Although this trip of ours isn’t centered on Cuban education, the education system in Cuba is extremely prevalent and woven throughout the entire of the societal values. Our itinerary includes possibilities for my focus such as our visit to Havana University and the Viñales Valley. I also have several suggestions for detours: the Literacy Museum, the Institutos Superiores Pedagógicos, and a primary school–although I plan on interacting with students in the streets whenever I am able to do so.
The University of Havana was founded in 1728, making it the oldest university in Cuba. Originally the university was a religious institute since all universities at that time had to be sanctified by the Church. Nowadays, it is a secular institute compiled of fourteen different degrees including: biology, pharmacy and foods, physics, geography, mathematics and computer sciences, psychology, chemistry, arts and letters, communication, law, philosophy and history, foreign languages, accounting and finance, economics, and tourism. About 6000 students are attending up to date. The University was closed during Batista’s regime after becoming the center of anti-government protests, and reopened when Fidel Castro took over. Consequently, the University of Havana was attended by Fidel while studying to become a lawyer during the 1940s. As a group, we will be visiting the Social Communication Department and meeting students and staff. While present, I plan on observing the students behavior and interactions pertaining to professionality as well making sure I understand the classroom set-up and the interactions between teacher and students. If this information seems to be inappropriate in relation to the conversation during the visit, I will try to arrange an interview with a student to obtain as much information as I can.
Cuban children that I meet on the streets will prove a great source in my mind. They could tell about their education and how important it is to them, as well as perhaps what they learned in class that day. I would also enjoy learning the differentiations in color of uniform since this signifies the grade level. Talking to the students about their dreams would also be intriguing considering they can achieve whatever specialization they wish since they have no monetary setbacks like many Americans do. If I could find a parent of one of the students and have an interview with them, that would also be an amazing experience. I know that the students’ teachers are very involved in their lives inside and outside of their homes, so getting the perspective of the parents in relation to their relationship with the teachers would prove very valuable. My greatest hope, however, is that I can interview an actual teacher, preferably a primary school teacher. Because this would relate directly to my major, it would be very applicable even in my future classroom. Even though Cuba is a communist country, their education system is incredible from what I have learned. If I could borrow some of their ideas and enact these ideas in my own classroom (to a point of course), then I would consider myself very blessed indeed!
My two greatest dreams however, would be to visit a primary school and the Institutos Superiores Pedagógicos. I believe that I would have a better chance to see a primary school because I found that another educator once visited said schools at one of our destinations: Viñales Valley. They look like little more than small, white buildings that can fit only about twenty people, but they are classrooms with students and teachers. I would love to simply sit in on their class and takes notes (I’m praying my meager Spanish language skills will carry me far). What better than a first-hand experience of the Cuban classroom? The Institutos Superiores Pedagógicos is the university where teachers are educated and earn not only their Bachelor’s degree, but also their Master’s and additional teaching courses that are taken regularly in order to advance themselves as educators, although it is required by law as well. Sadly, I couldn’t find much information on this university, so it would be fascinating to find out more from the locals during the tour.
The Literacy Museum documents the year-long campaign launched in 1961 to virtually stamp out illiteracy. Students volunteered to find illiterate citizens and teach them how to read and write. Usually these educated students traveled to the countryside where the largest number of illiterate citizens were located. By the end of 1961, it was said that Cuba was free from illiteracy. The museum has many artifacts from this campaign, including flags, uniforms, and other items of the time such as lamps that were used during the evening literacy sessions. This museum is located in Havana, so therefore it wouldn’t be much of a detour and I plan on visiting in my free time. I’m not sure how much information pertaining to education I could gather, but it would be wonderful to obtain some of the curriculum used in order to teach, especially adults, how to read and write.
Overall, I am very excited about the journey to Cuba! I have many exciting opportunities that await my fellow companions and I. All of these destinations will prove fascinating, and even if I cannot go to all of them, or even half of them, I know that this trip will be worthwhile simply to know that I have experience Cuba, which is worlds apart from America.