The Haitian School System

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The Haitian School System

Post by Liline » Sat Jan 28, 2006 5:35 pm

I spent all my school years in Haiti, till I moved to the States for College. And I have had to spend many hours either volunteering or observing the American schools here, I have of course noticed the differences.

Being surrounded by educators most of my life :P I grew up being aware of the problems that the Haitian school system has, and as I grew up, I've noticed/experienced many of them myself. After moving to the States and going into the education field myself, I've come to notice some of the problems found in this system too.

I find it interesting that many Haitians who move to the States, still state that if the country(Haiti) was stable enough, and they had to choose where they would want their kids to go to school, most of them pick Haiti.

Why do you guys think that is exactly?

I'm sure many of you have had to deal with either one of the systems, or both for that matter.

If having to revamp the Haitian educational system, what are some of the main things you would want to change? and what are some of the things you would definitely leave the same? (If necessary, taking other school systems as examples, i.e. American, French, Canadian, etc.)

Yes it's a very broad/vast matter to discuss, but I would love to hear your thoughts, none the less :D

P.S. Not sure if this was already discussed here or not, so bare with me :D

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Post by admin » Sat Jan 28, 2006 9:51 pm

Liline, I would gladly bare with you....... (just kidding!) I do think that you ask some damn good questions that may have been alluded to, but never extensively discussed before on this forum.

I'll have to come back to you with some reasonable and personal answers, but that is not easy since, like you, I cannot directly compare the experience of primary and secondary schooling in Haiti to its equivalent in the States, having spent all of those years in Haiti; similarly, I will not be able to compare the university education in Haiti to its equivalent in the States, having done all of my university studies in the States (and none in Haiti). It would be good to hear from some on the forum who have experienced both.

This is such a rich field! You would have to take into account the changes in our education systems, for better and for worse. Would we be limiting ourselves to the present? For instance, when I went to school in Ha
iti, Haitian Creole was not permitted in the classroom. Baccalaureate exams were only administered in Port-au-Prince. Unexpectedly granted "days off" by visiting politicians were welcome with great joy by most students, but teachers did not strike and schools did not close periodically due to insecurity. And while we had "Section A (Philosophy, Greek?), Section B (Literature, Latin), and Section C (Math and Science)", the curriculums were largely similar, with only a difference in the grading systems (more points for subjects of concentration) and only a few subject matters that applied only to one "section" and not the others: for instance, "Géométrie Cotée" was studied in Section C, Latin in Section B, and Greek in Section A, I believe.

Obviously a lot of what I have described above has changed over the years, though a lot has probably stayed the same also. But in terms of the differences between the systems of education between the U.S.
and Haiti, these are some (just a few) that come to mind:

- there was no sex education offered by the school system (though plenty of that happened of course, off school and perhpas during "recreation" (recess)

- almost all schools had student uniforms

- there was no psychological counseling

- there was scarcely any guidance counselor for post-secondary (college/career) orientation

- there was little involvement from the parents (except for their signing the report cards, which meant "bastonnades" for many who could not get good grades)

- there was only one sport: soccer. OK OK : Volleyball and Basketball came very late in the game (I am older than most of you, so bear with me...)

- there were extra-curricular activities: Catholic (Croisillons, Croisés, Apôtres), Sports (soccer, soccer, soccer), Patriotic (May 18 parades), Secular (Kermesses, Festivals de Chansons, Student retreats), but not close to the myriad activities and number of varsity sports available
in the U.S.

(à suivre...) I hope there will be much participation in this extremely interesting topic.

Bare with me, Liline :D

Leonel JB

Post by Leonel JB » Sun Jan 29, 2006 3:43 am

Well with the Haitian Education, I think They need to change first of all the matriculation for Schools. Now, anyone with a 2-bedrooms house can have their own Kin-Prim-Sec (kindergaden, primaire, secondaire).

The schools need to have more spaces for classrooms, gymns, libraries, labs and cafeteria. In order word, the Schools have to be State-controlled.

In term of Teaching, Teachers need to apply for their Certification every four-year at least.

In terms of University, there is none so far! Correct me if I am wrong? I think the same requirements apply for a College or University.

I think the difference between the two systems are, the US is more Technical. Haiti is more Autodidact (is it the right word?). We are more in Theories than Practice... I remember talking about Acid-Base reduction, never had to witness any ACid or Base. Memory was my assset in school which didn' t help me that much in the US. I basically
spent my College years by memorizing everything. For, that is what I've learned.
Although, one needs a good Memory but, after a year you don't remember a thing on what you did the past semesters.
I will leave you (Guy and Liline) to touch these issues further.

Let me bare with Them.

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Post by admin » Sun Jan 29, 2006 10:47 am

[quote]Let me bare with Them.[/quote]
Ou pap sis! Bare by yourself, buddy!

[quote]In terms of University, there is none so far![/quote]
None so far or none anymore???

When did the State University of Haiti expire exactly?

There was a time when Haiti trained doctors used to score highest on State Board exams, along with India trained ones. Some of those doctors achieved extraordinary success (on a professional level, which of course translated to the financial level too, though the latter as we know may well be achieved without the former). Dr. Rodrigue Mortel, for instance, was one of the foremost experts in the field of oncology, as he ably led the Cancer Research Center in Hershey, Pa. He was widely honored for his contributions by the U.S. elites and was named by his peers one of the Best 100 Doctors in the United States. A
product of École de Médecine de l'Université d'État d'Haiti. Now, retired, he actively pursues projects of education outreach in Haiti. You may have read on this forum a wonderful quote from a speech he made at a Gubernatorial Awards dinner in New York State.
When asked why I continue to devote my resources to Haiti when I could continue to climb the ladder in the United States, I simply answer that no achiever is successful unless he/she takes someone else along.

Yes, you heard me right. Regardless of the level of your accomplishments, you are not a successful individual unless you help others. Therefore, to any idea of moving forward personnally and leaving Haiti behind, I say "No." To any thought of not visiting Haiti because the country lacks the high living standard to which I have become accustomed, I say "No." To avoiding involvement in the reconstruction of Haiti because I did not
participate in its destruction, I say "No." To staying away from Haiti on the pretext of insecurity or any other reason, I say "No." Yesterday, Haiti planted in me the seeds of education. It is fitting that today she reaps the benefits of such investment.


Now, however, there is an alarming number of our doctors who have been unable to pass the required State Board exams and having to switch careers, some of them even reverting to blue-collar jobs. When did the sky fall off for our School of Medicine?

Now, the country has to rely on the generosity of the Cuban government for the training of its next generation of doctors, ESPECIALLY AFTER THE U.S. MARINES SAW FIT TO CLOSE A MEDICAL SCHOOL IN HAITI AND CONVERTED IT TO A MILITARY BASE, IMMEDIATELY AFTER BOOTING THE ELECTED PRESIDENT OUT OF OFFICE. From what I understand, that old medical school still serves today as military quarters for the Occupation Forces, a testa
ment to U.S. Love for Democracy in Haiti.

We also used to have wonderful agronomists, trained at l'École de Damiens, the Agricultural School of the State University of Haiti. When did the sky fall for our School of Agriculture?

We also had good teachers, trained at L'École Normale Supérieure, and capable engineers formed by L'École de Génie (Lemane Vaillant, who seems to have mysteriously disappeared from cyberspace after publishing his book "Quisqueya", probably could write tomes on this score).

Others could probably go on, in the same vein. But now, Leonel, you say "In terms of University, there is none so far!" Is that right? Or was it killed along the way?

Leonel JB

Post by Leonel JB » Sun Jan 29, 2006 12:55 pm

Guy, I was referring to a school with a lot of other discipline. Yes, there was a time we had great Faculties. But, University, not quite!
We will, one day, I hope...

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Post by admin » Mon Jan 30, 2006 3:43 pm

Leonel, what are your criteria for "University" ?

These days, I understand that there are several "universities" across Haiti... in Port-au-Prince, Cap-Haitien, Limbe, Cayes, Fondwa, etc. When do we grant them the full acceptance of the term "university" ? (I don't know the answer, really, I would like to hear some opinions on the matter.)

Also, I forgot to mention that there was also a Conservatory of Music in Port-au-Prince. It was closed, I believe, under Papa Doc. I don't know what the reasons were for its closing.

Anyway, we are straying a bit from Liline's original topic of discussion which was about discussing the differences between the educational systems of Haiti and the United States. I still think that this is an important and fascinating topic. We all know that there were bad things about the educational system of Haiti, which was truly an out-of-date copy of the French system. In recent years, there hav
e been several efforts aimed at haitianizing it. How successful were those efforts? Did they make it better or worse? What is the impact of private school systems based on the American model or those using English as a main language?

I hope more people will participate in this discussion and I truly hope that I haven't scared Liline away with my teasing over her typo. Guys just want to have fun!

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Post by Liline » Mon Jan 30, 2006 5:23 pm

:lol: M wè nou renmen koze "bare/bear" mwen an :P

Guy trust me you didn't scare me away :lol: contraire :D M te vin la yè swa, men li te two ta pou m reponn :)

So now I'm back :D

Anvan m menm ajoute sou lis nou yo, banm bay ide m sou sa nou deja di yo, konm anpil ladan yo antre nan sa m t'ap panse a tou.

First of all, Leonel I agree, I think there should be some type of regulation on what establishments can become schools or for how many students etc.

As for the memorizing thing, I'm so thankful my mother hates the idea of having students memorize things :P , so I never went to a school where they practiced that concept. I'm not sure where the teachers came up with this concept, but I think it defeats the whole purpose of having the students understanding their material. It's easy to just recite paragraphes of material, but what happens when you
ask the student to explain what he/she just said? And this says a lot about some of the teachers out there.

...I remember a friend of mine telling me how her little brother who was about 9 or 10 years old at the time, and was up past midnight memorizing lessons that the teacher will ask to recite the next day or he will get his share of "baton" ...Ki sans sa fè mezanmi...

