  3. ^ CIA FactBook
  4. ^ a b Census 2000 Educational Attainment Data
  5. ^ "Hispanic Firsts", By; Nicolas Kanellos, publisher Visible Ink Press; ISBN 0-7876-0519-0; p.40
  6. ^ Online Guide to Educational Systems Around the World - Puerto Rico. NAFSA.Page 4. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  7. ^ Coto, Danica (May 8, 2012). "Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño Proposes Plan For Island's Public Schools To Teach In English Instead Of Spanish".  
  8. ^ Muchos estudiantes y pocos los diplomas. Jason Rodríguez Grafal. La Perla del Sur. Ponce, Puerto Rico. Year 30. Retrieved 22 June 1012.
  9. ^ "Home - El Nuevo Día". Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  10. ^ "Poco más de la mitad de los padres fueron a buscar notas de sus hijos" (in Spanish).  
  11. ^ "Carta de Ricardo Rossello a Claridad". Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  12. ^ a b Puerto Rico Department of Education, Library and Information Services Program (21 September 2012). "Puerto Rico Five Year Plan 2013-2017". Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c d G.P., Baxter, M.M., Bleeker, T.L. Waits and S. Salvucci (14 March 2007). "The Nation's Report Card: Mathematics 2003 and 2005 Performance in Puerto Rico". Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  14. ^ G.S. Dion, J.G. Haberstroh, and A.R. Dresher (15 March 2007). "The Nation's Report Card: Mathematics 2005 Performance in Puerto Rico: Focus on the Content Areas". Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  15. ^ The Nation's Report Card: Mathematics 2005 Performance in Puerto Rico—Focus on the Content Areas - March 29, 2007"
    The Nation's Report Card: Mathematics 2003 and 2005 Performance in Puerto Rico—Highlights
    "Commissioner's Remarks - National Assessment of Educational Progress. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
  16. ^ "Home - El Nuevo Día". Retrieved 2014-02-09. 

Further reading

  • Solsitee del Moral, Negotiating Empire: The Cultural Politics of Schools in Puerto Rico, 1898–1952. Madison, WI; University of Wisconsin Press, 2013.
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