Cuban Education: A State Responsibility

Elio Delgado Legon

HAVANA TIMES — As I have said before, illiteracy was eradicated in Cuba in 1961 and the full responsibility for education was assumed by the state, which offers it free of charge at all levels and in all areas of instruction.

By law, all children must attend school until the ninth grade. At that level, they are offered every possibility for further study. They can continue in high school and then opt for studies at the university level, or they can enroll in a poly-technical school, which have different branches in mid-level training that allow work in their specialty once they graduate (what’s more, as workers they can continue studying at the university level).

According to the vocation of each pupil, there are also specialized schools at the elementary, intermediate and advanced stages in all fields of art and culture, such as those for music, painting, sculpture, dance, ballet, the performing arts, etc. This instruction ensures that no talent in any of these art forms goes ignored or disregarded.

The same goes for schools of sports and physical culture, which are open to all children who excel in sports and have the necessary skills to pursue a career in these fields, at both the mid-level and higher levels.

For education, the Cuban government spares no effort, and — despite the difficulties caused by the global economic crisis, exacerbated by the US blockade — schools are equipped with all the necessary audio-visual media, including computers with Internet access, to provide quality education.

In the most remote areas, where there’s no electricity, schools are equipped with solar panel systems to ensure the functioning of electrical and electronic equipment. Therefore, there’s no difference between the classes taught in these schools and those in cities.

For students who live in outlying areas and can’t commute daily to classes, the Cuban educational system offers a scholarship plan that guarantees accommodation and food throughout the school year; and in the cases of school levels in which students are required to wear uniforms, these too are provided for free.

Vocational senior high schools and the military schools maintain the boarding school system for all of those students.

Cuban education is organized as a system that begins with children’s daycare and continues through preschool, elementary, lower secondary, pre-university, technical, vocational and higher education. The latter is complemented by postgraduate education, where students can receive a master’s degree and a doctorate in science.

Cuban higher education currently consists of 68 centers, including universities and colleges.

One of the subsystems to which a great deal of attention is devoted owing to its humanitarian character, is special education, which serves children with disabilities such as mental retardation, delayed mental development, hearing and/or visual impairments, autism, language disorders, physical and motor-skill limitations, behavioral disorders, etc.

In this branch of education, many students are cared for in their homes and even in hospitals by itinerant teachers.

Cuba has one of the highest teacher-student ratios in the world, with one teacher for every 42 inhabitants. More than 400,000 people are employed in this sector and about seven percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) is devoted to education.

The quality of Cuban education — which, I repeat, is completely free — has been endorsed by UNESCO. This is to say that many years ago Cuba achieved what students in many countries are demanding in the streets, facing repression of troops using tear gas, water jets, beatings and arrests. Some have even died due to such acts of repression.

The achievements of the Cuban revolution in education aren’t talked about by the information transnationals or the press paid from the north – or by dissent bloggers. That’s another truth they try to silence, though it’s in plain view.


12 thoughts on “Cuban Education: A State Responsibility

  • June 9, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    An so, Moses, aren’t you ashamed of yourself for making victims of the well educated. It is, after all, the embargo and other US hostilities that is responsible. Something that you will deny. And, at the same time, you will insist that the embargo, which you say has no effect on Cuba, be maintained. Makes one go hmmmmm……

  • September 11, 2012 at 9:31 am

    Incapable of counter-argument me, Moses chooses to change to topic – from ‘education’ to ‘workforce allocation’. Even so, telling a jobless engineer like me that in Cuba there are “Highly trained engineers selling ice cream to make a better living” is laughable. Even my university colleagues who are employed rarely do any engineering in their jobs – most of them work in sales or management.

  • September 10, 2012 at 5:13 am

    Thanks, Michael for your memory of Cuban school days. I have only one memory of a young teacher – a supply teacher. She was really hot. I can’t remember the subject she taught but I certainly remember her figure! Sexuality aside, young teachers would certainly change class dynamics where in my school days, discipline was a major component of the school experience below tertiary level.

    Talking to teachers today, looking at the dysfunctional family situations all around me and the dysfunctional social mechanisms in train in so-called first world democracies, I suspect the teaching profession must be an impossible one these days, or so I have been told.

    Moses, of course, will tell us of every problem ever reported in Cuban schools. Presumably his Franchise has never set foot in an inner city public school in their country, or they choose not to tell us about it.

    What I vividly remember seeing in Cuba over and over again were children in crisp school uniforms on their way to school and back. In every other Latin American country that I have visited, the children you mostly encounter as a tourist are ones begging in the streets or selling chiclets for pesos., an unavoidable result of capitalism where, unlike in Cuba, begging is on display no matter where you go.

    I was also struck by the 100% literacy rate that is obvious when you visit Cuba. Everyone can read and write, an uncommon occurrence elsewhere including, shockingly, in the country the Moses Franchise lives in – number 45 on Wikipedia’s list of countries by literacy rate. And number one on the list? Cuba.

    Looking at the Franchise’s coloured ‘observations’ of Cuban schools:

    “The staff steal the food the government designates for the children. As a result, parents either send their children to school with bag lunches or bring something to the school for the kids to eat at midday.”

    Bag lunches are encouraged in schools here due to the proliferation of junk food on sale in school cafeterias. School lunches, of course, are free in Cuba. You see no starving children or morbidly obese ones that are a common sight in US and Canadian schools, the result of the relentless and shameless marketing of junk food to children by the marketing ‘profession’ here, something Cubans don’t have to deal with.

    This puts “staff” who “steal the food” in a different perspective – petty pilfering that has no impact on children’s lives.

    The Moses Franchise cites bathrooms that “are a disaster because of stolen fixtures and poor maintenance” – a common sight in poor communities in the US. Lifting the 50-year insane embargo would certainly improve matters but the Franchise does nothing to lobby its government for change, no doubt too busy writing its pathetic propaganda on this website.

    The Moses Franchise writes, “The books the children use are old and often outdated” – again, common in poor communities in the US, the ones that one in six Americans live in – over 15% of the population who are below the poverty line, more than 47 million people or four times the population of Cuba. So the Moses Franchise has four times more opportunity to see outdated books in their own country but choose to focus on outdated books in Cuba.

    The Moses Franchise writes that “The state of education in Cuba has diminished to levels “normal” for the rest of the world” – an interesting admission, but not backed up by independent observation. Check out the Wikipedia entry, ” Education in Cuba”.

    The Moses Franchise doesn’t like independent, peer-reviewed sources of information like Wikipedia. Propagandists never do.

  • September 9, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Michael, it is common knowledge in the elementary schools in Havana that the staff steal the food the government designates for the children. As a result, parents either send their children to school with bag lunches or bring something to the school for the kids to eat at miday. The bathrooms are a disaster because of stolen fixtures and poor maintenance. The books the children use are old and often outdated. Finally, most, not all, the teachers are so poorly prepared and motivated to teach that actual learning is minimal. At the secondary level, tests and grades are purchased on a regular basis. The state of education in Cuba has diminished to levels “normal” for the rest of the world but certainly no longer reflect the idealistic plateau once achieved early in the revolution.

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