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Officially referred to as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico is an unincorporated protectorate of the United States, situated in the Caribbean Ocean.  The country is located to the east of the country known as the Dominican Republic and to the west of both the British and United States Virgin Islands.  Along with the main island of Puerto Rico, the country, which is officially categorized as an archipelago, consists of a number of smaller islands, the largest of which are Mona, Vieques and Culebra.  The capital and largest city of Puerto Rico is San Juan, which is also the main cultural, political and economical hub of the country.

Puerto Rico shares many cultural traits with the United States.  The official languages of the country are Spanish and English, the latter of which is also the official language of the United States.  English is used for many official purposes in Puerto Rico, including being the language of government and official communications.  Spanish, however, the “national language” of the country, is most commonly spoken among the Puerto Rican people.  Many people in Puerto Rico are bilingual, speaking both Spanish and English, as the latter is taught at an early age in the Puerto Rican school system, and is often the language of instruction in most of the country’s colleges and universities.

The Education System in Puerto Rico

The public education system in Puerto Rico is closely modeled after that of the United States, consisting of pre-primary or preschool education, primary school, and middle and higher secondary education.  Higher education also closely follows the American system, with undergraduate associate degrees (two years of study) and bachelor degrees (typically four years of study) offered in a variety of academic and professional disciplines.  Graduate research degrees in the country include the Master’s degree and, more rarely, the doctorate or PhD degree.  The doctorate of Education (D.Ed.) is also awarded by the appropriate teaching university in the country.  The professional post-graduate schools in Puerto Rico (law, medicine, etc.) have their own degrees comparable to the American law degree (J.D.), medical degree (M.D.), and Master’s of Business Administration (MBA).  Schooling in Puerto Rico is mandatory for children throughout the island for 11 years, beginning at age 5 and culminating at age 16, although enforcement of this law is spotty.

In addition to hosting a number of public and private colleges and universities, Puerto Rico is home to scores of public and private educational/technical programs for adults.  These programs range from basic classes in subjects such as reading, writing and the English language to undergraduate and post-graduate technical schools.  More specialized private postsecondary schools are also widely available in Puerto Rico, specializing in fields such as secretarial; computer programming, computer science and computer usage; hospitality management and tourism; television repair and electronics; and business management; among others.  These institutions vary immensely in quality, as not all of these schools face the same accreditation scrutiny that assures quality at the nation’s colleges and universities.

Except for classes in the English language, the language of instruction in all primary schools, middle schools and secondary schools in Puerto Rico is Spanish.  At the university level, both English and Spanish are used, with the exact language depending on the institution, course and instructor.  Public pre-university textbooks are printed in Spanish, save for those used in English classes; while at the university level, the books may be in either Spanish or English.

Although in the past access to information technology (IT) and resources was limited in most of Puerto Rico’s primary and secondary schools, recent years have seen greater access to these types of resources.  At the University of Puerto Rico, there is now a fairly high availability of computer clusters, work stations and web-access, not just for students of the sciences, but also for those pursuing degrees in the humanities as well.  Access to these types of resources can still be improved greatly, however, and is nowhere near that of the United States.  A substantial number of non-public educational facilities at the secondary and college-age level that specialize in practical IT training are located in the larger towns and cities.  These schools are very well-attended because they lead to positions in private and government enterprises that depend on computer literacy.

In total, there are approximately 50 institutions of tertiary or post-secondary education in Puerto Rico.  These include junior colleges, colleges and universities, as well as technical/educational centers that tend to focus on just a few (and sometimes only one) academic or professional disciplines.  Most of the colleges and universities are comprehensive, meaning they offer diplomas and degrees in a wide range of areas.  All education is the country is overseen by the Puerto Rican Department of Education and implemented at the local level.

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