Education can be defined as a process of cultural transmission in which knowledge is passed on from one generation to another. In primitive societies, this transmission is achieved through daily social interaction, rather than in a formal academic setting. As societies become increasingly complex, so does the informal educational process, and eventually the institutions we now know as schools and universities were systematically created. Although Puerto Rico began to exercise autonomous control over its formal education system in 1948, the development of this system has always been burdened with the effects of four centuries of colonialism; first under Spain, and, since 1898, under the United States. Today, alternative educational methods are under discussion, and schools, universities, seminariesseminaries: An institution for the education of youth. Today the term is used to refer to ecclesiastical education., colleges, technical institutesinstitutes: Educational centers for a particular art or science. In Puerto Rico institutes offer associate degrees or short careers such as for becoming a data entry or file clerk, etc., methods, and spaces that are all geared toward alternative approaches to education are emerging.
First Steps Under Spanish Rule
Under the Spanish regime, education was largely dependent on the auspices of the Catholic Church. Thus, in 1512 Archbishop Alonso Manso, founded one of the first schools. The second school was founded by Brother Antón de Montesino at the Convent of the Dominican friars in 1529, and later at the Convent of Saint Francis in 1642. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, several schools were established in various places around Puerto Rico. Nevertheless, the scholarship, meaning the level of studies completed by the general population, was very low. Marshal Alejandro O'Reilly, an official of the Spanish government, upon leaving the Island in 1765, reported: "There are no more than two children's schools; outside of the town of Puerto Rico (referring to the peninsula now known as Old San Juan) and the town of San Germán, very few people can read." Though the veracity of this statement has been questioned in subsequent centuries, it is nonetheless a reflection of the state of low scholarship on the island at that time.
In 1770, under the administration of Miguel de Muesas, efforts were made to establish the first free public primary school, but this was not the general rule and the population that attended school at that time was very limited. There were also individual efforts, such as those spearheaded by schoolteacher Rafael Cordero and his sister Celestina, to create private schools for low-income girls and boys.
Until the end of the 18th century, the curriculumcurriculum: Criteria, courses of study, programs, methodologies, and processes that contribute to an integrated education and the construction of a national cultural identity. Includes human, academic, and physical resources with which to implement the policies and fulfill the institution's educational project. and the teaching styles in Puerto Rico were similar to those that prevailed in Spain and in the rest of Latin America in which religious education consumed a large portion of the classes. The rest of the class time was devoted to lessons on reading, writing, and some notions of mathematics; humanities were treated superficially, and science courses were practically non-existent. Lessons were based on rote memory, and critical thinking was not encouraged. The educational revolution, the development of public schoolspublic schools: This is a free school, paid for by the state. Most of the students are from the financially less privileged classes. The schools also receive federal funds from specific programs such as Titles I and V, among others., and the growing liberal tendencies that arose in the Western world during the Enlightenment, as well as the development of nation-states in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, were late to reach Puerto Rico.
In 1832 the Conciliar Seminary opened in San Juan, offering for the first time science courses alongside the traditional subjects of Latin grammar, theology, moral philosophy, and civil and canonical law. The students of the seminary could continue their higher-level studies either in Spain or in Latin America. In 1873, during the brief first Spanish republic, the Instituto Civil de Segunda Enseñanza (Civil Institute for Secondary Instruction) was founded in San Juan, under the direction of José Julián Acosta. When the Republic fell in 1874, the institute was closed, as it was considered too liberal, although it reopened in 1882. From 1890 on the institute received public funding. In 1880 the Mothers of the Sacred Heart opened a school that provided primary and secondary education to the daughters of the affluent families on the Island.
In the 19th century, Puerto Ricans developed a strong interest in education, and they began to petition that a universityUniversity: From the Latin universitas meaning a group of people or community. In the modern sense the term comes from the evolution of the universitas scholarum in Bologna and Paris (12th century). The university is an institution dedicated to higher learning and offers specialized knowledge in different fields. It is divided into colleges and awards different degrees. The oldest university is in China, dating from between 227 and 2208 BC. The first medical schools were founded in the 8th century in Baghdad and in Europe; the first university was founded in that same century in Cordova, Spain, although it was essentially an Arabic institution in its philosophy and organization. The first Judeo-Christian university was founded in Bologna, Italy in 1088 and became the transitional institution between the Arabic university of antiquity to the new European universities, which in turn became the model for universities in the New World. be founded, as shown in the Instrucciones of Ramón Power, the first Puerto Rican representative in the Spanish Cortes, in 1810. By the second half of the 19th century, the need to establish a university level institution intensified, but all efforts made in that direction were unsuccessful. Despite the availability of financial support, the Spanish government denied the petitions for political reasons, to keep Spain from losing the island as had happened as a consequence of the liberation of the rest of the Americas. In 1887, a compromise was reached: Puerto Rican students could enroll at the University of Havana, Cuba, but take classes in San Juan (at the Puerto Rican Athenaeum) with teachers from Cuba. Then the students would travel to Cuba to take their examinations. But the cost of bringing the professors to San Juan was higher than the resources that were available, and at the end of two years this arrangement was terminated. The 19th century ended with the dream of a university still unfulfilled.
Concern about education also existed among the colonial authorities. This eventually led to various enabling decrees. The decree of 1880, which was enforced until the end of Spanish reign, organized the primary education system—public and private—under the governor's supervision. Compulsory attendance was decreed for children between the ages of six and nine. Nevertheless, these regulations were a matter more of appearances than reality, as the scarcity of schools, especially in the rural areas, made it almost impossible for children to attend classes. Later, in 1891, two colleges for training primary school teachers were established in San Juan; one for men and one for women.
The situation of the school system in 1898 was summarized in a study conducted by the Council on Higher Education in 1958: "At the end of Spanish rule, there were 380 elementary schools for boys in Puerto Rico, 138 for girls, 26 high schools, and one school for adults. There were a total of 545 schools, with a total school population of 44,861. Between 79 percent and 85percent of the Island's total population was illiterate." At that time there were 810,394 inhabitants, 268,639 of whom were children, but only 16.7 percent of the latter were in school.
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