Cuba's Schools Are Failing Its Children

06/30/2012 06:29 pm ET | Updated Aug 30, 2012
  • Yoani Sanchez Publisher of 14ymedio, independent newspaper in Cuba


To brag about the achievements of our children and to crow about the good grades they got on a test are some of the pleasures that we can't forgo when the opportunity presents itself. June comes and we bump into a neighbor or a friend and the obligatory question is, "How is your child doing studying for the final exams?" The heat takes a backseat, and summer's apathy gains some mystery with the questions: Will they pass or fail? Will they be promoted to the next grade, or not? Long nights are spent solving math problems, the tutors can't keep up with so many students, and outside the schools they post the listings with the standings. The year-end vortex sucks us in... but this year there are several new features.

After testing one educational method after another, now several batches of students trained in these teaching "laboratories" have come to the university. I am referring to those who, from the first day of junior high school, faced those so-called "emerging teachers" at the blackboard; the same teenagers who, for years, received 60 percent of their classes through a television screen. My son is a good example of this. He benefited from the abandonment of the "high schools in the countryside" program -- excellent news -- but he suffered from the restructuring of the school program, plagued with misfits, lost hours, and the poor academic preparation of the educators. He has also been affected by the high desertion rates among the ranks of teachers whose salaries remain on the symbolic, if not the ridiculous, plane. Added to this is the presence -- excessive and continuous -- of an ideology that pervades even subjects and materials as far from the political spectrum as possible.

These winds are now bringing real storms. The lack of educational quality is bumping up against an increasing rigor in the final exams for high school. The result: entire schools where they are barely able to pass three or four students; complete groups who must cram and take the test second time, and even a third; parents on the edge of nervous collapse on learning that their "intelligent" child doesn't even know the Pythagorean theorem. To the lack of control comes the firm hand; the delirious educational system starts to see reason. But we're not talking about numbers here; it concerns young people whose learning has been far below what now appears on the test. People for whom volunteerism and school experimentation have been shown to fail.

Yoani's blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.
Translating Cuba is a compilation blog with Yoani and other Cuban bloggers in English.
Yoani's new book in English, Havana Real, can be ordered here.