There is a small little known country in between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic ocean called the Dominican Republic. It is a country on the west side of the island of Hispaniola shared with Haiti, where Christopher Columbus first landed upon the west’s discovery of the new world. Yet, for being the earliest setting of such a vital moment in early American history, not much is known about this country, much less culturally in relation to education. To better understand the educational system of this country we must begin by first having an understanding of its culture, including the history and external influences that shaped it, in addition to what makes the Dominican people – including music, languages, religions, ethnicities, cuisine, symbols, holidays, and traditions.
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The historical context under which the Dominican Republic was founded plays a major role in the development of its educational system. At the time of the discovery of the New World, the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope were the most influential players in world politics. In order for Christopher Columbus to get royal patronage from Spain’s Queen Isabella to start his voyage, he also had to receive approval from the Pope. So, once Columbus discovered the indigenous populations of the America’s, the Pope issued a papal bull declaring that they were to be converted to Christianity. Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic’s capitol, was the first permanent settlement founded by the Spanish explorers after Christopher Columbus’ second voyage. Thus the first type of education to appear in the New World was under a religious basis, in the Dominican Republic. In fact, the term “Dominican” refers to the religious order of monks, the Dominicans, which first came to the America’s as missionaries to convert the indigenous population. It was not long until the Dominican order of monks constructed permanent establishments to educate both the Indigenous and Spanish population. Much of the educational system in the Dominican Republic that exists today still shows signs of its foundation in Catholicism.
There was much political conflict during the period between the initial Spanish conquest and Dominican Independence in 1844. Once the power of Spain started weakening after the sixteenth century, Spain played a weaker influence in the Dominican Republic. In the Treaty of Ryswick of 1697, Spain actually gave the western half of Hispaniola to France. Again in 1795 Spain made an agreement to France to give all of its holdings in the Dominican Republic to France. There were many attempts towards independence made by Dominicans, but each time the Haitian government would suppress any rebellions. It was not until 1844 that the Dominican Republic drafted a constitution and became independent from Haiti. By the 1860’s Haiti was still making attempts to reclaim the Dominican Republic, which led Dominican leaders to turn to Spain and the United States for assistance.
The entrance of the United States into Dominican history played a major role in the development of its current educational system. Today many of the Dominican Republic’s private and public school are bilingual in English and Spanish. The United States military occupied the Dominican Republic beginning in the 20th century around 1905. The U.S. also dictated Dominican customs and heavily influenced Dominican politics. It wasn’t until the 1930’s with the rise of dictator Trujillo that the United States discontinued its involvement in Dominican affairs. Trujillo was an extremely ruthless dictator that had a negative impact on the nation’s growth. Trujillo issued heavy censorship and government propaganda into the school systems in order to keep the population supportive of him. Trujillo kept his conservative grip on the Dominican Republic until the 1970’s.
After Trujillo’s death there was one university, the University of Santa Domingo (Universidad de Santo Domingo), with roughly 3,500 students. By the late 1980s, there were more than twenty-six institutions of higher education with a total enrollment of over 120,000 students. Enrollment in private schools also expanded during the post-Trujillo era. Private schools, most of them operated by the Roman Catholic Church, enjoyed a reputation for academic superiority to public schools. By the 1970s, they appeared to be the preferred educational option for the urban middle class. The government decreed major curriculum reforms at the primary and secondary levels in the 1970s in an effort to render schooling more relevant to students’ lives and needs. Today, the Dominican Republic’s educational system slowly but surely continues its progress towards academic success for its citizens.
The main components of Dominican culture include religion, ethnicity, cuisine, music, national symbols, language, holidays, and traditions. There are many religions observed by the Dominican population. The Dominican Republic is 95.2% Christian, predominantly Roman Catholic at 88.6% and 4.2% are Protestant. Recent immigration and exposure to other countries has brought other religions such as Spiritism at 2.2%, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 1.1%, Buddhism at 0.10%, Bahá’ísm at 0.1%, Islam at 0.02%, Judaism at 0.01%, Chinese Folk Religion at 0.1%, and Dominican Vudu (no census).
Judaism appeared in the Dominican late 1930s as a group of Jews escaping Nazi Germany fled to there during World War II and founded the city of Sosúa.
