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The Dominican Republic, or the Republico Dominicana, as it’s pronounced in Spanish, is a nation located on the island of Hispaniola, and a component of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The country shares the island of Hispaniola with its western neighbor, Haiti, making Hispaniola one of only two islands in the world that is shared by two countries. Once controlled by Spain, French Haiti and later Spain again, the Dominican Republic finally gained its long awaited independence in August of 1865, ending years of war within the country. With a total land area of 19,000 square miles, the Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation, after Cuba, and its capital and largest city is Santo Domingo.
The Dominican Republic has a total permament population of approximately 9.4 million, again, second to only Cuba as the largest Caribbean nation by number of residents. It is also the 82nd most populous country in the world out of a total of 193. Approximately one-third of the population, or roughly 3 million people, live in the capital city of Santo Domingo. According to the latest statistics, the Dominican Republic’s ethnic makeup is 73 percent multiracial, 16 percent white and 11 percent black. The majority of people who self-identify as being multiracial are of both European, particularly Spanish and Italian, and African ancestry. The country is also host to significant minority groups of both Taino and Haitian heritage. Sixty-nine percent of the population adheres to Roman Catholicism, the national religion of the Dominican Republic, while Christian Evangelicals (18%) and those who adhere to no religion (10%) account for most of the remainder. The official language of the Dominican Republic is Spanish, a language that is spoken by the majority of the population, and used for all official purposes within the country, including education. Haitian Creole is spoken widely by the small Haitian population in the western regions of the country.
Education in the Dominican Republic
Education in the Dominican Republic is overseen by the national government and is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 14—the years that comprise a student’s primary and intermediate education. However, students living in the more isolated and largely rural areas of the island nation, sadly, have limited access to the Dominican school system.
The school system in the Dominican Republic is divided into 4 distinct levels: primary school, intermediate (junior high) school, secondary school and higher education. In the primary and intermediate grades, grades one through grade eight, children are offered education through a broad academic curriculum, one that includes mathematics, science, language arts (Spanish), history, geography, computers, music, art and physical education.
The majority of students attending secondary or high school in the Dominican Republic are from families who are of medium to high socioeconomic status. Those students fortunate enough to attend and ultimately complete this largely academic and college preparatory level of education are awarded a “bachillerate,” the Dominican Republic’s equivalent of the high school diploma, and are eligible to enroll at one of the country’s universities.
Higher education in the Dominican Republic, a country with an adult literacy rate of approximately 69 percent, is very limited, and includes both universities, where students can earn undergraduate and graduate degrees in a number of academic fields, and vocational schools, where students receive education and training in a variety of career fields important to the Dominican economy.