Education is highly valued in Puerto Rico and there are many good schools to choose from on the island. While the quality of public schools varies greatly, private schooling is generally of a high standard and is typically preferred by expat parents. The Puerto Rico education system is based on the American model. School is compulsory from ages six to 17 for all children.
Public schools in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico grants the right to an education to every citizen on the island. To this end, public schools in Puerto Rico provide free and secular education at the compulsory elementary and secondary levels.
Despite the system being based on the American model, the teaching language in public schools is Spanish. This may be a deterrent for expats with children who are not familiar with the language. English is taught as a second language and is compulsory at all levels. Also, parents should be aware that the quality of public schools varies considerably. Schools in rural areas tend to be extremely under-resourced.
Private schools in Puerto Rico
Private schools in Puerto Rico are operated by non-governmental institutions. Most Puerto Rican private schools are Catholic.
Expats should be aware that it is illegal for a school to deny admittance based on faith, and therefore being of the denomination is not a requirement for attending a private school in Puerto Rico. Students of different denominations are allowed to refrain from taking part in any religious-based activities at school.
The language of instruction in Puerto Rican private schools can vary. Some teach bilingually while others teach in English or Spanish only.
International schools in Puerto Rico
Though there are no foreign-curricula schools in Puerto Rico, there are a few schools offering the International Baccalaureate (IB). Many expat families opt for the IB as it's globally respected and taught all over the world, allowing for easier transfer between schools. These schools are typically expensive, however, so expats should ensure their budget has room for fees and other expenses.
Special-needs education in Puerto Rico
Public schooling in Puerto Rico is underfunded in general, and this is even more apparent in the very limited special-needs provisions offered by the government. That said, there are a number of special-education schools across Puerto Rico.
However, with most education systems worldwide striving towards integration of special-needs children into mainstream schools, the separate-schooling approach is somewhat outdated and is often thought to hold such students back rather than encourage participation in general society.
Parents of children with special needs should rather seek support in private schools, which are more likely to have appropriate resources and policies.
Tutors in Puerto Rico
Whether a family wishes to hire a tutor to help a child with a problem subject, prepare them for big exams or assist them with picking up a new language, there are plenty of options to suit parents' needs. Online and in-person services are available and expats often find tutors to be a great help in easing their child into a new school system. There are a number of reputable online portals and tutoring companies offering their services, or expats can ask around locally for a recommendation.
►For information on monthly expenses, see Cost of Living in Puerto Rico
"Schools are expensive, as you must send your child to a private school. You can get information about schools on the Newcomers of Puerto Rico website."
Read more of US expat Lynn's interview about life in PR.
Are you an expat living in Puerto Rico?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Puerto Rico. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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