I think it would do good, to get the teachers to participate in seminars that would help give them ideas of different methods of teaching. So they can come up with better ways of going over lessons and such. I think having kids memorize things shows a major lack of creation to say the least.

Another thing you mentionned Leonel, is the lack of hands on experience. I think it goes without saying that having the kids see things first hand is a much better way of getting them to understand what it is they are supposed to be learning. It's one thing to see it in a book, and a whole other thing to see i
t first hand.

Guy you're right, while some things have obviously changed, many things are pretty much the same to my knowledge. And all the things you mentionned in your list still apply today.

Counseling is almost unheard of, yet will obviously be usefull to so many students.

Sport activities seem to grow more and more over the years, and thankfully not just soccer :P I was never a fan of soccer myself... mezanmi kote Guy soti :lol:

Ok, I'll come with some other things that came to mind in the next post....

So bare or bear with me :lol: N'a chwazi :P Behave Guy and Leonel :lol:

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Post by Liline » Mon Jan 30, 2006 5:58 pm

Ok, let me add a few things that I think shoudl definitely be changed/fixed in our Haitian educational system.

First of all, like Guy mentioned, teachers these days are always going on strikes. Obviously there is something very wrong with the public school system in itself. I think that the government needs to put together at least a "decent" package for these teachers(salary, benefits, health care etc.), and actually get them their checks on time, so that there need not be a teacher's strike every year or so.

These teacher's strike many times end up causing chaos in the country.

...I remember my last year in High School where after the teachers had taken so many days striking, that the students in the public schools themselves started to protest in the streets. By not having the teachers teaching, the students weren't learning, and more importantly to them,they couldn't pr
epare for the State Exams (Bacc. I, II, etc.), so they figure, if their schools can't function because of the teacher's strike, then the private schools shouldn't be able to either, so they started heading to different private schools to vandalize and stop them from functioning, and harrassing students who wore uniforms from private schools. Our school had to lock down more than a few times after hearing that the public school students were on a rampage near us. The school advised the students going home on foot to bring changing clothes to walk in the streets. So of course parents would leave work early on many days to rush and get their kids, and so business' were affected too, etc. etc.

So these types of problems don't simply involve the school system, it reaches past it.


Post by Anacaona_ » Mon Jan 30, 2006 8:14 pm

This topic is actually very interesting. So far, we have yet to find someone who had experience primary/secondary education both in Haiti and in the USA to give us a comparison of the two systems. For those of us who did our primary and secondary schooling in Haiti, but spent our college years in the US, what about comparing our performance in the sciences, humanity, social sciences etc.. despite the fact that we had to learn English at the same time (I assume that almost all of us who only attend college here had to learn English while in college) to the performance of American students. Maybe this can tell us something about the two systems during our time.


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Post by Liline » Mon Jan 30, 2006 10:30 pm

Anacaona, Carline should be able to give us her take on it, she is the one I know who experienced both systems.

Nekita, the article sounds very interesting, my mother actually wrote a book "Histoire de L'education en Haiti" a while back, I would love to read the article, can you tell me where I can find it exactly?

Leonel JB

Post by Leonel JB » Tue Jan 31, 2006 7:01 am

Hold it, Nana!
We've experienced both Colleges. Because, our system in Haiti is High School from 6th to 2nd. Then, Rheto and Philo are two years of College. This is what the US uses for Liberal Arts befor a four-year program.
This is about the same in some European Countries. They have IB1 and IB2. Then, after completing them, you go straight to your Program. A bachelor is for two years, then another year is Masters. I think another one or two is for PHd. Therefore, one goes straight to medical school like Haiti.
Unlike the US, you have High School from 9th to 12th. After, 4 year college or five depending of you curriculum. Grad School is about 2 for Masters and a lot for phd...


Post by Gelin_ » Tue Jan 31, 2006 12:33 pm

Haiti State University functions relatively well. It's true that the main colleges are not assembled together on a central campus, but that's not a major issue for now. Check it out at:


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Post by Liline » Fri Feb 03, 2006 2:17 am

Gelin, I didn't know about that website. I think it's a good iniative, never heard of any website aiming specifically towards University students in Haiti. Are there any others that you guys know about?

Another problem I think that needs to be solved, is the education system found outside of the capital and the big cities.

I didn't realize until a few years ago, that there are some teachers that are teaching in certain small cities or towns that have only passed "Bakaloreya" themselves. So with no formation, no higher-education, they are teaching in schools. The thing is, I'm not sure I can blame these schools for hiring these teachers, considering they might not have much of a choice in candidates in the first place.

So I blame the government. I think, there needs to be Universities, or maybe university branches, faculty branches, in more of the other cities. Where the
people who have finished high school can go on and study whatever it is they want to major in, whithout going either to the capital or the few cities that do have Universities. This way, the people who want to become teachers actually have a place to study and become one. And this will be a way to ensure that the children at least have a better chance of getting a better education.

