The Cuban Educational System

The Cuban educational system
The Cuban educational system

Education in Cuba

When you come to Cuba on vacation, in any city or town you pass through you will see a flag raised on its pole and a bust of José Martí, the National Hero, and around it a group of children or young people dressed in uniform.

They are schools scattered throughout the island as part of the country’s educational program.

There is a lot of debate about this so-called government conquest, defended as a program that, together with health, is one of the most consolidated after 1959.

However, even professionals in the sector argue whether, above all, there will be more instruction than education or if only Instruction prevails when the quality of the professionals questions everything that is defended.

Likewise, it is seen as a process that is only enhanced with the Revolution, however, those who do it ignore that since the times of the Spanish colony, education came to Cuba in a process for privileged classes, but with excellent teachers.

To learn about this topic and to form your own criteria, we offer you an overview of teaching in the largest of the Antilles.

Education during the Spanish Colony.

Even when the aborigines did not have writing or schools, therefore, education can be discussed at this stage by transmitting knowledge orally. The elders of the village gathered at night and at celebrations to tell stories and share what they lived day after day.

With the arrival of the Spanish everything changed. They brought to the island their customs, their language and with it, writing, which was extended with the evangelization process of the Catholic Church, in charge of founding the first schools and universities.

At that time only the private sector benefited because public schools at the primary education level did not exist in the 16th century II in the Spanish territories.

It is recorded in history that it was the Catholic priest, Father Miguel Velázquez, a mestizo of Spanish and India, and the nephew of Diego Velázquez, the first teacher of Cuba, appointed teacher in the Cathedral of Santiago in 1544.

Two centuries of little instruction passed and already in the second half of the eighteenth century lay-headed schools appeared where private teachers, called schoolmen, and women of humble extraction, called friends, offered elementary instruction to children whose families could pay some type of fee and even to many who could not pay anything.

It was a kind of public school where children of both sexes and races were admitted.

Consolidation of education during the colony.

The foundation of the Economic Society of Friends of the Country, in Havana, in 1793, which promoted education at that time.

The arrival on the island of some religious orders dedicated to teaching increased, such as the Ursuline nuns , who were the first to arrive in 1803.

By 1826 there were a total of 140 schools, in which approximately 6,000 children were educated, among the wealthy and poor.

In 1840, Normal Schools were established to train teachers, and primary education was placed under the responsibility of the Municipalities, a situation that contributed to the fact that in 1862 there were already 158 schools, 65 public and 93 private.

In just twenty years the figures changed, there were more public than private schools.

The El Salvador School stood out, the best of the private ones and others such as San Anacleto and San Pablo, by Rafael María de Mendive, where José Martí’s studied and formed.

Throughout the period, the most relevant events in education were:

– The Foundation of the Royal and Pontifical University of San Jerónimo (the University of Havana), in 1728. (university level )
– The creation of the Seminary of San Carlos and San Ambrosio, in 1769 . ( Both seminarians aspiring to the priesthood and youth seeking a solid university preparation attended )
– The establishment of the Colegio El Salvador, by José de la Luz y Caballero, in 1848. (primary and secondary levels)
Seminars of San Carlos and San Ambrosio.

The great educational work of Fathers José Agustín Caballero and Félix Varela was developed in these seminars.

José Agustín Caballero devised an educational reform, but it is Father Varela who really shone and who deserves the credit for having transformed and modernized education.

He did it not only in his chair of Philosophy of the Seminary, but in all levels of teaching in Cuba, he trained a whole generation of young people, from where the greatest intellectual leaders of the Cuban nineteenth century came out.

José de la Luz y Caballero said about him: ¨ while thinking on the island of Cuba, we will think of who taught us to think first ¨.

Schools, patriotic quarries.

When one compares private and public schools the class difference is always evident.

In Cuba something remarkable happened and it was that while the public ones because of their conditions and few resources did not carry out great tasks, it was in the private ones where an immense work was carried out throughout the 19th century.

