Before the revolution which resulted in Haiti’s independence, education was not a priority of the French colonial regime. So, immediately after becoming independent in 1804, Haiti had no functioning schools. However, schools opened in 1816 (Logan, 1930) under the presidency of Petion and Christophe. Following this, creating an education system in Haiti, and building more schools faced many obstacles. But by the close of the 19th century, Haiti had an educational system in place, although it was of low quality. To these days, this educational system cannot generate enough skilled citizens in large numbers to guide the country on the path to progress. It is true that economic growth is a result of many different components, but education provides the groundwork for them all. But not all educational approaches are beneficial in terms of economic development. This document succinctly outlines the reforms that have been made to Haiti’s education system and proposes a reform that could potentially produce a stronger Haitian economy.
In the 1860s, the Haitian education system experienced a notable transformation due to Elie Dubois taking on the role of minister of education. Dubois got rid of those who were not capable and hired new teachers with higher remuneration. He also reformed the curricula, and his reform was kept until 1923, after 60 years(Clement, 1979). Another minister, Dantes Bellegarde, proposed some reforms by which he advocated for higher salaries for teachers; he reorganized curricula, and proposed a meritocracy base for teacher’s appointment (Cook, 1940). The first law to appoint teachers based on meritocracy was passed around 1919 under Bellegarde as minister (Dartigue, 2017). But Bellegarde’s effort was undermined by the American occupation, which did not advocate for liberal education.
From 1915 to 1934, during the American occupation, the promotion of vocational schools was advocated for by the Americans. Yet, the Haitian public and officials were displeased by this reform and perceived it to be an effort to Americanize Haiti and ignore its French ancestry (Pamphile, 1985). During the years 1928 to 1929, the American schools received a double amount of funding compared to the national schools while the majority of students were enrolled in national schools (Angulo, 2010). This plainly demonstrated the Haitians’ opposition to the American reforms. Following the American occupation, Maurice Dartigue, a renowned minister of education, urged for widespread education and for a more practical form of education (Verna, 2007). Countless enemies of Dartigue censured him, and he went into exile once Elie Lescot, the president who appointed him, departed from power (Dartigue, 2017).
In 1982, another significant reform, the Bernard reform, was initiated. The aim was to design a new curriculum that would better equip Haitians to fit the market requirements (Luzincourt & Gulbrandson, 2010) instead of focusing on classical education as it had been in the past. With this reform, Haitian Creole, which is the most spoken language in Haiti, was introduced as an official language in education. A state institution IPN (Institut Pedagogique National) also opened to manage the reform. The reform also aimed to enhance school enrolment rate by 5% every year and to renovate educational facilities. Nevertheless, there was disagreement concerning the reform. Adopting Haitian Creole instead of French was one of the most controversial parts of it. French was widely seen as a high-class language, and the acceptance of Creole as a language in education was viewed as a sign of lower-class status. Numerous educators and school heads were not in agreement with the reform because it posed a threat to their authority.
Evaluating Haiti’s educational system reveals numerous discrepancies. Haiti invested a considerable amount of time in developing its educational system, yet the results have been unsatisfactory. Haitian citizens prioritize education which focuses on mathematics, physics, philosophy, and language, which results in a small number of well-educated elites who contest for government roles or roles in limited private industries, yet they often lack essential technical abilities. This system has resulted in a large number of malcontent individuals who have a degree but are unable to get a job. A few ministers of education, such as Maurice Dartigue, endeavored to enhance the educational system, yet were unable to implement them on a larger scale. Haitians have a cultural distaste for vocational education, and this is one of the reasons for their failure. Certain detractors who did not accept this strategy or felt threatened by it also impeded these attempts.
Incorporating an integrated approach of both vocational and liberal education could be key in effectively improving Haiti’s education system. Haiti could benefit from the integrated approach by making it obligatory for universities to integrate 2 years of vocational training into their curricula. As an example, a mechanical engineer would have their degree unless they accomplished the two years of vocational and practical courses. This tactic could be advantageous as it could diminish the stigma related to vocational education, and it would be able to attract the most skilled students. Although there are some vocational schools in Haiti, there remains a prejudice against them. The most talented students do not enroll in vocational schools, leading to a decrease in capability and imagination. However, if an integrated approach is implemented, the graduated engineering students will not be seen as mere technicians, but rather as highly skilled engineers. Such a tactic would have a more beneficial effect on Haiti’s economy.
Angulo, A. J. (2010). Education During the American Occupation of Haiti, 1915-1934. Historical Studies in Education, 22(2), 1–17.
Clement, J. B. (1979). History of Education in Haiti: 1804-1915. 43.
Cook, M. (1940). Dantes Bellegarde. Phylon (1940-1956), 1(2), 125–135. https://doi.org/10.2307/272516
Dartigue, J. (2017). Maurice Dartigue: Educational Development in Haiti 1804-1946 (1st edition). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
Logan, R. W. (1930). Education in Haiti. The Journal of Negro History, 15(4), 401–460. https://doi.org/10.2307/2714206
Luzincourt, K., & Gulbrandson, J. (2010). Education and Conflict in Haiti. 20.
Pamphile, L. D. (1985). America’s Policy-Making in Haitian Education, 1915-1934. The Journal of Negro Education, 54(1), 99–108. https://doi.org/10.2307/2294904
Prou, M. (2009). Attempts at Reforming Haiti’s Education System: The Challenges of Mending the Tapestry, 1979-2004. Journal of Haitian Studies, 15(1/2), 29–69.
Sing-Nan, F. (2022). Vocational and Liberal Education: An Integrated Approach. 11.
Verna, C. F. (2007). Maurice Dartigue, Educational Reform, and Intellectual Cooperation with the United States as a Strategy for Haitian National Development, 1934-46. Journal of Haitian Studies, 13(2), 24–38.
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