There was a summer program that the past government started that seemed to be at least a start. Showed an effort. They(the government) got together with certain Universities, and had them organize week long seminars or I should say intense courses for the type of teachers I mentionned above. Intense courses in different areas(English, Psychology, Creole, etc.), basically all the courses required for the first two years of college, and so on. The idea was, that these teachers that only had their "Bakaloreya" will work on getting their Bachelors through this program. When the "new" Government cam
e in the picture, things seemed to be kind of iffy as to whether they would continue with the program. Not sure if they ever did continue with it. But I hope that the next government, if they won't give these teachers any other way of furthering their education, to at least continue and develop even further this program.

In order to give our children the best education, you have to at least start by giving them the best teachers possible. Or at least teachers that are qualified.

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Post by admin » Fri Feb 03, 2006 8:13 am

Dear Liline, this is the depth of query and reflexion we had come to expect on Ann Pale (and its antecedents) on Education, Spirituality, Development, the Environment, and the whole breadth of issues that deeply affect the life of Haitians, before we all burned out on politics, I think. Politics is the bright artificial light we Haitians, in a similar way to moths, are fatally attracted to. Someone has to do the politics, of course, but generally we behave as though there is no life and no vital concern outside of politics. We cannot spare the time thinking and discussing about the economic development of the Haitian, his/her human fulfillment, his/her artistic expression, his/her education, his/her spiritual search, and the bio-physical environment that makes it all possible, because of GNB/ 184/ Convergence/ OPL/ Lavalas/ .../ ???/ ,,,/ ###/ %%%, you get the idea. Who has the time to think about education when X
is in power? Then X is dechouke'd by W who was in the service of Z, so now Z is in power and it turns out that Z never had a thought (or any developed one) about education, economics, and so forth. So then it's Z's turn to be dechouke'd and we go back in search of another Messiah while no one ever talks of a real platform that encompasses the arts, the educational system, our human development and what choices must be made to pay for it all, realistically. Haitians, in general, dream about politics all night. They wake up in the morning, they breathe the tepid air of politics deep into their lungs. Then they go to the breakfast table for an invigorating omelette of politics and an 8-ounce glass of politics. Then they set out to do what they do best (or worst) all day: politics. They stop once in a while to snack on delectable side dishes of politics. Then in the evening, for dinner or supper, they feast on the main course of the day: politics gwo sèl, bouillon politics, taso politics, politics pye
bèf, politics tèt chat, lambi politics, without forgetting a good arrosage of pikliz politics. Then they wash it all down with 2 8-ounce glasses of champagne politics, before going to bed to think some more about politics. Then the daily cycle starts all over again.

"Education," you said? What is that? It must be either some fancy new politics or you must be very young and naive, dear. What time do we, politically sophisticated Haitians, have to spend on matters other than politics???

Sorry for the sarcasm, Liline. I must have awakened with a virus on the brain. It will go away. We'll discuss your question politely, and then we'll retreat to politics as usual, because we are Haitian, for Christ's sake!

Unless you don't let us...

I have bright hopes for you and a new generation of Haitians. Please do not behave as we did. Everything must have been thought already, before you assume power, as you inevitably will.

Liline, the thing to keep in mind is that
when you set out to educate a largely illiterate and formally unschooled people, you don't need fancy titles, Ph.D's. Master's, and so on. You just need to have a solid understanding of what you teach at the level you are called upon to teach it. A first or second part baccalaureate would be more than enough, but it depends on how it is applied. When I was 14, I had the opportunity to teach some of my Haitian brothers in the mountains how to read. Think of how Fidel Castro set out to solve the education problem in his country in the last half-century (Cuba was in as a bad shape as Haiti is now). The key thing is that Fidel and his comrades did not start thinking about education only after they got rid of Batista. They cultivated some ideals before and during the struggle. Think also about the "primary" level of education of the Amish people in America? Well, is it really "primary" or sophisticated enough to adapt to the sort of society that they envisioned and implemented? No one
goes to University there, and yet they are not starving. As a matter of fact, they produce so much food (some thing that Haiti has stopped doing along the way) that they actually feed their non-Amish brethren, meaning "us". This is not a call for Haitians to become Amish or Cuban, this is simply to say that we should examine how other societies have developed an educational system that makes sense and that takes into account our economic realities, our culture, and our identity instead of trying very badly to create suitable dark-skinned frenchies. Once we figure out who we really are, we will develop an educational system that will absorb us all, as teachers and students.

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Post by Liline » Sun Feb 05, 2006 11:41 pm

Nekita, thank you :D . Actually I ended up finding your article in a "weird" coincidence thanks to Guy :P So I did get a chance to see at it.

Bon, m pa rete, m ap tounen talè pou m reponn Guy ak Serge :D

So many posts to read, so little time :lol:


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Post by Liline » Mon Feb 06, 2006 5:55 pm

:D Guy it does seem you woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day :P

Guy don't forget we are talking about improving the Education System as a whole, I'm seeing it as a way to make an "immediate" difference and also long term differences.