In them the little instruction that existed on the island was imparted and the desire for freedom and the desire to modify the rigid colonial system were awakened.

The Bishop sword himself somehow through his speeches propelled him. In fact, when the Chair of Constitution was created, Father Varela was its first Professor and during the opening speech he stated that it was the “chair of freedom, of human rights, of national guarantees…”

Varela was deputy to the Constitutional Courts of Spain, coming to propose a resolution that gave them full autonomy to Cuba and other Spanish colonies and prepared a project to grant freedom to slaves and finish slavery on the island of Cuba.

Develop on and spread on culture Cuban and feelings of love for the country, an example case was the El Salvador school, that after starting the Ten Years’ War ended because students declined because many of its teachers and students joined the mambises.

Education during the Republic

With the precarious inheritance of the colony, the Republic did not improve educational conditions in Cuba at all. At that time, suffice it to say that there were fewer schools and more illiteracy.

Primary level

Primary education did not have enough properly trained teachers for their profession.

The Boards of Education hired people they considered honorable and competent as teachers. Then exams were called, more than a thousand applicants passed.

After a short period, teachers had to be examined and trained to be able to teach, a measure that was lost at the time for fear of not receiving a new certification and running out of teachers.

The teachers were free to carry out their work, but in 1905 the courses of study were approved. Even with enough disorganization, it can be said that those who favored those who were able to attend classes learned.

Illiteracy was reduced and primary education extended to a much higher percentage of the population.

But to make teachers more prepared was founded in Havana a School Normal Kindergarten, in 1902. In 1915 it was founded the Normal School Teachers, one for boys and one for girls and on other similar schools appeared in all capitals Province.

The first Normal for Household Teachers was created in Cuba in 1918. This school began to prepare Teachers of Manual Work and Home Economics in 1927.

Public school declined over time, corruption, waste and mismanagement of the public ministry in general contributed. The schools lacked sufficient textbooks and school supplies, and officials were more aware of the political issues that teaching.

Another mistake was the concentration of schools in urban areas, as a result, there were always large areas of the Cuban peasantry where children lacked schools and almost always needed their children to work and receive some income for family survival.

Due to this, rural Civic-Military Schools appeared. It never worked efficiently.

The public school of secondary level during the Republic.

It was mainly in charge of the Institutes of Second Education, created during the Colony. When the Republic began, an Institute operated in each province capital, Pinar del Río, Havana, Matanzas, Santa Clara, Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba.

They were the basis of advanced education throughout the stage with some kind of technical education to prepare students for the college.

Enrique José Varona reorganized teaching , a plan called ¨Plan Varona¨ was implemented , in force until 1939, with an emphasis on learning the Sciences and little attention to the Humanities.

In 1941 the ¨Plan Remos¨ was applied, in force until 1959, with four years of study, which formed the Elementary Baccalaureate, and the last year, which completed the Pre-University Baccalaureate, with more importance to the Humanities and adding the e study of the History of Cuba, of Sociology, of Psychology, and principles of Philosophy.

Some Institutes added Music and Choir courses, and Music Bands and Polyphonic Ensembles. Others added important museums, were equipped with Laboratories of Physics, Chemistry and Natural Studies and all had a Library.

Special education in the Republic

The Special Schools, coupled with those of Second Education had an effective and beneficial work. Created the Nautical School of Commerce and Shorthand Academy of Commerce and drawing and painting San Alejandro, founded in 1818, also Normal Schools Teachers in Oriente and Las Villas, Pinar del Río , Matanzas and Camagüey.

The Normal Kindergarten Schools were added, in Havana, Santa Clara, Camagüey and Oriente. The Home Schools, the Annual Work and Home Economics Schools, the National Institute of Physical Education, the Professional Schools of Commerce, the Arts and Crafts, appeared, which were preparing Civil Builders, Industrial Mechanics, Industrial Chemists, and Industrial Electricians.

