What have we learned about distance learning in the Dominican Republic during the pandemic?

This page in:
Un niño trabaja con una computadora en una escuela en la República Dominicana.
A boy works on a computer in the Dominican Republic. Photo: Orlando Barría/World Bank

José is a high school student in the Dominican Republic. Like his friends, in March 2020, his life changed overnight because schools closed due to the pandemic. There are still no assessments of students’ learning losses in the Dominican Republic resulting from the pandemic, but the outlook is discouraging.

Before the pandemic, eight in 10 Dominican students failed to acquire the minimum proficiency expected for a 15-year-old. According to World Bank estimates, this number could increase to nine in 10 student s (Figure 1).


Estimated percentage of students below minimum proficiency due to COVID-19 in Central America, 2021
Source: World Bank estimates using the tool of Azevedo et al. Country Tool for Simulating the Potential Impacts of COVID-19 School Closures on Schooling and Learning, version 6. Scenario 1 assumes that “partially open” systems are equivalent to “totally closed.” Scenario 2 assumes that “partially open” school systems are only 20 percent open (or 80 percent closed). Scenario 3 assumes that “partially open” school systems are 40 percent open (or 60 % closed).

To mitigate learning losses, the Dominican Republic implemented distance education in an attempt to reach all students in the country using a variety of methods. These included the distribution of printed booklets for home study, the broadcasting of educational programs on television and radio, the delivery of digital devices to students and teachers, and the development of training programs for school principals and teachers on pedagogical and administrative issues, communication tools, and the social-emotional well-being of their students.

Assessing distance education

The Dominican Initiative for Quality Education (IDEC) and the Dominican Institute for Evaluation and Research of Education Quality (IDEICE), with support from the World Bank and USAID, conducted a study to explore how the implementation of distance education functioned during the first year of the pandemic, both from the perspective of students and their families, and of school principals.

For this study, researchers collected data from various sources, including from a telephone survey of a representative sample of 800 households with children in the public school system and a telephone survey of a representative sample of 454 public school principals. Additionally, researchers examined television ratings from public and private channels that broadcast educational programs, representative of the two main cities in the country (Greater Santo Domingo and Santiago) (Figure 2).


FIGURE 2: Data sources used in the study
FIGURE 2: Data sources used in the study

The results demonstrate that the vast majority of students managed to have access to educational materials developed for distance education and that teachers were strongly committed to remote teaching . On average, eight in 10 students received the booklets and seven in 10 had access to educational television programs. Additionally, two in 10 elementary school students and four in 10 high school students received digital devices to study at home.

With respect to principals, nine in 10 reported that all or most of their teachers received digital devices and training and that most of the teachers worked in person at their school daily or two to three times a week.

Despite all these efforts, the implementation of distance education presented many challenges. Six in 10 parents of children in primary school reported that they had to be permanently involved in supporting their children. Although most parents reported having access to the booklets, they did not receive all the booklets available.

Television ratings indicate that the audience for educational programs, as well as the average time viewers watched educational programs, declined progressively over time (Figures 3 and 4). For example, in April 2021, only two in 10 students watched an educational program, and the average time they viewed the programs was only 11 percent of what the Ministry of Education had originally planned. Finally, six in 10 parents with children in primary school reported that their children studied fewer than three hours daily and nearly all parents and principals perceived that they learned less or much less than when they attended school in person (Figure 5).


Percentage of viewers of educational programs (4-17 years old) in Greater Santo Domingo and Santiago, 2020-2021


Assessment of learning level of students of distance education versus in-person education
Figure 5: Assessment of learning level of students of distance education versus in-person education

All these findings can provide useful input for developing education policies in the Dominican Republic. First, the limited study hours and the perception of the low quality of learning during school closures highlight the importance of developing objective assessments of learning losses resulting from the pandemic.

It is necessary to comprehend what and how much students learned during distance education to design and implement remedial education programs as soon as possible.  Additionally, the government should develop a systemic strategy to enhance the delivery of digital devices to accelerate learning and to promote equality within the Dominican education system.

José is happy to be back at school and to interact with his classmates and teachers in person. Like his parents, teachers and school principal, he knows that by working together, they will be able to recover the learning lost to achieve his dream of studying at the university one day.

ReportEducation for All by Safeguarding Health : A Look at the Performance of Public-Sector Distance Learning in the Dominican Republic in Times of COVID-19


J. Alfonso Aísa

Responsible of the Technical Office of the Delegate Cooperation of the Support Program for Education and Professional Technical Training in the Dominican Republic

Daniel Morales

Profesor-investigador en la Escuela de Economía de la Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra, El Salvador

Monica Yanez Pagans

Senior Economist, Education Global Practice

Join the Conversation

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly
Remaining characters: 1000