Education in Puerto Rico facts for kids

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Education in Puerto Rico
Department of Education
Council on Higher Education
National education budget
Budget $3.5 billion US$
General details
Primary languages Spanish, English
System type state, private
Male 93.9%
Female 94.4
Total unknown
Primary unknown
Secondary unknown
Post secondary unknown
Secondary diploma 60%
Post-secondary diploma 18.3%

Education in Puerto Rico is overseen by the Department of Education of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico Education Council. The Department oversees all elementary and secondary public education while the Council oversees all academic standards and issues licenses to educational institutions wishing to operate or establish themselves in Puerto Rico.

Instruction in Puerto Rico is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 18, which comprises the elementary and high school grades. Students in Puerto Rico may attend either public or private schools. As of 2013, the island had 1,460 public schools, 764 private schools, 606,515 K-12 students, 64,335 vocational students, and 250,011 university students.

The literacy rate of the Puerto Rican population was 94.1% in 2002; when divided by gender, this is distributed as 93.9% for males and 94.4% for females. According to the 2000 Census, 60.0% of the population attained a high school degree or higher level of education, and 18.3% has a bachelor's degree or higher.[needs update]


Education in the United States
  • By state + insular areas
  • By subject area
  • History of
  • Issues: Finance – Law – Literacy – Reform
  • Levels: Primary – Secondary – Higher
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The first school in Puerto Rico was the Escuela de Gramática (English: 'Grammar School'). The school was established by Bishop Alonso Manso in 1513, in the area where the Cathedral of San Juan was to be constructed. The school was free of charge and the courses taught were Latin language, literature, history, science, art, philosophy and theology.


The educational system in Puerto Rico consists of seven categories. These categories are based on the educational levels covered:

# Level Age Commonly known as Compulsion Remarks
1 nursery school 0–4 pre-K optional comprises Early Head Start, Head Start, and pre-kindergarten
2 preschool 5 K compulsory comprises kindergarten
3 elementary education 6–11 1–6 compulsory comprises first grade to sixth grade
4 junior high school 12–14 7–9 compulsory comprises seventh grade to ninth grade
5 high school 15–17 10–12 compulsory comprises tenth grade to twelfth grade
6 undergraduate 18+ college optional comprises associate and/or bachelor's degree
7 graduate 22+ graduate school optional comprises master's degree, doctorate, and/or post-doctorate

Some Puerto Rican schools, most notably in rural areas, offer kinder to ninth grade (K–9) at the same institution and are referred to as Segunda Unidad (English: 'Second Unit'). Other schools offer seventh grade to twelfth grade (7–12) at the same institution and are referred to as Nivel Secundario (English: 'Secondary Level').

Contemporary issues

Dropout rate

A recent study by the Department of Education of Puerto Rico showed that about 40% of all the students that enter tenth grade in public schools in Puerto Rico drop out and never finish secondary education.

Parents participation

A January 2014 news report stated that 55% of parents with children in public schools picked up their children's grades for the first semester of 2013–2014 school year on the scheduled day.

Poor performance in public schools

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, ninety-five percent (95%) of public school students in Puerto Rico graduate at a sub-basic level while sixty percent (60%) do not even graduate. Furthermore, according to the Department of Education of Puerto Rico, thirty-nine percent (39%) of public school students perform at a basic level (average performance) in Spanish in the Puerto Rican Tests of Academic Achievement. Likewise, 36% perform at a basic level in Mathematics while 35% perform at a basic level in English and 43% at a basic level in Science in said tests.

NAEP scores 2005

Moreover, studies published in 2003, 2005, and 2007 by the United States National Center for Education Statistics as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) concluded that Puerto Rico falls below basic levels when compared to the United States—being basic defined as "partial mastery of the knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work" according to NAEP. In particular the findings showed that:

  • Overall, fourth- and eighth-grade students in Puerto Rico scored lower, on average, than public school students in the United States.
  • Twelve percent (12%) of students in Puerto Rico scored at or above basic in fourth grade in comparison to the United States where 79% of students scored at or above basic in the same grade.
  • Six percent (6%) of students in Puerto Rico scored at or above basic in eighth grade in comparison to the United States where 68% of students in the United States scored at or above basic in the same grade.

As a result of this, 1,321 out of 1,466 public schools in Puerto Rico (about 90%) do not comply with the academic progress requirements established by the No Child Left Behind Act.

Market demand for college graduates

Puerto Rico is atypical as many youngsters pursue post-secondary studies even though the local market has no demand for them. For example, in 2012 50,000 students graduated at the undergraduate and graduate level while the labor market generated about 6,000 jobs per year of which 25% of those required that level of education. This effectively means that the Puerto Rican market has no demand for 97% of those who graduate with an undergraduate or graduate degree in Puerto Rico, although many find jobs out of the island.

Notable Puerto Rico educators

  • Lolita Tizol
  • Alfredo M. Aguayo
  • Mariano Villaronga-Toro
  • Maria Teresa Babin
  • Elias Lopez Soba
  • Eugenio María de Hostos
  • Solsiree del Moral, Negotiating Empire: The Cultural Politics of Schools in Puerto Rico, 1898–1952. Madison, WI; University of Wisconsin Press, 2013.

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