The Fine Arts Schools and the Special Education Schools cannot be left out to give young people from poor families the opportunity to study at the secondary level.

The Professional Journalism Schools were of great importance, issuing the titles of Graduate Journalist and Graphic Journalist Technician. Before 1959 there were others in Matanzas, Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba.

Education from 1959

Everything summarized above shows us that until 1959 the Cuban educational system was quite developed despite the differences in class, access, corruption, and deficiencies in the ordering of the process.

And although it never had extensive resources, it must be recognized that a system of free and compulsory public primary education was established.

The figures speak for themselves: by 1953 there were half a million children in Cuba without schools, a million illiterates, a primary education that reached only half of the school population, a middle and higher education that reached only the urban population and 10,000 teachers without work.

It was not until 1959 when the government took full control of education and plans and schools diversified that reached every corner of the country. All private schools were closed and public ones expanded so that everyone had access to education.

In less than a year, nearly 10,000 new classrooms were built and schooling rose to almost 90% at ages 6 to 12. More than 69 military installations were converted into schools with a capacity of 40,000 students.

But one of the most important and first measures was the Literacy campaign to eradicate illiteracy.

Literacy Campaign

It was a campaign nationwide in 1961 driven by Che´s initiative to reduce illiteracy and increase the school population.

It began in 1960 and ended on December 22, 1961, when the Government declared Cuba, in the José Martí Revolution Square, as a Territory Free of Illiteracy. As a result, illiteracy was reduced to 3.9 percent in 1961 and that year was called the “Year of Education.”

For this process, a general call was launched to young people and adults who knew how to read and write to teach peasants and the population that previously had little or no access to education.

The Ana Betancourt schools for peasant girls and for Workers and Peasants appeared.

Literacy Brigades

The campaign was developed through volunteer brigades that used the Alphabeticemos manual and the Venceremos booklet.

The manual was the guide for the literacy teacher and the primer was a work notebook, with exercises to be carried out by the student and photographic material intended to serve as support for the class.

The Contingent of Teachers Volunteers was conformed and then the Brigade Frank Country develop their work in the mountains.

It was also created Conrado Benitez Brigades composed of students, aged between seven and nineteen.

They were equipped with a special uniform, clothing, a blanket and an oil lamp that became the symbol of the Brigades.

Some of them were murdered by opponents of the new regime, among them were the student Manuel Ascunce Domenech and the man in whose house he was staying, Pedro Lantigua. It also created the “Brigades Patria o Muerte”, formed by workers who received their regular salary while doing this literacy work.

Results of the Literacy Campaign

On December 22, 1961, the Government declared Cuba, in the José Martí Revolution Square, as a Territory Free of Illiteracy. Since then, that day has been celebrated in the country as the Educator’s Day.

The illiteracy of Cuba descended more than in any other country in Latin America at that time and mobilized massively the Cuban population.

Education today in Cuba.

Currently, the Cuban educational system extends to every corner of the country. There are multigrade schools in the intricate areas for the children of the peasants to access education.

At the same time, attention is paid to all the teachings, from elementary to university, through special with a differentiated nuance for those who suffer from a mental or motor disability.

All the educational centers have been equipped as the years passed with televisions, video tape, educational channels were created where television classes are taught to support the educational teaching process.

English language teaching is included, although with almost null results due to the obsolescence of the programs, computing and the study-work relationship.

From the Educate your child program to the Postgraduate, Master and Doctorate courses, the entire population can access any of the options as long as they meet and pass the objectives of each teaching.

How is teaching organized in Cuba?

Cuban education is free and compulsory until junior high school, although it is a call for further studies.

It is organized by the National Education System, a group of subsystems that function organically and that deliver students from one level to another by passing proficiency exams. Each of them is briefly described below.

Preschool Education and Kindergarden

The Kindergardens are institutions created in 196 1 and that receive children from 45 days of age to 5 years. Until the so-called fifth year of life, which is called Preschool, in kinder they learn to socialize, play, share and recognize colors, vowels, make strokes and everything that involves cognitive development.

