Lack of access to quality education remains a key obstacle to Haiti’s social and economic development. Surveys indicate that approximately 35 percent of Haitian youth are illiterate and that the average Haitian child spends less than four years in school. An early grade reading assessment showed that 49 percent of Haitian children entering third grade are unable to read a single word. As indicated by these statistics, many Haitian youth are either illiterate or functionally illiterate, and a generation of Haitians does not possess the necessary knowledge and skills to enter the labor force. More than 80 percent of primary schools are privately managed by non-governmental organizations, churches, communities, and for-profit operators, with little to no government oversight. Approximately 75 percent of teachers lack adequate training. For low-income families, annual school expenses account for about 40 percent of income and can represent a significant financial burden. The January 2010 earthquake resulted in damage or destruction to 50 percent of primary and secondary schools, according to the Government of Haiti.
The Government of Haiti has made free and universal education a key priority. During the fall of 2011, the Government of Haiti’s Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training (MENFP) began the rollout of an operational plan to get 1.5 million students in school by 2016, improve curricula, train teachers, and set standards for schools. The U.S. Government is committed to supporting the Government of Haiti’s efforts to improve the quality of basic education.
Through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Government’s All Children Reading education program, Tout Timoun Ap Li (ToTAL), focuses on improving reading skills for children in first through third grade in the Northern, St. Marc, and Port-au-Prince areas – the three U.S. Government development corridors in Haiti. Over the course of two years, ToTAL will provide more than 28,000 children and 900 teachers with innovative reading curricula that meet international standards for best practice literacy instruction. ToTAL is also developing and implementing innovative teacher training and community literacy activities. This initiative will eventually reach more than one million children nationwide as other partners extend the use of the program’s reading curricula and training methods beyond the three development corridors. USAID is also providing targeted technical assistance to build the capacity of the Ministry of National Education to foster public-private partnerships and assist in the licensing and accreditation of schools.
The U.S. Government continues to work to improve the quality of and access to education for Haitians. Since 2010, the U.S. Government has: