FILE COPY. 48 LCSHD Paper Series. The Cuban Education System: Lessons and Dilemmas. COfc. Lavinia Gasperini. January PDF

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Public Disclosure Authorized Public Disclosure Authorized Public Disclosure Authorized Public Disclosure Authorized 48 LCSHD Paper Series Department of Human Development The Cuban Education System: Lessons
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Public Disclosure Authorized Public Disclosure Authorized Public Disclosure Authorized Public Disclosure Authorized 48 LCSHD Paper Series Department of Human Development The Cuban Education System: Lessons and Dilemmas Lavinia Gasperini January 2000 L The World Bank COfc ~Latin America and Caribbean Regional Office FILE COPY Human Development Department LCSHD Paper Series No. 48 The Cuban Education System: Lessons and Dilemmas Lavinia Gasperini January 2000 Papers prepared in this series are not formal publications of the World :Bank They present preliminary and unpolished results of country analysis or research that is circulated to encourage discussion and comment; any citation and use of this paper should take account of its provisional character. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in this paper are entirely those of the authors and should not be attributed in any manner to the World Bank, its affiliated organization members of its Board of Executive Directors or the countries they represent. The World Bank Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Office Preface This paper was inspired by a study tour of Cuba undertaken by representatives of the Govemment of Colombia, the Ministry of Education in Cuba, and World Bank staff. The seminar was entitled Interchange of Experiences on the Education Systems of Colombia and Cuba. It sought to provide a comparative basis for understanding educational problems and issues across the two -systems. The seminar represents a growing dialogue between Cuba and Latin American neighbors on educational issues. The information presented here was gathered during the study tour, and supplemented with other documents. Contents Executive Summary b I. HIGu QUALITY EDUCATION IN A POOR COUNTRY II. ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SYSTEM Sustained Investments in Education Consistent Policy Environment, Supportive of Quality Basic Education Professional, High-Status Teachers & On-Going Professional Development High Quality Instructional Materials & Creativity in Their Use System-Wide Evaluation & Competition among Schools Participation in School Management Outreach to Rural Children Attention to Special Needs Linking School and Work Education for Social Cohesion & Values Education Ongoing Tensions: Quality and Equity III. QUESTIONS FOR THE FUTURE OF THE CUBAN EDUCATION SYSTEM ANNEXES REFERENCES Executive Summary The record of Cuban education is outstanding: universal school enrollment and attendance; nearly universal adult literacy; proportional female representation at all levels, including higher education; a strong scientific training base, particularly in chemistry and medicine; consistent pedagogical quality across widely dispersed classrooms; equality of basic educational opportunity, even in impoverished areas, both rural and urban. In a recent regional study of Latin America and the-caribbean, Cuba ranked first in language and math achievement,'. In many ways, Cuba's schools are the equals of schools in OECD countries, despite the fact that Cuba's economy is that of a developing country. What has allowed Cuba's education system to perform so well, even under the severe resource constraints of the past decade, is the continuity in its education strategies, sustained high levels of investments in education, and a comprehensive and carefully structured system, characterized by: quality basic education and universal access to primary and secondary school comprehensive early childhood education and student health programs (established as part of the commitment to basic education); complementary educational programs for those outside school--literacy, adult and non-formal education (again as part of the basic education commitment); mechanisms to foster community participation in management of schools; : great attention to teachers (extensive pre- and in-service training, high status and morale, incentives, transparent system of accountability, strategies for developing a culture of professionalism, rewards for innovation); low-cost instructional materials of high quality; teacher and student initiative in adapting the national curriculum and developing instructional materials locally; - carefully structured competition that enhances the system rather than the individual; explicit strategies to reach rural students and students with special needs; - strategies to link school and work; and - an emphasis on education for social cohesion and values education. The importance of these factors is affirmed by a growing body of school quality and effectiveness research carried out in other parts of the world, mostly subsequent to or at least independently