However, these institutions do not supply the entire country. That is why caregivers’ homes are implemented in particular, which never have the same quality of the official institutions, but it is the only other option for them.

Children who do not join kinder from the age of 3 are linked to the Educate your Child program that pursues the same objectives and where children learn and participate in various recreational and recreational activities.

Special Education in Cuba

It is an Education subsystem that caters to schoolchildren with mental retardation, retardation in mental development, Deaf, hard of hearing, blind, visually impaired, strabismic, amblyopic, deaf blind, autistic, language disorders, physical-motor limitations and with disorders of conduct.

There are 421 special schools throughout the country, transitory and specific. All are guided by prevention, the support function and integration.

Primary education today

They comprise 6 grades, from first to sixth. The main subjects are Mathematics, English, Cimputers, The world you live in (up to fourth grade) , Physical Education and Artistic Education. From fifth and sixth grade is added English, Civic Education; History of Cuba, Geography, Natural Science and Workshop.

Basic Secondary Education today

It comprises 3 grades, from 7th to 9th grade. The seventh grade reviews the main contents of the primary and adds previous knowledge for the later grades.

In eighth and ninth, new subjects are added and the student is prepared for the next level, either pre-university or technical professional studies. Ninth grade students apply for careers based on academic index.

From this teaching access to pre-university, vocational technical education or the so-called IPVCE, pre-university where future studies in the exact sciences are outlined.

Pre university teaching today

It also has 3 degrees, from tenth to twelfth. There are several types of pre-university students: the IPVCE, IPU, IPUEC, IPVCP and the Camilitos.

This teaching is also known as baccalaureate or vocational and is the prelude to the university. In 12th grade the contents are intensified and are divided into four branches of study that the student must choose according to their preference and index.

These branches are Medical, Agricultural, Biological and Physical Culture Sciences; Technical, Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Social , Humanistic and Economic Sciences and Pedagogical Sciences.

Extracurricular activities of children and adolescents in Cuba

Among the most important activities that students do outside of classes, mainly elementary, secondary and pre-university, are the Circles of Interest.

Its main objective is oriented towards vocational training and promoting talent, intelligence and creativity in children and adolescents.

Art instructors are another part of these activities, students are linked to artistic manifestations, classes are taught, they explain theory or clarify doubts about the complementary television classes.

They also have extra time after classes with art lovers with workshops where they learn more.

Pre-university institutes

IPVCE (Pre-University Vocational Institute of Exact Sciences): Prepair students with high teaching achievement, is characterized by its academic rigor. The IPVCE is accessed through entrance exams and once there, the student must maintain an average grade above 85 points to stay in the center.

Although they can access any degree, the exact sciences are always emerging as a future university option.

IPVCP (Pre-University Vocational Pedagogical Institute): It trains students who will then pursue pedagogical careers at a higher level.

Camilitos : Forms students who will study military careers.

IPU: They are urban pre-university schools; the students do not have a scholarship regime.

IPU EC (Pre-University Institute in the Field): With a scholarship scheme, it adds the link to work in the field in some task that is useful to society.
Professional Technical Education

Prepair skilled workers and middle technicians. It has 322 polytechnic centers and 152 trade schools throughout the country.

All these buildings have laboratories, workshops, specialized classrooms, field areas. There are 15 specialties of qualified workers and 50 specialties of middle technicians.

The subjects correspond to two branches: General and Basic Training Subjects and Technical Subjects.

University education

The University is the last of the teachings. It begins at the end of the twelfth grade and in order to access any of the races, the entrance exams to Higher Education must be taken.

Currently, they are also awarded directly, without exams, to those students who win contests or Olympics, kind of superior contest.

In general, almost all careers are completed in five years, although some have changed their duration, such as Law, in four and Medicine in six.

In the universities, the improvement courses are encouraged for graduates who even come from other countries to receive their professional training on the island. Postgraduate Courses, Masters and Doctorates are included.