Religious freedom has always been allowed throughout the country. In the 1950s Trujillo began a campaign against the church, planning to arrest religious leaders who preached against the government, but this campaign ended before it was even put into effect when he was assassinated.
The ethnic identity of the Dominican population is 73% multiracial, 16% white, and 11% black. The multiracial population is mainly a combination of European, African, and Taíno ancestry. Many Haitians have immigrated creating a large Haitian minority. Other ethnic groups in the country include West Asians (mostly Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians), East Asians (Chinese and Japanese, Europeans (Spaniards, Germans, Italians, Portuguese, British, and French), and people from the United States.
Alike to its Spanish Caribbean neighbors (Cuba and Puerto Rico), the Dominican Republic is a mixture of the cultures of the Spanish colonists, African slaves, and Taíno natives. Their values are also a mixture consisting of European, African, and Taíno elements, preservations most prominent in food, family, religion, and music. In preservation of their Taíno roots, Taíno names and words are used in daily conversation and for many native foods. Their value system is almost entirely focused on family, religion, and its cultural preservation and celebration.
Their cuisine, as their culture and ethnicity would indicate, is a combination of Spanish, African, & Taíno influences. Meals tend to favor starches and meats over dairy products and vegetables. Many dishes are made with sofrito. Some popular dishes are mangu, sancocho, platanos rellenos, chicharrón, yuca, casabe, pastelitos, batata, arroz con fideo, arroz con abichuela, pasteles en hoja, chimichurris, tostones. They also have a wide array of distinct desserts, such as palitos de coco, pilones, arroz con dulce, bizcocho dominicano, habichuelas dulce, flan, frío frío, dulce de leche, and caña.
The most popular beverages are Morir Soñando, rum, beer, Mama Juana, batida, jugos naturales, mabí, coffee, and Chaca.
In relation to music, the Dominican Republic is known for the creation internationally popular Merengue, as well as Bachata, and the lesser known genres of Dominican Rock and Dominican rap (also known as Rap del Patio or “yard rap”). Music is an essential part of Dominican culture and it is used daily as a celebration of life, love, the country, and family. It can be heard as women clean, men work, and families celebrate.
One national symbol is the Dominican flag. “Red represents the blood shed by the liberators. Blue expresses God’s protection over the nation. The white cross symbolizes the struggle of the liberators to bequeath future generations a free nation.” The coat of arms found in the center is a “flag-draped shield with a Bible and cross, surrounded by an olive branch and a palm branch. Blue ribbon above the shield reads, “Dios, Patria, Libertad” (“God, Fatherland, Liberty”) and a red ribbon under the shield that reads, “República Dominicana” (“Dominican Republic”).” The symbolism in their flag shows the essence of the Dominican people, which is their love of freedom and their religion.
The patron saints of the country are Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia (Our Lady Of High Grace, patroness of the Dominican people) and Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes (Our Lady Of Mercy, patroness of the Dominican Republic), used as symbols and heroes of the country by the country’s large Catholic population.
The country is predominantly Spanish speaking, Spanish being its official language. Haitian Creole is spoken by Haitian immigrants and their descendants. Samaná English is also found in the country, spoken by the descendants of freed American slaves who arrived in the 19th century. Dominicans are encouraged to learn English due to “tourism, American pop culture, the influence of Dominican Americans, and the country’s economic ties with the United States.” A substantial amount of people also speak French.
Recognized national Dominican holidays include New Year’s Day, Catholic day of the Epiphany, Dia de la Altagracia, Duarte’s Day, Independence Day, National Day, Holy Week, Labour Day, Mother’s Day, Catholic Corpus Christi, Restoration Day, Virgen de las Mercedes, Constitution Day, Christmas eve (“Noche Buena”), and Christmas Day (“Dia de los Reyes Magos”). Children don’t have school on many of these holidays.
The five major traditions that Dominican Republic people celebrate range from lasting one day to lasting three months. These traditions include marriages, funerals, New Years, Christmas and Carnivals. During these celebrations schools are closed, and families regularly come from all over the country and world to be united in celebration.
