Since the start of the Revolution more than six decades ago, the education of Cuban students was practically forced to be atheistic and disconnected from any religion or religious institution. Although the Cuban educational system is free in terms of costs at all levels, the conditions under which it develops the cognitive process of students in Cuba borders on the unsound.
From the political point of view, schools are an institution oriented according to convenience where political indoctrination is prioritized, used as a resource to educate servants and masters according to the government’s choice, and to dumb-down the masses of students predestined for exploitation.
Submission and resignation are instilled throughout this process, further guaranteed through the endless repetition of pre-designed arguments and criteria on the significance of the political or cultural greatness of the revolution, so that they are imprinted in one’s memory and feelings, eliminating any recollection of all the need and suffering to which these students are subjected.
They are educated in the tactics of fear and questioning, so that the repression and spiritual intimidation, which this system subtly imposes on them, go unnoticed in the same way as the growing attacks against their freedom and fundamental rights, many of which are unknown to them, by deliberate alienation in their education.
This political indoctrination begins already in elementary school, as does inclusion within the mass organizations associated with the regime. Behind each indiscretion or denial of individuality lurks the threat of a stain on one’s file or being admitted to a school for the re-education of minors (basically correctional centers, governed by the Ministry of the Interior). An example of this is the student presence at each political ceremony that is conducted and that, sometimes, counts for more in the way of recognition of being outstanding than the grades obtained in one’s academic evaluations.
As they progress to higher grades, the manipulation takes on other nuances that vary from appeals to parents and school officials for an analysis of a student’s behavior, private or public reprimands, up to expulsion or a change of school, among other tactics.
When political objectives are put ahead of technical and professional preparation, schooling is no longer a guarantee that what is being learned is necessary and undertaken for the future of the nation. Depending on the body of knowledge and subjects that are excluded or omitted from their educational plans, students are always confined to general knowledge deemed to be great and points of view that are plagued by errors and omissions, our education could be considered the birthplace of the most illiterate graduated professionals in history.
Professionals: degrees but little qualification
Furthermore, the quality of learning is also affected by the low level of morale and salaries of teachers, the material needs, the lack of interest in educating, teaching, and learning, the utter lack of awareness of the occupational profile and demotivation due to different specialties, the final exams, the manipulation in the granting of university and pre-university degrees, the low probability of carrying out the career one studied for after they graduate. Add to these an endless list of material and motivational deficiencies that, contribute to the tendency to put ideological priorities and indoctrination before knowledge and learning, there is plenty of blame to go around for the current educational debacle.
Teachers from the different levels of schools recognize that, despite having exploited all the teaching methods available to them, the results are almost nil. Year after year, students are less interested in learning and mastering the different subjects, each course they pass represents in itself more backwardness in their knowledge. High school graduates enter pre-university classes with learning disabilities: many are unable to perform reading tasks correctly, do not know writing and spelling rules, have not mastered multiplication and other mathematical rules, and are ignorant about the basic content of many subjects.
Proof of this can be seen in the exaggerated graduation numbers of students and professionals without the necessary knowledge to continue their studies, or the proper preparations for carrying out their work and dealing with their future occupation, and that they only represent one more number in the official lists of a demagogic government that likes to boast about its educational potency. No small number of doctors have been sued for their unfortunate work performance during their collaborative missions abroad in various countries.
The educational policy of not allowing suspensions, due to financial pressure and emulating those around them, obliges them to promote students even knowing perfectly well that they know almost nothing and that in the future they will be mediocre professionals, bumbling people of a negligible level of culture, but with a diploma that burnishes this image to the world despite their ignorance. “This is why every day we see different specimens of asses, performing their work poorly, to whom if they were given a surprise exam, it is possible that they would only be capable of demonstrating a primary school level of education,” said one of the people interviewed, who then added:
”The educational system has lost many values, such as formal education, the standards of courtesy and conduct, respect for the elderly, the use of curse words and offensive language has increased, the teaching of duties, obligations, and preparation for life and above all learning…, nowadays respect for teachers and the love of acquiring knowledge have been lost.”