of their adoption in Cuba. Thus, Cuba's experience is instructive in several ways. It provides evidence of the importance of certain critical inputs, around which research consensus is growing. Though unlikely to be replicated in full, many of these inputs can be adopted-clear standards of accountability, provision of textbooks, attention to the professional development of teachers, etc.. Most importantly, perhaps, the Cuban case demonstrates that high quality education is not simply a function of national UNESCO/OREALC Laboratorio Latinoamericano de evaluaci6n de la Calidad de la Educaci6n, PHimer Estudio Jnternac4ional Comparativo sohre Lenguaje, Matemcitica y Factores Asociados en Tercero y Cuarzo grado, UNESCO, Santiago, 1998. income but of how that income is mobilized. A highly-mobilized people can realize high quality education by ensuring the necessary inputs, paying attention to equity, setting and holding staff to high professional standards, and caring for the social roles of key stakeholders-teachers, community members, children. As Cuba opens itself to global economic influences, these elements are likely to undergo considerable stress. One set of challenges revolves around the affordability of high quality education. Cuba will increasingly face issues of direct cost, such as the continued provision of textbooks. Indirectly, the system will be affected by external issues such as the salaries potential teachers will be able to earn outside the education system versus those inside. It is unclear whether Cuba will be able to maintain the consistency of educational investments and policy strategy in a more open environment. The system's commitment to equity will surely be tested, as economic opportunities provide greater opportunities for families to purchase high quality education for their members, directly or indirectly. The challenges are daunting, but then who would have predicted that Cuba- -after a decade of economic turmoil--would have built the region's highest-achieving schools? The next few years are likely to be critical ones if Cuba's educational excellence is to be maintained, whether Cuba follows the path of other transitional economies and education systems or charts its own course. THE CUBAN EDUCATION SYSTEM LESSONS and DILEMMAS The growing body of international research on educational quality and effectiveness, while continuing to evolve in many ways, has developed broad agreement on many of the factors associated with high school quality and effectiveness. Much of this consensus was developed at the World Conference on Education for All (Jomtien, Thailand, 1990) and subsequently elaborated. These factors range from systemic factors such as a sufficiency of facilities and resources, a supportive policy environment, and parent and community involvement in schools, to school-based factors such as high expectations, clear goals, creative use of high-quality instructional materials, employment of motivated teachers, ongoing professional development, comprehensive assessment and feedback, and teacher and student involvement in defining, carrying out, and evaluating learning processes and outcomes. Interestingly, the Cuban education system adopted many of these features independently of the school effectiveness and quality research. This paper discusses those features as well as ongoing tensions facing the system. I. HGH QUALITY EDUCATION IN A POOR COUNTRY The Cuban educational system has long enjoyed a reputation for high quality. Recent studies comparing achievement tests scores from Cuba with those from other Latin American countries, have further highlighted the achievements of the Cuban system. Figure 1 provides illustrative comparisons, in which Cuban students score significantly higher than do students in other Latin American countries, often by as much as two standard deviations. See also Table 1, Annex 1. The Cuban education system has performed most satisfactorily on other conventional measures as well. 3 According to official data, for example, 98% of Cuban children of the appropriate age attended pre-school in The enrollment rate for 6 to 16-year olds was 94.2%, and primary school gross enrollment exceeded 100%. Repetition rates were 1.9 % in primary school, 2.8% in secondary and 1,8% in pre-university school. Agegrade distortion was about 2.5% in primary, 3.7% in basic secondary and 0.9% in preuniversity. 4 In the mid-1990s there were 241,000 illiterates, out of a population of 11 2 UNESCO/OREALC Laboratorio Latinoamericano de evaluacion de la Calidad de la Educacion, Primer Estudio Internacional Comparativo sobre Lenguaje, Matematica y Factores Asociados en Tercero y Cuarto grado, UNESCO, Santiago, UNESCO, SIRI, Regional Information System, The State ofeducation in Latin America and the Caribbean, , Major project of education , UNESCO, Santiago, Chile, 1996, UNESCO/OREALC For research on the reliability of Cuban government statistics, see Benigno E Aguirre and Roberto J. Vichot, The Reliability of Cuba's Educatio- Statistics, Comparative Education Review, May Annex 3 presents data provided by the Cuban Ministry of Education to participants in the Study Tour. million. In 1959, in stark comparison, half of Cuba's children did not attend school at all, 72% of 13 to 19 year olds failed to reach intermediate levels of schooling, and there were over one million illiterates. 