One of the most popular traditions that the people celebrate are marriages. During the wedding ceremony several things take place that are traditional. A day before the actual wedding the couple have a court house wedding, where the groom mother and bride father are present as witnesses and legal documents are prepared. The next day the couples have their wedding at a church with family and friends. During the ceremony the groom’s mother, and bride’s father are considered godparents of the wedding. During the wedding ceremony a young boy carries a tray with 13 coins placed upon it, and give the tray to the priest. The priest then passes it to the groom, and the groom would pass it to the bride. This exchange is symbolic of the couples equality, sharing, and providing for one another.
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Another tradition that the Dominican Republic people honor is funerals. Families hold memorial masses for nine days. During the nine days, the families spend three days grieving, three days of worship, and three days for accepting. Following this, the funeral takes place outside the chapel where family members and friends pay their last respects and say their final farewells to their deceased loved ones.
New Years is another popular celebration in the Dominican Republic. There are a number of things people do to prepare for the New Years. First, as is custom to greet the new year freshly, the people thoroughly clean their house from top to bottom, replace old brooms with new ones, re-paint the outside of the homes, and traditionally burn incense to purify the home. If the family is Catholic, a priest comes and blesses the home and provides each room with a good dousing of holy water.
The next tradition Dominican Republic people celebrate is Christmas. Christmas is an important holiday that starts in October and ends in January. During the Christmas holiday families’ party, relax, and eat lots of good food. It is the time to get together with friends, and family, and enjoy each other. The main event that happens on Christmas Eve is a family dinner. Families return back to their home town and enjoy a home cook meal by their mothers or aunts. They exchange gifts, watch firework, and sing Christmas carols for the neighbors. They refer to Christmas Eve as “Noche Buena” (Good Night) and Christmas Day as “Dia de Los Reyes Magos” (Day of the Wise Men). In place of belief in Santa Claus, students may also or instead believe that the three wise men who visited Jesus come at night, eat and drink, and leave them presents.
A last popular Dominican tradition is the celebration of carnivals. Each weekend in the month of February carnival parades are celebrated. People dress up in colorful costumes, artful masks and dance to lively music. This parade ends on February 27 with Dominican Republic Independence day.
The Dominican Republic, just like the United States has a board of Education on this website the reader can find all sorts of pertinent information. The website shows all their rules and regulations that entails elaborate details in philosophical views for teaching and codes of ethics for teachers and students. Part of their curriculum focuses very much on their culture. They teach about their history and value and religious views within the educational guidelines. The education consists of three different levels and it mandatory to attend school from the ages of 5 to 14.
The first level is the primary level which consists of grades Pre-K to 6th grade. The students are required to complete these grades satisfactorily before moving on to the secondary level. The secondary level is the 7th and the 8th grade. This completes the required grades students’ need to receive their equivalent of a high school diploma, called an “el bachillerato” degree. The “bachillerato” level is considered higher education and there is an exit exam that is taken before entering any University.
The school years are 10 months in length and they begin in the end of August end in July. The teachers have to receive certification at a University level and also have to pass state exams to prove their qualifications as an educator.
The literacy rate in the Dominican Republic is 85%. The illiterate population in this country exists at 15% due to poorer students not possessing the means to attend school or their towns do no have enough schools with the adequate tools to help these children thrive. The University levels offer great education, particularly in the medical field, the engineering field, and business field. Many foreign exchange students from all over the world come to receive their education in these Universities because the high quality of higher education and lower price.
As previously mentioned, in the past many poor students have gone without a great education because most of the quality education has been offered most exclusively in private and religious based schools. However, the quality of public schools is increasing, they are gaining new generations of quality certified teachers and increasing standa4rds and regulations.
The education in the Dominican Republic has many differences and similarities to the United States Education. The literacy rate in the Dominican Republic is 85%, while United States the literacy rate is 99%. Classes are taught in Spanish in the United States classes are taught in English. In the Dominican Republic more students attend private schools for better quality of education; in the United States the majority of students attend public schools. Also, in the Dominican Republic education is for students ages 5 to 14 and students get their high school diploma after two years of intermediate education and four years of secondary courses; in the United States education is for student’s ages 4 through 18, and, after students graduate, they have the option of attending College/University.
Some similarities between the two educational systems are that both education systems offer E.S.E classes, both also require that lessons integrate technology, and both have a district website that offers calendars for the students, teachers, and parents.
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