Cuba’s Days of Education Excellence Have Come and Gone
Editor’s note: Rosa María Payá is responding to a recent report from the World Bank, which gives high praise to Cuba’s education system. See the news story, written by Peter Sacco, “World Bank Touts Cuba’s Communist Education as Exemplary.”
EspañolDuring my student experience in Cuba I had some great teachers and some unprofessional and poorly prepared ones. The programs that are set to be taught were complete and rigorous; the problem was that there were not and there are not the individuals and conditions to implement them on the island.
The structure of the Cuban education system that was created before 1958, and in many senses is the same nowadays, is very good. This is probably the main reason why the education system maintains a certain level of quality, despite the rampant deterioration of the economy and society. Another important factor has been the people: Cuba’s professional teachers, for many years, were well prepared for their vocation; they endured the abuses and exploitation of the government and remained teaching.
Today the situation is different. The application of disastrous government policies has been the genesis of many social and economic shortcomings. Low wages, a lack of incentives, and poor working conditions for teachers have added to the extreme politicization of the content and caused the exodus of these professionals to other fields for many years.
The creation of the schools in the countryside (escuelas en el campo) in 1968 — where many boys had to go if they wanted to graduate from high school — brought bad consequences for the Cuban families that had to be separated from their children. They got to see them only every 10 or 7 days, so the children could study.
About 10 years ago, in the absence of professional teachers, the government began to train teenagers and young people for only six months, and these emerging teachers were sent to teach in all primary and secondary schools in the country. As the emerging teachers were not trained to teach classes, they relied on television and other videos.
The results have been terrible. Education that had already deteriorated practically collapsed. I’m not talking about just academics, but moral and social concerns. Stories of sexual harassment and violence between emerging teachers and students began circulating by word of mouth.
School attendance is compulsory in Cuba, and with the regime’s totalitarian apparatus and full control over the population, it is very easy to make everyone comply. I am still grateful towards all my teachers, at all stages, and I thank them for the sacrifices they made, and the many others in Cuba who have remained dedicated to education quality.
As of right now, I don’t believe that any such quality exists, except maybe in some university faculties. However, the Cuban government has an easy time engaging in fraud with international exams, cheating CELAC, and lying to the world about education on the island.
Fergus Hodgson edited this article.