6 Cuba's schools have been remarkably successful in achieving gender equity, reaching rural and disadvantaged populations, and fostering community participation, even in the context of rapidly dwindling resources. Cuba is a poor country, and the past decade has been particularly difficult economically. Yet the success of its schools flaunts conventional wisdom: Education in Cuba is entirely public, centrally planned, and free, in a global reform environment of privatization, downscaling of the state role, and cost recovery. Figure 1. Comparison of Achievement Test Scores in Language, Cuba and Other Countries in Latin American and the Caribbean (Source: UNESCO/OREALC) Argentina Bolivia Brazil C'hile, Colombia Third Grade Language Achievement Scores (Median, 25%, 75%) Cuba j j_ Honduras M exico Paraguay Domiuncan RD Venezuela The Cuban education system is characterized by: - Sustained and high levels of investment in education; Consistent policy environment and political will in support of education for all; 5 UNESCC, SIRI, 1996, p E. Martin and Y.F Faxas, Cuba, in: T. Nelville Postlethwaite, National Systems of Education, Perganmon. Quality basic education, including early childhood and student health initiatives. literacy, adult and non-formal education programs; Universal access to primary and secondary school; Highly professional, well-trained teachers of high status; - Ongoing professional development of teachers; Quality low-cost instructional materials; Creativity on the part of local educators in adapting and developing instructional materials; System-wide evaluation; Solidarity within schools and classrooms; competition among schools and classtooms; Significant community participation in school management; Compensatory schemes for disadvantaged and rural children; Clear connections between school and work; and An emphasis on education for social cohesion and values education. The remainder of this paper elaborates these points in an attempt to understand these elements of Cuba's success. 7 Essentially, we ask what factors account for the high performance of the Cuban education system. Then, in the final section, we raise some of the questions facing the system in the context of a decade of austerity and Cuba's growing participation in the global economy. 1I. ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SYSTEM SUSTAINED INVESTMENTS EDUCATION High levels of investment. Cuba devotes about 10% to 11% of its GDP to education, a very high percentage comnared with the rest of the regions or with the 6% recommended as adequate by UNESCO. Of course, the size of GDP allocated to education alone is insufficient to define an effective education system.'i High levels of non-salary expenditures. Cuba has invested substantial resources in nonsalary items. Until March 1999, 60 % of the Education budget was devoted to teachers' salaries with the remaining 40% for non-salary items used to support instruction. Both of these policies correspond to current understandings of best practices in education finance. Unfortunately, it will be difficult to maintain such a high percentage of expenditures on 7An exhaustive analytical literature describes the Cuban System in detail as well as the debate among its partisans and detractors (see, for example, Sheryl L. Lutjens, Education and the Cuban revolution, A selected bibliography, Comparative Education Review, Pergamon Press, May 1998). These will not be discussed in this paper, although a brief description of the system is available in Annex 2. SMinistry of Education, Cuba Organization of Education, Report of the Republic of Cuba to the 45the International Conference on Public Education Havana 1996 p.l. Jo Ritzen, Looking for Eagles; A Shon Guide to Bird Watching in an Educational Context. World Bank. Washington ' Jo Ritzen, 1999. non-salary items. In March 1999, teachers received a 30% salary increase, a move that decreases the resources available for non-salary costs. Teacher motivation and retention are also threatened by decreases in the purchasing power of salaries and the attractiveness of new professional activities, especially in tourism and in foreign firms, as evidenced by teacher attrition of 4-8% per year in the eastern oriental provinces, where tourism is more developed. Sustained and coordinated investments. Investments in education need to be sustained over a long period of time to achieve maximum results. Greater investments or allocation of resources to education as an isolated strategy do not necessarily bring better educational results. CONSISTENT POLICY ENVIRONMENT, SUPPORTIVE OF QUALITY BASIC EDUCATION As in many other socialist countries, the Marxist-Leninist philosophy of praxis inspires the objectives of the education system 'I of educating a 'New Human Being, to: assume its most basic social duties, to educate this being to produce material and spirituals goods that will serve society in a way that every human being participates in material production, in order to eliminate the contradiction among school and society, producer and consumers, intellectual work and physical work, and among cities and rural areas. 