Education in Cuba: Competitive Games vs. Cooperation

Daisy Valera


HAVANA TIMES, Feb 9 — Competing. Competing and trying to win. This is the idea behind several programs directed at children shown on Cuban TV.

There are others that — though they could cultivate creativity — end up generating frustration. “Art Attack” is one of them. The reality is that among Cuban kids boxes of crayons or colored pens are scarce and much more so tubes of paints.

However here, I prefer to concentrate on discussing competitive programs like the Mexican show “VelozMente” (QuickMinds), which is broadcast over the Multivision network on Saturdays at 9:30 am.

During this show there are three rounds of competitions in which victory requires the use of one’s memory.

After about 25 minutes, the children emerge either as winners or losers. The losers end up having to walk through a shower of foam, which is called an “idea washing-machine.”

The stage is filled with bright colors, and to top off the festive atmosphere, laughter and shouts from the children in the audience can be heard intermittently.

The camera tries not to focus on the faces of the losers, but inevitably these appear.

Therefore what we find are those faces – bewildered, sad or angry. Of the five children who begin in any competition, four will wind up disappointed while the sole winner receives the grand prize.

It’s possible that many people don’t see anything negative in the show I just described. We’ve incorporated competitive methods from the time we’re very little.

When we’re young and as adults what we are taught helps us to compete for better grades, better jobs, better pay, etc. By default, we also learn to ignore those who are left along the way as we struggle to realize our greater goals.


I remember my childhood as having more than a few shades of indifference and even some acts of cruelty.

I struggled to be the best in my class, the best reader in the school, the art representative for the whole elementary school, the official reciter and the best at too many other titles.

Such designations turned out to have cost me dearly when I noted my inability to socialize, explain, share, teach or, above all, to accept my shortcomings and mistakes.

Of course I couldn’t watch “VeloxMente” like children do today, but my games and upbringing incorporated the same idea: “You have to be the best and win.”

I’m not satisfied with the justification that society advances only due to competitive mechanisms. I think it’s possible to educate people in another manner.

People can be taught through methods that permit cooperation, teamwork and solidarity – methods that generate more smiles than unhappy faces.

It seems that it’s up to the Cuban family to meet this challenge since TV educational programs aren’t up to par.