Yes, when it comes down to it, getting an education from someone who graduated from High School, is definitely better than getting no education at all. But if you had to choose between your kids having a teacher who has only completed High School or having one that has a Bachelor or Masters in Education or in a subject matter, which would you pick? and why?

So I think it's commendable that there are people out there who after getting their High School diplomas decided to teach others in schools that most likely don't have many options. But it's not that these people don't want to get a higher education, it's that
they don't really have a way of doing so. So I'm not saying that we should stop all these teachers with High School diplomas from teaching, and I'm not saying that we shouldn't have programs to help teach reading, writing and what not. Au contraire, I think these are wonderful programs that definitely need to be implemented. But like it or not, these programs are for immediate changes. While encouraging these programs, and while these teachers are working in the schools during school year, we still need to plan for the future too.

We need to have more schools, to educate the children since they do represent the future. One way to give these kids the best education possible, is to have the teachers well prepared, and I'd say one of the best ways to start doing this is to actually have them have a college degree. Give the teachers we have now that don't have a college degree a chance to work on their degree. And find ways to make it easier for any future teacher to work on their degree t

Now if you want to change the Curriculum to more suit the reality of our country, that's fine, but I still think that whatever the curricula might be, we still need well prepared teachers.

Serge (I see you are as bad as Leonel ang Guy in teasing me :P )

I have heard a few people say the same thing when it comes to Education system about the Duvalier Regime.

You pretty much covered some of the main things that need to be changed in the Educationel system. I concur.

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Post by Carline » Mon Feb 06, 2006 7:36 pm

I'm absolutely loving this discussion Linou I need some time to read everyone's take on the subject and will be back with mine :P

Leonel JB

Post by Leonel JB » Tue Feb 07, 2006 5:53 am

M'ap kite konpa 'a balanse, san'm pa anmEde'l.
However, do You guys really think that someone with a BS, BA, MS, MA, Phd would be a better Teacher than Someone with a High School diploma?
Personally, I don't think so. I can take for instance Chemistry teachers. Very smart, with Phds and everything. But, a lot of them can not teach. Their level , I think is too high. Cause, Teaching is an Art! You are either born with it or without it. I know that I will get a lot of answers on that one. Being the brightest student in one's program, does not make one a Teacher.
It takes skills and one has to be gifted to be a great Teacher. I met people without any degree whatsoever, But, great Teachers.
But, the system would welcome someone with a degree(Univ) over one without.
Remember, what we've learned in school. We could have learned them in Libraries.
Let me die my chicken

Leonel JB

Post by Leonel JB » Wed Feb 08, 2006 1:14 am

Serge, I agree with You! But, (there's always a But) let me make something clearer. I am not saying that a degree does not mean anything. What Someone learns in School (college or Univ etc.), He or She could have learned them through a Good library. For, we learned from someone else's writing anyway... Did I make sense on that one?

Teaching is the art of getting your point accross. Teaching is explaining or coaching someone. One does not need to play the Game to be a Coach or Teacher. Of Course, one needs to know the basics or the fundamentals of the Game. Which one can be self-taught.

By the way, my fellow Teachers, I am not trying to minimizing your Hardworks. I am talking in a general view on a lot of disciplines which One could have done without a DEGREE.

Ban'm kouri, pou Nou pa touye'm


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Post by Carline » Thu Feb 09, 2006 10:55 pm

Revamping the education system you say Linou and I can (like many of us) think of so many things that would be necessary for such a task.....but having experienced both the American (12th grade through college and teaching for a few years myself) and the Haitian systems (from the kindergarden-Seconde) I find several areas in need of "revamping" in both.

Perhaps the problems our education system face are more prominent, more apparent given the state of our country but in my humble opinion (I am no expert) there are more pitfalls to the American system than most people want to admit.

Getting back to Haiti's education system...With over 80% of the population in utter poverty one of the most important factors necessary to revamp the system would be a public school system that WORKS. Where students don't have to worry about teachers going on strike, where they can actually HOPE for a better future, where the teachers are provided a
mple support to continue their professional development through meaningful and useful workshops, with actual labs for the students to not just read about photosynthesis but actually see it happening......Wait a minute before I lose my chain of thoughts...that's actually another one of the major problems of our system not enough "main a la pate", not enough activities geared towards the students actually using critical thinking to broaden their knowledge. But once again it is imperative that the teachers themselves are trained for that purpose, that they are given the proper tools (a working lab, better strategies than note-taking and "par-coeur").

Most schools in the capital quickly jumped on the internet band wagon for a quick buck (with almost every school having a "web cafe") but still most have not even made the slightest effort to maintain a small lab for science students

Bon map oblije tounen sou koze sa.....


Post by Tidodo_ » Sun Mar 05, 2006 11:32 am

I am late in this discussion, but I wanted to add what I perceived the differences were. While most of the differences I am highlighting below were already identified by the previous posters, what I want to do is grouping and organizing them within their different school levels.

