Puerto Rico's academic year will begin on Wednesday with the launching of a pilot project to teach several subjects in 32 schools in English and which is intended to encompass the entire education system within 10 years.
Education Secretary Edward Moreno Alonso told the media that to those 32 schools must be added another 35 where - during the school year - educational authorities will put in place the plan whereby teachers will conduct some of their classes in English.
The 32 schools chosen for the pilot plan will teach math and science in English, while in the rest of the schools those courses will be taught in Spanish.
Moreno Alonso announced that his department is making efforts to incorporate the teaching of a third language into Puerto Rico's educational system within the next few years.
The Puerto Rican government's plan to replace Spanish with English in about half the subjects has sparked controversy and has been condemned by different sectors due to what it entails and to the real difficulty in getting it under way.
Moreno Alonso last June justified the initiative, saying that it responded to the right of Puerto Rican children to acquire mastery of English and to the wishes of parents.
The education secretary also noted that most job openings in the U.S. commonwealth require command of English as well as Spanish.
The president of the Puerto Rico Teachers Association, Aida Diaz, told Efe earlier this month that there is concern over the difficulty educators will have in teaching classes in a second language in which many are still not fluent.
She emphasized that the government has launched a program of several-week courses to train teachers to be able to teach classes in English.
"We're going to see if the teachers, when they close the door, continue teaching in English," said Diaz regarding the plan about which the main opposition PPD and the tiny Puerto Rican Independence Party have expressed doubts over the real possibility of getting it under way and about the aim of the initiative.
Pro-statehood Gov. Luis Fortuño, who is seeking a second term, has given the green light to the initiative just a few months before the Nov. 6 elections.
English was the obligatory language of instruction in Puerto Rican high schools between 1900 and 1948.
Spanish and English are now co-official languages of Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth since 1952.
The language controversy within the educational system comes at the same time as accusations by the largest teachers union that the Fortuño administration is intending to launch a restructuring plan whose goal is the privatization of education.