12 Clear objectives. These objectives were set, of course, by the same party that has run the country for almost 40 years. Continuity of educational policy and strategy-quite unusual in most countries of the region--has contributed to the achievement of goals set by party and government. The different components of the education system are articulated around common objectives, subject to constant evaluation with the participation of the broader educational community, and centered in the classroom. Stability. In many Latin American countries, frequent political changes may impede the development and consolidation of educational strategies and achievements. The Cuban experience suggests that measures are needed to protect the education system from the disruptive effects of continuous changes in strategies and plans. Education is a long-terrn investment requiring consistent policies and political stability to grow. This stability, however, was achieved at the cost of one-party rule. ; i See, for example: Mario A Manacorda, 11 Marxismo e leducazione,, vol 1, 11, e 111, Armando, Rome, 1966; Mario A Manacorda, Marx e la Pedagogia Modema, Editori Riuniti, Rome 1996; Castles, S & Wustemberg W, The Education of the Future. An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Socialist Education, Pluto Press, London 1979; Dietrich Theo, La pedagogie socialiste: fondements et conceptions, Maspero, Paris, 1973; Dommaget Maurice, Les grand socialistes et l'education, Colin, Paris, 1970; Le Than Kh6i, Les idees de Marxs sur l'education, Paris, Revue de i'education Intemationale et Comparee, Barcelone, n.l,1987; Lavinia Gasperini, L'uomo nuovo come obbiettivo del sistema educativo del Mozambico, Politica Intemazionale, La Nuova Italia, Rome, n.10, October Gaspar-Garcia Gallo, Bosquejo general del desarollo de la education en Cuba, Education, n.14, julio, setiembro 1974, p. 62. Access to quality basic education. The great emphasis placed on education and the high degree of collective control ensure that access to education is effectively universal. The high levels of investment permitted an emphasis on both equity and quality. Comprehensive early childhood and student health services, widespread literacy, adult, and non-formal education programs support the objectives of basic education for all. PROFESSIONAL HIGH-STATUS TEACHERS & ON-GOING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Life-long training. Teacher training is a life-long process including training on the job as well, as formal and informal training. Its major aim is to support teachers to improve classroom practice. Fifteen higher education pedagogical institutes (HPI, institutos pedagogicos superiores) and the pedagogical faculties provide formal preparation of teachers for day-care centers, primary schools, and intermediate schools. HPIs offer formal daytime courses for pre-university graduates and mid-level graduates of technical and vocational schools. Pre-service courses consist of five years of training, while inservice courses last six years. Training for school directors is provided at the same time as teacher training, so that directors will understand the teacher development process. School-based. Pre- and in-service teacher preparation emphasize basic knowledge, skills, values and attitudes. There is a balance of didactics, pedagogy and subject matter knowledge. Teachers' professional development is characterized by a strong linkage between theory and practice during both pre- and in-service teacher phases. Both pre- and in-service teacher training are school based, to foster greater relevance of teacher training to school and student needs and to link training institutions and schools. To reduce the distance between academic teacher training and schools, a teacher trainer candidate must complete as a pre-requisite a significant number of years (usually 6 to 7) as a teacher at the level at which he or she intends to prepare teachers. Community of learning teachers. Strong emphasis is given to teamwork and exchanges of experience. Each area has a colectivo pedagogico for each discipline (ciencias naturales, ciencias sociales, etc.). These colectovo pedagogico meet periodically to discuss teaching methods, produce learning materials, adapt curricula to local needs, and exchange experiences. The colectivo pedagogico develops a bank of problems (banco de problemas) and develops plans to address these problems. Every program has a methodological guidebook for teachers of each grade that provides examples of good lessons and guidance on how to teach different learning units. The colectivo of teachers meets every two weeks to discuss teaching strategies, the problems of the school, evaluation, and the general educational climate of the school. Insti
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