Dishonesty and corruption in education
Another source of concern in the Cuban educational system is academic fraud. Although the state media rarely provides a glimpse of the chaotic situation that the school system is going through, exposing some instances of fraud that have been committed, this problem has become more common than they want to acknowledge. Several precedents for academic fraud at the national and regional level has occurred on the island. It is common in the majority of the country’s schools, and in many cases, it has resulted in the repetition of exams in secondary and profession-based vocational schools. There have even been instances of this during the entrance exams to higher education, where it has been alleged that students had prior knowledge of the content of the exams.
Another harmful aspect can be seen in the scarcity of university degrees, which have traditionally been classified as something good and in high demand. This means that they are not being offered to those who truly deserve them based on their qualifications, but instead are being diverted to family and friends or sold to the highest bidder. This is often done more to the satisfaction of the parents, than of the chosen ones themselves, who many times are not interested in the degrees and are only doing so to please their parents and / or prolong their benefits.
There is an economic aspect that influences this as well. This is where kickbacks come in that are used to avoid getting suspended, along with the sale of exams and university degrees for profit. All of these are a way to alleviate the economic situation or increase the personal assets of the guarantors, which generally are not the ordinary teachers, but their bosses who are responsible for granting such degrees.
Another latent tendency is the way in which the violence that society experiences is being reflected in schools over time. The interviewed teachers stated that the level of aggressiveness of the students is very high and they must be tough to maintain control over the classroom and be respected, otherwise the class would become more like the Wild West.
They also believe that the students’ sense of discouragement and lack of interest are off the charts, so they dedicate less and less time to studies and individual spiritual cultivation. The norms of coexistence are completely foreign to them and they lack ethical, moral values and social behavior.
Collapsing schools and scarce educational resources
As the last section, and no less important, the conditions of the schools leave much to be desired. Almost all show deterioration in terms of their facilities, plumbing, and maintenance. Every day there is a greater lack of resources, means of study and teaching. The literature being used is obsolete and full of errors by omission and in most specialized areas of study is not in line with the current level of technological development. Almost all of the textbooks are very old due to prolonged use and woefully out of date. The libraries’ collections only have editions that are outdated and in very poor condition as a result of the use and abuse of the few precious copies. Lastly, a large part of the available computers intended for learning do not work and the areas for sports exist but the technical and personal equipment to play are long gone.
As for laboratories they exist is name only since they lack everything. These days they are usually just ordinary classrooms, where the educators who teach there cannot even remember when the microscopes, test tubes, equipment, models, chemical elements, scientific instruments, teaching aids and study materials disappeared that are essential for proper learning.
A similar desolate situation is demonstrated in the shop rooms for workers and professional trades, where the power tools or other equipment, if they exist, are generally broken or without motors.
The supply of instruments and tools are non-existent, there are no resources and instruments for doing work or making measurements, and not nearly enough raw material for the elaboration of articles during one’s apprenticeship. In some student centers, the tools and instruments used are the personal property of the teachers.
Other schools suffered even greater misfortune. After the national fever of bringing schools to the countryside, many of them suffered a regression. Thousands of skeletal structures of old schools in the countryside were put up everywhere throughout the nation’s territory. The luckiest ones show only bare precast concrete structures, which have been gnawed away by neglect and human termites.
In the Granma municipality of Yara alone, blessed with flat and fertile land, a complex of 14 secondary and pre-university schools was built, known as Las Veguitas, where studies and agricultural work were interspersed. Currently, only five of these still serve an educational purpose. The rest are only indicative ruins of the extinct educational centers, lost among the undergrowth and deterioration due to laziness of the government that exceeds the limits of the imagination.
In summary, another professor interviewed describes: “The potency of the Cuban educational system has fallen backwards to the point of barbarism and is in decline. The collapse of moral and ethical standards is evident, the youth are corrupted and plunged into the abyss of ignorance, drugs, vagrancy, alcohol and crime, overwhelmed by their wants and needs, inundating the prisons where in the end, the hope for reeducation fades and dismally collapses.”