The US school system has these levels: pre-school, elementary, middle school, high school, and college. The Haitian system has: jardin d'enfants, école primaire, école secondaire, université. Both systems have the same levels, except that middle school and high school in Haiti are combined into one, called école secondaire. Excluding the two years of pre-school, which exist in both systems, the Haitian system in the 60s and 70s requires a total of 14 years, from 7th grade to Certificat and from 6th to Philo. Today, in the US, it takes 13 years, split between seven in middle and high schools, five in elementary school plus kindergarten.

In Haiti, the same government entity, the department of education, oversees all levels, except jardin d'enfants. I believe they have an office in each town, called “inspection scolaire.” In the US, the States oversee all the levels as well, except the pre-school, through the School Boards and the Board of Regents, like in Florida. I am not sure of the role of the federal government, through the department of education, in the US school system. It is no wonder that Newt Gingrich wanted it eliminated. In any case, the schools under the State system are called public schools. But, there is a vibrant private school system thriving in parallel to the public system, subdivided into the same levels. In both countries, the best schools tend to be private, primarily due to availability of resources. Both systems have vocational schools, but I believe they are treated as outside of the system. In both countries, there is a gap between the private and the public school system. I will not compare the pre-school level, since it covers only two years and operates, to a certain extent, outside of the government's school system. In general, it is entirely private in both countries.

Primary vs. Elementary School

1. First and foremost, is the sorting of the various grades names. In Haiti, I started in 7th grade then went to 6th, 5th, 4th until 1st, which is also called Certificat. In the US, they start with kindergarten, then to 1st, 2nd, 3rd to fifth grade

2. In general, in the USA, your 5th birthday must fall on or before the first day of school in kindergarten to be admitted in elementary school. That requirement is more flexible in Haiti.

3. In both countries, they tried to teach you reading, writing, and speaking in one language, and mathematics. While in the Haitian system they start teaching logic during the last years of primary school, in the American system the teaching of logic starts at kindergarten. Furthermore, I understand that today, Haitian students learn to read and write in two languages – Creole and French – while the Americans just do it in one, with a second language optional in certain districts. There is a beginning of sciences, the country's history, and civic instructions in both systems in this level of schooling, though in the latter years of primary school. But geography was stronger in Haiti than in the US and the teaching of Haitian history was very chauvinistic. I am going on a limb here, but I will venture that the way they teach Haitian history in primary school may be at the basis of the fascination of Haitians with politics and the lifelong desire to have their names in the Haitian history books next to Dessalines, Toussaint, Petion, Christophe, etc., besides the wealth lure. On the other hand, art, music and physical education were more systematically taught in the US as opposed to in Haiti.

4. One of the biggest differences between the two countries at the primary school level was in grading. The Haitian school system encourages competition between the students, in the way that they rank the students based on the grades obtained on tests and quizzes, and the ranking is widely know to all students. I am going on a limb again here, but that grading system may explain that competitive nature in adult life of Haitians whereby eliminating the competition is more sought for than doing better. In the Haitian system, in the 60s & 70s, the students were graded on how they did, in the aggregate, on the tests of the subjects taught in school: reading, writing, math, history, geography, etc. In the US, not only the students are graded on reading, language arts, math, science/social studies, they were also graded on social growth, study skills, music, art, physical education, and perhaps the optional language, such as Spanish.

5. Another major difference was the administration of punishment. In Haiti, academic failure leads to repeating the class and then expulsion from the school. Of course, the teacher was allowed to administer corporal punishment when it deems it necessary. In the US, they create two schools for the students. They move the better students in a class by themselves, called Gifted or Magnet. The rest of the students are taught at a lower level, not pushed, and advanced from one grade to a higher one every year. At least, that is my understanding of the US system. But, I will confess that I do not understand and know it. Perhaps, someone else can explain better how it works with the slower students in the USA. Corporal punishment is prohibited in the school system, and many indicated before, students with learning disabilities have access professionals which was unheard of in my hometown when I was growing up.

6. Another major difference, which was widely covered by previous posters, is the learning by rote. I was surprised, while in primary school, that the learning by rote did not improve my memory capacity and ability to memorize as I advanced towards higher education. Instead, it deteriorated significantly. I found that very astounding afterwards. But I should not have been surprised. Our brain uses links to other frame of references in it to memorize. But, when you are memorizing things for which you have no other frame of references in the brain, it follows that your brain would have no recall capability as there is no frame of references to trigger the recall. I had to wait until I was in 4eme secondaire to start blooming at school, right after I jettisoned the learning by rote system. By then, some of my classmates and I divided students in our classes in two groups: a) those who learn by rote and b) those, like I, who used a more “understanding to learn” system. Certainly, in the US, starting with recognition of differences in objects in kindergarten to the use of multiple choices, the learning system is very different than we have in Haiti.

7. In both countries, parents, primarily mothers, help with homework. But, the difference in the homework was rather in its content. In Haiti, the daily homework in my primary school was lessons that must be recited the following morning in class, reading, and spelling words. Math homework was left for the weekend. In the US, at least at my daughter's school, there was no homework on weekends. On the other hand, on weeknights they have spelling words, math homework, reading, etc. Occasionally, they would have a project. In addition, they would also the field trips which did not exist in Haiti, except for those in “Croisés” which were not all the class. But, “croisés” were only during the last three to four years of primary school.

