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Why education in Cuba is a successful story?

The Cuban Government's strong commitment to education is undeniable. The island's economic situation makes educational triumphs even more surprising. Cuba’s achievements are not the result of miracles or coincidences. They are the result of years of effort, work, sacrifice and fulfilling crucial commitments with remarkably effective methods.

In Cuba, education is a serious thing. It became a priority after Fidel Castro triumphantly entered Havana in 1959. Education helped the country increase the island’s population’s prestige, becoming a country of highly qualified professionals and artists. The foundations of Fidel’s new social – and socialist – order based its doctrines on the premise that only a quality education could end the country’s corruption, poverty, and underdevelopment. Cuba invested a lot of money to make its education system one of the best in the world. During the 1980s and 1990s, the relationship between spending on education and the gross domestic product was among the world’s highest.
After Fidel Castro’s socialist government came to power, Cuba revolutionized teaching using three main methods:

Literacy Campaign

In 1961, the Literacy Campaign was launched. It laid the foundation for the importance of education in a conflicting and transitioning society. Over a year, attention focused on one million illiterate people, with 250,000 teachers and thousands of schoolchildren mobilized. By the end of 1961, 75 percent of that million people had achieved a rudimentary literacy level. Meticulous monitoring of the education of the adult population was conducted.

Universal access

As the literacy campaign took its course, schools’ enrollment rate increased considerably (and multiplied by two a decade later). The Government presented programs for girls living in the countryside, domestic workers, prostitutes, and those who had left school before graduating. Together with the newly founded Nursery Organization, these programs aimed to ensure that education was accessible to all. These measures also focused on people living in isolated rural areas. Cuba’s challenging work has paid off. Since the mid-1990s, the school admission rate has remained at 99% for both boys and girls, compared to 87% of the Latin American region. At that time, 94% of schoolchildren reached fifth grade, compared to 74%. Secondary school enrolment rates ranged from 78% for boys to 82% for girls, while in the rest of the region, these rates were 47% and 51%, respectively.

The importance of teachers

Cuba knows how important good teachers are. Extensive research discovered that teaching institutions for teachers use, where possible, the best documented and most advanced teaching methods and strategies. To be a teacher in Cuba you must be intelligent, have a good character, be willing to contribute to social development and have a good hand with children. At the beginning of the century, Cuba boasted of being the country with the most teachers per capita in the world: one for every forty-two students. At the International Pedagogy Conference in Havana in 2015, it was revealed that, that year, the proportion of students and teachers was one teacher per twelve students.

Education for social change

The methods used by Cuba are respected and used outside its borders. Until 2010, its literacy method had been adopted in 28 countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Europe and Oceania. This method has helped train millions of people without schooling. Thanks to the conversations I have had with those responsible for Cuban education during my research trips, I have discovered that Cuba wants the rest of the countries that are going through difficulties to learn from their experience. They believe it is regrettable that almost 800 million people – two-thirds of them are women – are illiterate. It is also unforgivable that nearly 70 million children do not have access to basic education. All Cubans argues that people’s minds must be helped to develop so that they can then contribute to a world free of fear, ignorance and disease. In the end, education empowers human beings and gives them the opportunity to become seekers and guardians of progress and peace.

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