What a difference a year makes! When we were there last year we heard people talking about curricular changes that were coming. The main feature was reducing programs from five years of study to four. And by this year large swaths of incoming students had switched over to the new curricula. It explains how we can be so confused by what is happening with Cuban programs over time. Things can be implemented slowly here and there or quickly all over. Both of the universities I visited this year seemed to have switched. The degrees themselves are generic enough that they don’t tell the full story. And very different curricula can lead to the same credential. The grade reports lack hours, so, long story short, we can’t always tell one version of a program from another.
At ECE, we tend to rely on any curricula we can find that is close to the program we are evaluating, in order to prepare our weighting reconstructions. After talking with colleagues, it seems this is the standard credential evaluation approach. We know that a program at one medical science university should have the same plan of studies as the same program at the same time any other campus. That’s how it works in a highly centralized national education system like Cuba. Since some universities have a better web presence than other, we can often find something. However, the information is not always a perfect match. And there are no guarantees that we’ve seen a program or curricula before. So this strategy, born out of necessity, is less than ideal and research-intensive.
Luckily, there does seem to be a solution to this problem. Both of the university secretaries I’ve met have insisted that students request the plan temático, along with their grade reports. This is the individualized curriculum for that student. It tends to have hours and descriptions for each course. We’ve started asking for them at ECE. And we are thinking about requiring them. The nice ones have a graphic overview of the program towards the front. If information is listed one course at a time, they can get lengthy. Another key feature of the new 2018 (fall) curricula, which is called plan “E”, is that schools and students get more opportunities for flexibility in the plan. A campus can offer a class that is needed locally or highlights an aspect of the region. Students can have some electives and choose part of their program of study. It is a new freedom, and people seem excited. But this means that none of the old plans can be applied to the new students. It also means that it will be harder to apply a plan from one school/student to another, even during the same time period. So you may want to think about asking for them, too. Just an idea…
I had been trying to find these new “E”curricula online, to my endless frustration. And then we walked by a bulletin board area that had a bunch of the most basic, graphic versions of the new curricula posted. This is the one for Letras, which would include all English Language and Literature majors. Needless to say, I took pictures of as many plans as I could get my hands on.
Martha Van Devender is a Senior Evaluator and has been with ECE since 2005. She specializes in education from Anglophone Africa and Latin America. She is also interested in online research and verification tools. Martha is serving as the TAICEP representative for the AACRAO Cuba project and enjoys writing and presenting on this topic.