8. In Haiti, there is a regional exam, Certificat, to move from primary school to secondary school. Without it, you cannot go to secondary school. Each State in the US has its own standards. In general, a passing grade from fifth grade from your school is all that is needed to start 6th grade. However, in Florida, there is a standardized test called FCAT, starting third grade, which each student must pass each year. The school gets penalized, if its students, as a group, consistently failed it.

9. The comparison I made so far between primary school in Haiti and Elementary school in the US is based on my experience when I went to school in Jeremie in the 60s. While in 1965, Duvalier shut down the schools for weeks after Jean-Claude and his other children's cars were shot upon, this was nothing compared to what went through in the past ten years in Haiti with political unrest, strikes and others. Last year, the Broward and Dade Counties School System in Florida closed the schools for two weeks after Hurricane Wilma, this was the exception, not the rule.

This is my first installment in the response to Liline's question. I will post later the analysis of secondary school and another one afterwards on the university level. Perhaps, each level should have its own thread in order to narrow the discussions to the topic debated.



Post by Tidodo_ » Sun Mar 05, 2006 9:17 pm

Secondary vs. Middle/High Schools

The other reason that I want to resume that discussion is that, besides politics, there are other things happening in Haiti. Education may be one of the most important subjects that require our attention in Haiti. It was a great idea for Liline to start this discussion. For example, they have been teaching Creole in Haiti for some time now. What is its impact on Haiti so far? This is very important for Haiti. Why doesn't it get people interested in it? In any case, let's get back to the comparison of the two school systems. Like in my previous post, my comparison is based on what the Haitian School system used to be and not what it is today, as I don't know.

1. Previous posters made a pretty good analysis of the major differences, such as Guy in the various sections, A,B,C in Haiti versus here in the USA where the students are more oriented towards their college aspirations. Another major difference, pointed out by Leonel, was teacher's competency and school certification in Haiti that is left to be desired. This has weakened the reputation of Haitian schools abroad, as those teachers and their bosses gave diplomas to people who, in some cases, did not even attend the schools, let alone “alevwa” passing the grades. But, I agree with Liline that the shortage of teachers in Haiti makes it necessary to hire teachers who did not go to the Ecole Normale Supérieure, for some of them did a good job as my teachers.

2. In Haiti, secondary schools are mostly divided between lycées (public) and colleges (private) . In the USA, it is also divided between the private and public schools, with the public ones having as part of them the magnet and gifted classes that we mentioned in their elementary school level. Like Guy mentioned before, most of the private schools have uniforms , but some public schools did as well, such as Lycée Des Jeunes Filles.

3. The diplomas for successful completion of secondary school in Haiti are provided by the State, baccalaureates &1 & 2, while in the USA it is only one diploma, and it is provided by the schools themselves. Each State in the US has its own standards. In Florida, for example, it is now required to have passed the state exam, the Florida Comprehension Assessment Test (FCAT), for some schools to give you the high school diplomas.

4. Too many classes in secondary school in Haiti are book-less. The teacher gives notes that each student copies in so many different ways. The tests are on the copied notes and whatever was said in class. The students spend more time copying notes than learning. Often, copying the notes took more precedence over anything else.

5. Another major difference, which Leonel alluded to also, was the availability of books with updated knowledge. Although these are two different issues, availability of books and updated information in them, we will treat them as one. The comparison between the two countries' secondary school system is sharper at the university level as you will see in my next installment. Libraries in secondary schools in Haiti are virtually inexistent. I was in the best secondary school in Jérémie, yet the school library has less than 50 volumes, my estimate. The library was open only once a week, Saturdays, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. Although at 13, I was able to check out excellent books like Le Journal d'Anne Frank, Comment se faire Des Amis, Les Trois Mousquetaires, Terre des Hommes, etc., reference books were not available. But, one of our teachers in Haiti, Mme Carl Nicholas, gave us access to her private library. We did enjoy that and made up, specially in French literature, for the lack of books at school. That I how I got to read “Cyrano de Bergerac”by Edmond Rostand who was later turned into a movie starring Gerard Depardieu.

6. Leonel made a very good point about our Haitian secondary schools are more about theory than practice when compared them to their US counterparts. This requires some detailed explanations. For example, my secondary school had no labs. During the six years spent there, I learned that H2O was the formula for water. I never saw how you take oxygen mixed it with hydrogen and turn it into water. There was also no physics lab, etc. In addition, there were no field trips to a plant where any of the material we learned at school can be demonstrated in real life. Of course, the US high school students have access to labs on school ground or audio-visual material that can be used as substitute for these labs.

