On Cuba’s “Integral Education”

Erasmo Calzadilla

Cuban university students. Photo: Caridad

Cuban instruction is at the vanguard when, at least in theory, it aims at the integral education of students.  I would say —and in no way trying to minimize this— that this integral education is the attempt at developing all human qualities, and not in an independent way but integrating one with another within the same individual.

The playful, the sexual, the emotional and the divine are dimensions forgotten by traditional pedagogy and which could be incorporated into a project an integral education.  Put this way, it looks beautiful, but it’s a different matter when it comes to how such an idea is understood and implemented.

In concrete terms, integral education as applied in Cuba means that the student, when finishing their coursework, will be situated on their rung not only in relation to their academic performance but also according to their participation in cultural, sports, labor and political activities.

You don’t have to be a philosopher to understand that this is the bureaucratic “ridiculization” of the issue of integral education.

If you’re still not convinced, let’s take a look at the “ideo-political aspect.”

I often pass by a mural in front of a technological school in the Vedado neighborhood, where one can read the items used in the student evaluation at the end of the course.  One of them is the “ideo-political aspect.”

I agree emphatically that education must be political.  That’s to say, it must show how everywhere there is a struggle for power, and it must demonstrate the ways of preventing others from applying this against you, like we say here.  However, I know from experience that this is something very different from what is being taught and evaluated in the “ideo-political aspect.” Here are its principal elements:

—      Fidelity to the leaders. In one classroom at this school I counted up to seven photographs of Fidel Castro, Raul Castro and other heroes.

—      Knowing how to distinguish in the political arena the good guys from the bad guys, and pretending to be among the former.

—      Participating in “political” activities, which means not refusing to be directed anywhere the Cuban Communist Party needs you (be it joining in some march, chanting slogans or being a part of a Rapid Response Brigade).

It’s true that this it is not the worst educational situation in the world, but it’s not necessary to wait for it to become that either.  Something has to be done, and soon, to rescue children from those who indoctrinate them and take advantage of their innocence.  Does anyone have an idea on this?

2 thoughts on “On Cuba’s “Integral Education”

  • nvaldes, while not entirely disagreeing with you about one of the functions of education, there would be a furious public uproar if Canadian classrooms had one – let alone seven – photographs of the Prime Minister or other political leaders.

    And socializing students in the values of democracy, human rights and good citizenship is vastly different than requiring students to pledge fidelity to the political leaders of a one party state.

  • I suggest that this fellow read up on the functions of education [manifest and latent] in ANY society. The function of elementary and secondary education is, indeed, to socialize the students into the prevailing values of the social system in which they live. The educational system might not say so, but that is why they have been set up.

Comments are closed.