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What is Education Like in Cuba?

So Cuba is now in play.  This is fascinating to me.  My entire life I have been told and indoctrinated into thinking that Cuba is bad.  It’s Communist and so it’s bad.  I’m wise enough to now know that it’s not the people that are bad but possibly the government.  I guess that’s open to discussion now too.  I know many Cuban Americans and they are not bad people at all.  In fact their togetherness, family values and knack for cooking amazing food is very similar to my experience as an "American of Mexican Decent".  They seem very much like me. 

Naturally, as an education entrepreneur, I am intrigued with the possibilities of making a difference in Cuba such as I make here in the USA.  So, with a quick thank you to Wikipedia (not always my favorite source) and others (see below) here is what I know so far about the Cuban Education System.

Education in Cuba

  • Irrespective of income or place of living, education at every level is free.
  • School meals and uniforms are free.
  • There is a strict maximum of 25 children per primary-school class, many of which have as few as 20. As of 2010, secondary schools are striving towards only 15 pupils per class.
  • Many schools open at 6.30 am and close 12 hours later, providing free morning and after-school care for working parents with no extended family.
  • "Mobile teachers" are deployed to homes if children are unable to come to school.
  • A majority of Cuba's 150,000 teachers have a minimum of 5 years of higher education; about half have a master's degree.
  • There are now 23 medical schools in Cuba, up from only 3 in 1959 before the Cuban Revolution.

Teacher education

A five-year course is provided for pre-primary and primary/basic school teachers at the Institutos Superiores Pedagógicos. They obtain the "Licenciado en Educación Primaria" (Certificate in Primary Education) or other types of degrees. Admission to these courses is based on the Bachillerato. Higher education students are offered specialized upgrading courses in the subjects they teach as well as teacher training courses. Many teachers are professionals from the production field. Where teachers are specially selected graduate students, as has mostly been the case in the last ten years, they receive initial teacher training simultaneously with their studies.

Highest literacy rate in the world

With all this focus on education it is no surprise that Cuba has the highest literacy rate in the world at 96%.  They are possibly second to Argentina depending which source you are using.  In addition to a very robust traditional K-12 system, they also have a thriving technical / vocation system and a successful university system.  The only downside I see to their education system is that males must enlist in the Cuban military to take advantage of the university system.  Keep in mind all of these educational opportunities are completely free to the student and paid for entirely by the government.  The lone exception that I could finds is the military requirement for males.

With recent economic difficulties in the country there have been some cutbacks in the university system related to social studies and humanities.  The government has placed a priority on students wanting to receive education in the medical and scientific areas of study.  It appears to me that the Cuban government is promoting STEM education from the top.  Maybe we can also learn from them.  I’m looking forward to filling in the gaps and getting to know our island neighbors to the South East even more!

Sources:

New York Times: http://goo.gl/KyBFRe

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Cuba

Classbase: http://www.classbase.com/countries/Cuba/Education-System

Know About Cuba: http://knowaboutcuba.com/2012/06/a-look-at-the-education-system-of-cuba/