SEATTLE, Washington — Cuba, an island roughly 90 miles off the coast of Florida, is most often talked about for its time under the strong arm of Fidel Castro. Undoubtedly, his tenure was one of the harshest and unjust regimes. His policies, which lead to a crumbling economy and a suppression of human rights, lad many citizens to flee the country.
Under Castro, however, the government invested heavily in areas like education and healthcare. Castro’s decision to invest in education was uncommon for a communist regime and is an aspect of Cuban life that the global community may not realize.
Education in Cuba has been described as outstanding because attendance rates are high, there’s almost perfect adult literacy and cheap, high-quality programs. There are 425 special schools throughout the country that remain open for 12 hours a day, with a total of 13,600 teachers. Only 25 students are allowed in the classroom, but the schools are aiming to decrease this number to 15.
All education programs in Cuba offer a scholarship plan that guarantees accommodation and food throughout the school year, and in cases where students are required to wear uniforms, these too are provided for free. The education system in Cuba is similar to that in the U.S. because students progress through primary, middle, secondary, vocational and tertiary education programs. The difference between education in Cuba and in the U.S. is the presence of secondary education, which is considered, “an extension of middle school”.
In 2012, the University of Havana had 110,000 students enrolled. At the university, students are able to choose in which disciplines they want to specialize, including politics, teaching, science and medicine. As a developing country with 11 million citizens, these kinds of professions have a vital place among the five million in the labor force.
In 2015, the CIA Factbook stated that the total population has a 99.8 percent literacy rate. The rate of men’s and women’s literacy differs by 0.1 percent. The Novak Djokovic Foundation reports that “only 0.2% of the Cuban population remains illiterate.”
Despite the harsh conditions many Cubans endured for nearly 50 years, education in Cuba is an overlooked and prosperous aspect of Cuban life. The success that has existed thus far under a communist regime is a source of hope for the future of education in Cuba.
– Kristen Guyler