Recent Reform Efforts

Despite the severe deficiencies of the Haitian education sector, many Haitian leaders have attempted to make improving education an important national goal. The country has attempted three major education reform efforts in recent years including the Bernard Reform of 1978, The National Plan on Education and Training (NPET) of 1997, and The Presidential Commission for Education in Haiti of 2008. More recently, following the 2010 earthquake, Haiti has partnered with the Inter-American Development Bank to propose a new 5-year educational plan.

Bernard Reform of 1978
The Bernard Reform of 1978 was an attempt to modernize and make the educational system more efficient. It was also an attempt at capacity building to satisfy the educational needs of the country despite its economic limitations. The Bernard Reform sought to introduce vocational training programs designed as alternatives to traditional education in order to align the school structure with labor market demands. The reform also restructured and expanded the secondary school system by separating it into academic and technical tracks. In addition, Haitian Creole began to be utilized in classrooms as the language of instruction in the first 4 grades of primary school during this time period. French and Creole are both official languages of Haiti. All Haitians speak Creole. The most privileged Haitians speak French. The practice of using French rather than Creole in the classroom discriminates against the lower socioeconomic classes and the Bernard Reform was an attempt at addressing this issue.

As part of the reform, a program was implemented in 1979 with the help of the World Bank to make Creole the first language of instruction rather than French. One thousand students were chosen to participate. During the first four years of school, all subjects were taught in Creole. In the third and fourth year, students were taught how to read and write in French. In the fifth year all teaching was done in French. The program was canceled in 1982 even though it was a great success. The elite had put pressure on the government to eliminate the program; they were concerned that the better educated citizens would be a threat to their power.

In addition to failing to make Creole the initial language of instruction there were two other serious failures: lengthy delays in the implementation of new the curriculum and inadequate resources and infrastructure to support the proposed changes. An issue that also became prevalent was that the majority of parents preferred to see their children attend universities because they saw the technical schools as low-prestige institutions. As a result, the labor market lacked sufficient jobs for new graduates of liberal arts programs, and consequently salaries lagged behind expectations.

The National Plan on Education and Training of 1997
The National Plan on Education and Training was a plan that introduced a shift away from the French educational model. The French educational model was one characterized by a highly centralized bureaucracy, which was teacher-centered and saw students as passive learners. The NPET of 1997 marked a shift to a model of participatory learning based on student-centered approaches. The NPET also shifted to a new paradigm of citizenship education aimed at developing civic knowledge and attitudes that would promote unity and an appreciation of the diversity in Haitian society, providing the foundation for an inclusive national identity.

One of the principal goals of this plan was to uphold the Constitution and ensure that primary education would be made compulsory and free, neither of which have been realized to date. The national education budget increased from 9% of the national budget in 1997 to 22% in 2000. This paid for programs to provide school lunches, uniforms, and bus transportation. Additionally, in 2002 the government began a literacy campaign, facilitated by 30,000 literacy monitors and the distribution of 700,000 literacy manuals. Overall, school attendance rose from 20% in 1994 to 64% in 2000.

The NPET, however, was limited in its achievements. The goal of making primary education free and compulsory has not been met. Primary education remains beyond the reach of most Haitians, because they are highly privatized and very expensive. In addition, there has been minimal decentralization of the educational sector because there are fears that the decentralization process will lead to fragmentation rather than resolve the problems of social polarization. Furthermore, the NPET has not been successful in creating a space for communities to express their opinions through parent-teacher associations or other mechanisms.

The Presidential Commission for Education in Haiti of 2008
The Presidential Commission for Education reported their recommendations to outgoing President René Préval and the Ministry of Education on recommendations for a new national curriculum. The primary goals of the commission were to provide 100% enrollment of all school-age children, a free education to all, including textbooks and materials, and a hot meal daily for each child. Lumarque stated that accelerated teacher training was essential for the attainment of these goals. In order to adequately reflect the needs of the people the commission traveled throughout the country asking parents and community leaders what they desired most for their children. When the national curriculum plan is finalized, all public schools and those private schools that choose to participate will be expected to begin utilizing standardized teaching materials in addition to standardized test methods.

The Operational Plan of 2010-2015
After Haiti's 2010 earthquake, the President of Haiti, René Préval in May 2010 gave the Inter-American Development Bank, IDB the mandate to work with the Education Ministry and the National Commission in preparing a major reform of the education system in a 5-year plan. This 5 year, 4.2 billion USD plan calling for private schools to become publicly funded which would increase the access of education for all children. The plan hopes to have all children enrolled in free education up to 6th grade by 2015, and 9th grade by 2020. The IDB has committed 250 million USD of its own grant resources and has pledged to raise an additional 250million USD from third-party donors.

The first phase of the plan is to subsidize existing private schools. According to the plan, the government would pay the salaries of teachers and administrators participating in the new system. In order to participate in this new system, schools will undergo a certification process to verify the number of students and staff at their school, after which they will receive funding to upgrade facilities and purchase educational materials. This would become the first step towards establishing a tracking mechanism in Haiti. In order to remain certified, schools would have to comply with certain standards, including the adoption of a national curriculum, teacher training and facility improvement programs. The plan will also finance the building of new schools and the use of school spaces to provide services such as nutrition and health care.

Currently, most private schools serve approximately 100 students; yet they have the capacity for up to 400. The intention of the plan is to eliminate waste and become more efficient in the schooling system. The goal is to eliminate low quality, inefficient schools and consolidate many others over time, and improve the overall quality of education in Haitian schools.