Haiti's Teachers Strike, Demand More Training Most Educators Didn't Go Past Sixth Grade

Article excerpt

Haiti's 1,200 grade-school teachers took a test recently. Nearly all of them failed. Only 400 teachers could alphabetize a list of words.

Only 41 could arrange fractions by size. In other words, most didn't know that one-third is larger than one-sixth.

Additional training is one of several demands that public school teachers - including the ones who failed the test - are making in a five-day strike that started Thursday. It is the second strike this month. The state of education is one reason Haiti remains one of the poorest countries on earth. Most of the grade-school teachers flunked the Ministry of Education's test, because two-thirds of them have only a sixth-grade education. Under the current system, that's what qualifies them to teach up to grade six. Students reflect their teachers' ignorance. More than half of children ages 6 to 12 cannot read. Only 25 percent finish primary school. The average primary school graduate is 15 years old. Of the 75,000 students who make it to their senior year in high school, only 15 percent pass final exams to graduate, according to a November survey by UNICEF. For years, various governments have tried and failed to establish training criteria for teachers. President Rene Preval's government has ma de the same promise. He says schools will not hire new teachers without some form of training, at the government teacher training college, the Ecole Normale Superieure, or the University of Haiti. …