Among the most important are Havana, Oriente and Las Villas.

University of Havana

The University of Havana was founded on January 5, 1728 by the Dominican friars belonging to the Order of Preachers.

It is the oldest higher educational institution in Cuba and one of the first in America. Its first name was Royal and Pontifical University of San Gerónimo de La Habana, Pope Innocent XIII and King Felipe V of Spain authorized its foundation.

The University of Havana has 21 faculties and 18 research centers in different fields such as economics, natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. Currently, more than 60 thousand students distributed in 32 courses, study in its classrooms.

Eastern University

It is the second largest university in Cuba. It was founded in 1947 in Santiago de Cuba. It has its origin in the Seminario San Basilio el Magno.

It has two main campuses: the central headquarters where all the faculties of Social Sciences, Humanities, Law, Economic Sciences, Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computing and Distance Learning are located.

The other campus is the Julio Antonio Mella where Techniques, Mechanics, Electrical, Chemistry, Informatics and Construction reside. In total 27 university degrees. Now adding those of Medicine and pedagogical by unifying as one in the entire province.

Central University of Las Villas

The Central University “Marta Abreu” of Las Villas is located in Santa Clara. It was founded on November 30, 1952, being the most important Higher Education Center in the central region of Cuba.

It is made up of four university campuses: the central campus, the “Félix Varela” pedagogical campus, the “Manuel Fajardo” School of Physical and the University College of Basic Training. It bears its name in honor of the philanthropist Marta Abreu Arencibia, who opened its first academic year on November 30, 1952.

It is the most interdisciplinary university in the country, with an enrollment of 7444 students and 1719 professors, located 12 faculties, in which 52 careers of humanistic, technical and natural sciences are studied. There are also 29 doctoral programs, 44 academic Master’s programs and 4 specialties.

University Chairs of the Elderly

The University Chairs of the Elderly are integrated into all the universities, a project of University Extension and that allows grandparents and retirees to reinsert themselves in an enjoyable way in learning.

The first Chair was founded in Havana in 2000. These meetings are held topics on the life and work of José Martí, kitchen, sexuality in the elderly , disease prevention in the elderly and local history.

Adult education

Adult education is divided into three levels: the education for Workers and Peasants, the Secondary School Workers and Peasants and the third, Workers ‘ and Peasants.

With all, the improvement of women and men is sought, who at some point dropped out of studies for different reasons, both in the city and in the countryside.

Other modalities are also added, such as night and evening courses in polytechnics, training courses implemented to raise the quality level of professionals in general.

Qualified workers interested in taking the upper secondary level in Adult Education may enroll, whether or not they work, even if they have not reached the age of 17, the minimum age limit for enrollment.

They can also be incorporated self – employed people who impeded by certain diseases cannot attend the general education system and housewives.

It facilitates the option for the workers to continue their studies at the university and to incorporate some young people who are not linked to the study. The meetings are twice a week at night for four years.

Education in Cuba, a challenge for the future.

All of the above shows us a well-organized educational system with varied programs and activities that contribute to the comprehensive education of children, Young and future professionals.

However, much leaves to be desired the insufficient preparation of the teachers, out of date in relation to the information that is currently moving through the internet, a service that has not yet arrived as a study support for all the teachings, as they do not have all the necessary equipment to make it much better.

The study programs, such as English, must be updated, the methods are neither interesting nor effective, the students finish university and are not able to establish a basic dialogue.

Over the years, the laboratories, that were once the pride of teaching, well equipped and with practical activities that stimulate knowledge, are obsolete and with little material.

The staff run out to other sectors due to low salaries, it forced authorities to make decisions such as those of emerging teachers, who instead of solving have corrupted teaching , young people who often seek monetary payment and are unaware of the subjects they must teach.

A rift has opened in the Cuban educational system, so much so that today there is talk of little instruction and almost no education, which is also not supported efficiently by the family.

All this definitely influences the future of Cuban society, a real challenge for the years to come.

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