General secondary education consisted of a three-year basic cycle and a four-year upper cycle that led to a baccalaureate (baccalauréat) and possible university matriculation. The curriculum emphasized the classics and the arts to the detriment of the sciences. Despite these limitations, general secondary education was often of high quality. Secondary-school graduates usually qualified for admission to the University of Haiti or to institutions of higher learning abroad.
In 1981 there were 248 secondary-level schools in Haiti; 205 of them were private. Between 1974 and 1981, the number of private secondary schools almost tripled, while only two new public lycées were built. About 100,000 students attended these secondary schools, which employed 4,400 teachers. In addition to general secondary schools, several vocational and business schools existed, most of them in metropolitan Port-au-Prince.
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