Yenia Silva Correa
IF anyone should ask how much it costs the country to provide children, youth and adults full access to education, the answer would be simple: millions.
In Cuba, free universal education is a right enjoyed by all citizens, and the funds allocated for the 2011-2012 academic year reflect the revolutionary government’s commitment to making this right a reality.
For educational materials alone, $5.8 million was spent. Some $205,000 was required for the acquisition of globes and the purchase of language labs cost $342,000, while kits of equipment for Physics, Chemistry and Biology studies in pre-university high schools cost $23,200 each.
The country secured 43 million notebooks, 17 million textbooks and workbooks, along with 3.8 million school uniforms.
With the resources in place, attention is focused on the quality of instruction, the number of teachers and their preparation. Among teachers working this year, 79% have earned a bachelor’s degree in Education and there are 43,700 students currently studying in the country’s Pedagogical Sciences Universities, who will shortly join the ranks of educators.
This accomplishment is still insufficient, requiring the temporary institution of a two-year course to train high school students as teachers within the Pedagogical Universities. The program will remain in place until adequate numbers of high school graduates are opting for teaching careers.
Important questions are still to be addressed, such as how to reduce middle school classrooms to no more than 30, to allow for differentiated instruction for all; how to attract and retain students in teacher training programs and how to modify the perceptions of many families which underestimate the value of technical studies or learning a trade.
The 260,000-plus teachers in Cuba’s educational system have as priorities improvement of the instructional process, better use of budgets allocated and more efficient use of consumable materials.
This is the route to be followed to ensure the continuity of Cuba’s achievements in education, which, although they cost the country a good deal, do not affect the pocketbooks of citizens.