7. One of my sweetest memories in high school was when Mme Nicholas made us read the French classics and reenact them in class. We read and enacted a lot of books in class, including Le Cid of Corneille, Andromaque and many others of Racine, L'Avare, Tartuffe and many others of Molière, etc. We even reenacted Romeo et Juliette de W. Shakespeare. It was always a fight between the students as to who is chosen to read the major roles in those plays. I don't know whether in the US high school system the same thing happens. But, we learned a lot from these sessions, as the teacher got our attention. As a result of that, most of the students of our promotion from 3eme to philo were giving writing a try, especially poetry.

8. Another point that Guy singled out as a difference between the two countries' school system was athletics. Certainly, it is very organized here with baseball, football, basketball, tennis, track and field, soccer, etc. In Haiti, it was not an official activity of the school in most schools. But during certain periods of time, there was competition of volley ball for example among the high schools. Most of these games were played at Collège St Pierre. Ben Nau et Ben Brutus, for example, and Philippe Calixte gained national recognition because of their prowess on the volley ball fields. These players went on to be members of the national team who later played countries like Santo Domingo, etc. There was also a championnat interscolaire among the lycées in Port-au-Prince in soccer. These championships were followed by most students in secondary schools in P-au-P.

9. I did remember having a religion class in 4eme, 8th grade in the US, which was also open for any discussion about sex. We loved that class. The class was taught by a priest, Père Solages, who wrote books for teenagers. He also wanted to educate us about sex. The education was going fine until he told us that God made sex for procreation only. Having sex for reasons other than procreation was a sin regardless if you were married, and my interest in that sexual education class started eroding from then on. But, I must concede that I ended up reading his book that year and learned a lot about our sexuality and the effects on teenagers.

10. Overall, my impression has always been that in secondary school, our education in Haiti was more general, encompassing many subjects. On the hand, in the US the education was more focus on the US universities and survival in the US economy.



Post by Tidodo_ » Mon Mar 06, 2006 11:21 pm

Université d'Etat vs. Colleges and Universities

The comparison between these two entities is outrageously unequal. While Haiti was able to compete at the previous levels of education with the developed countries, it is way out of its league at the university level. Again, I can't talk about the current situation in Haiti. My analysis compares the situation in Haiti in the 1970s and 80s with what it was in the US at the same time.

1. The first and major difference is the staggering number of universities in the US compared to just the Université d'Etat in Haiti and a few private colleges, such as Leconte, Crane, and one or two more private colleges. While the US enjoys hundreds of universities and colleges, at both the private and public levels, we only have one in Haiti spread all throughout P-au-P with almost nothing in the provinces. Besides a nursing school in Cayes and perhaps something else in Cap-Haitien, all the schools of the Université d'État reside in P-au-P. They were: the Faculty of Medicine at Rue Oswald Durand, Polytechnique across the general hospital, Faculte de Droit et Sciences Economiques next to the medical school, Ethnology on the Champ de Mars, Normale Superieure à Pacot, Agriculture à Damiens, Hautes Études Internationales à l'Avenue Christophe, and perhaps a couple more I cannot remember. While in the US, just one of the Florida universities, such as FSU, would not only cover all the ones just mentioned in Haiti but add: College of Arts & Sciences, Communications, Criminology, Human Sciences, Information, Social Sciences, Social Work, Visual Arts, Theatre and Dancing, Music, Motion Pictures, Televisions and Recording Arts, just to name a few.

2. Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, considered a small university, had about 23,000 students in 1992. I doubt that the University d'État for the whole Haiti had over 10,000 students.

3. The most striking for me when I attended college here at FIU was that all of my textbooks were printed less than five years ago. Students who repeated a class had to buy new books just off the press. Last year's book was already obsolete. One of my teachers used his manuscript as textbook. Meanwhile in Haiti, some of the books in some of the faculties were over 10 years old. With such a rapid technological advancement in the 20th century, university students in Haiti were being taught outdated disciplines and techniques. For example, Dr. Christian Barnard was performing in 1974 the first double heart transplant in South Africa, thirty years later, I am not aware of any major organs transplant being done and taught at the faculty of medicine in Haiti.

4. Few doctorate programs are being taught at the University d'État in Haiti. Most Phds in Haiti earned their degrees outside of the country. This compares to graduate programs in most universities in the US.

5. Another major difference is the lack of research at the University d'État in Haiti which is linked to the lack of doctorate programs. A Google search on FSU program in the US, for example, lists 48 areas of research at that university from waste management to Molecular Biophysics. This is a critical point of need where development of the country must be supported by academic research in finding solutions to the country's problems.

6. While at the Faculté de Medecine in Haiti, students have plenty of cadavers to work on, unlike their US counterparts who have to use very often plastic human organs to practice on, their foreign brethren have all kinds of chemical labs, microscopic viewers, and XRay photography to help in learning diagnostics of diseases.

7. Private sector endowments allow those universities to invest in equipment, faculties, and facilities in the US. While in Haiti, it is entirely dependent on the meager support of government.

8. Students benefit from international exchange of knowledge through fellowship program and others that are not available to Haitian students because of funding.

Perhaps, others can add to that list of differences between the two education systems. This list will need update to reflect current situation in Haiti, including the addition of a private university in Haiti in the past ten years, Quiskeya.


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