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Puerto Rican Education and Its Future

During the Rosselló administration, hundreds of public schools closed and many were privatized. By 2019, the number of schools closed had overpassed the 300, leaving cities like Salinas, Cataño, Gurabo, and Cayey under difficult circumstances. Many organizations—including the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico—believe that this measure was done as a means for American businesses to take advantage of our island’s needs and set up private schools and—knowing the corruption of the notorious Roselló administration and La Junta’s control over Puerto Rico’s financial decisions—they’re most likely correct. But what makes private schools so disliked by teachers and parents alike?

Inherently, private academies are hierarchical, because it places a premium on a right that only wealthy people can access; they commodify education. This issue may not be as noticeable in highly developed countries like the United States or England and France, but it most certainly is highlighted in underdeveloped ones like Brazil or here in Puerto Rico. Because proper education is heavily correlated with income, it makes sense that this issue would be prevalent among countries with great income inequality. Furthermore, this paywall is detrimental to democracy. Private schools breach the notion of equal opportunities and rights among citizens by imposing these artificial hierarchies, those of which only exist to keep a certain few in power and the majority in shambles.

And, with an economic approach, doesn’t the free marketplace of ideas function more efficiently when everyone has proper tutelage? Since everyone is granted the opportunity for their potential or skills to be discovered and developed, that allows for greater production of goods and services for everyone. Think of all the future scientists, lawyers, designers, politicians, writers (among many others)…

Of course, education is already a public right in most countries; that is why there are public schools. That still does not remove the fact that there is a huge disparity between the students and teachers of the private and public sectors. For example, private students in Puerto Rico are more proficient in subjects such as Spanish, English, Science, and Math according to the Statistics Institute of Puerto Rico. And, even though both private and public teachers are licensed professionals, most public teachers do not receive their full pensions after they retire from public service.

However, simply abolishing private education will not solve these difficulties and discrepancies—at least, in Puerto Rico’s case. Like I just said, public schools’ students are more uneducated, and their teachers are owed money. Furthermore, the teaching methods of both institutions—private or public—have been proven to be outdated, as tests rely on memorization and regurgitation, creativity is restricted,

students are taught what to think rather than how to think, etc. That is why we should aim towards reforming these institutions so that there is no need for private schools to exist.

It will be complicated—as this is part of a wider problem in Puerto Rico—but the abolition of PROMESA and “La Junta” would be a first step to achieving this, as Puerto Rico is given the autonomy to properly redistribute its funds towards public programs (in this case being education). Another step would be the House of Representatives’ vote to

allow our island Chapter Nine protection of bankruptcy without the need for statehood—that of which could be achieved with the Biden administration due to a Democrat majority in Congress. Finally, allowing teachers to have a voice in the development of their schools would allow for the expansion of liberal academic institutions that could accommodate themselves to the needs of students alongside the democratization of education, truly granting equal opportunities for citizens alike.

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