Puerto Rico Language Policy Timeline

  • 1898

    John Eaton, Ex educational Commissioner and his helper Dr. Clark Established that Puerto Rican teachers had to learn English. Those who learnt it had the advantage of being hired for teaching.
  • 1900

    The Public Instruction Department of Puerto Rico is created with an assigned commissioner.
  • 1902

    The educational policy was to conserve Spanish and to acquire English: Spanish in the primary grade and English as a separate class.
  • 1903

    The use of English was intensified as a mean to convert it in the official language of the schools in Puerto Rico.
  • 1904

    Five hundred and forty Puerto Rican teachers are sent to the universities of Cornell and Harvard to study.
  • 1905

    Spanish use is suppressed and English is used as the mean of teaching in all the school grades.
  • 1909

    English teachers flourished making it possible to establish the English language as the base with a high enrollment of students.
  • 1913

    Spanish is used in first grade for some classes like, Hygiene, Health, and Reading.
  • 1915

    A law is introduced to make Spanish the teaching language in Puerto Rico.
  • 1916

    Spanish was established as the mean of teaching from first to fourth grade. From fifth grade English would be used in half of the classes and Spanish in the other half.
  • 1917

    The political controversy continues; WWI starts and the American citizenship is given to the Puerto Ricans. It is asked to teach the children about patriotism.
  • 1921

    Juan B. Huyke became Instruction commissioner. In that moment more emphasis is given to English and it is encouraged to be used at all times in order to learn it. The teacher s and students were asked to use English even outside of the classroom. The books were published in English. The printing of Spanish materials was prohibited.
  • 1930

    Jose Padin established English as a foreign language in a pedagogical perspective. He encouraged to use Spanish as the mean of instruction. English was emphasized as a second language with many programs.
  • 1936

    President Roosevelt complained that Puerto Ricans had not learned English after 38 years of American occupation. He wanted all the education to be given in English so that the next generation could know English.
  • 1942

    Spanish prevailed as the mean of instruction up to the sixth grade and English continued as a separate subject.
  • 1948

    The vernacular Spanish was to be used as the mean of instruction up to the ninth grade.
  • 1949

    Dr. Mariano Villaronga put an end to the bilingual debate by stating that Spanish was to be used in all school levels starting in the 1949-50 school year. This prevails today.
  • 1970

    The Public Instruction Department and the universities have solicited funds to attend the students who are returnees from the United States.
  • 1972

    Padre Rufo and Papa Juan XXIII Bilingual Projects are established in Puerto Rico.
  • 1984

    The Bilingual Education Program, already established, stops being a program and their projects were transferred to the English Department
  • 1991

    Under the government of Rafael Hernández Colón the "Spanish Only" was approved as, Law Number 4, April 5, 1991.
  • 1993

    Under the government of Pedro Roselló Law Number 1 January 28, 1993 proclaiming as official languages of the island both, English and Spanish.
  • 1997

    The Bilingual Citizen Project established various bilingual schools in the Island. Among the ones that survived is the Antonio González Suárez in Añasco.
  • 2012

    There are new bilingual initiatives in Puerto Rico under the BEC-21 and ES-21 projects.