Since we visited in the spring of 2018, a new president has taken over in Cuba. Miguel Díaz-Canel is the first non-Castro president in generations. But he is from Villa Clara, so he grew up in that highly political environment. Regardless of your politics, that is a striking change for Cuba. He is not from the era of the revolution a new generation has taken over. And for us in the education field, he is the former Minister of Higher Education (2009-2012), so that should lead to interesting advances in that sector under his leadership. I’m inclined to wait and see what steps his new government takes instead of judging him with the same broad strokes that the U.S. news media too often uses to describe Cuban leaders. I think this is a positive development.
I do know that Díaz-Canel has stated, in a major speech earlier this year, that education is a priority of the Cuban government, including a focus on maintaining a high quality teacher pool in light of aging and other demographic shifts. He also wants to increase focus on information technology within education because of its importance to society. He seems to want to innovate and develop the educational sector, not just through rhetoric, but also through action within the responsible ministries. I can’t help but think there is a correlation between the quick roll out of new curricula “E” and the new administration. He was in charge at the ministry when the plan was initially introduced, and it reflects well on him now that the implementation went smoothly. I’m interested to see what comes next.
The other major political shift in Cuba was the drafting of a new constitution (translated version). It had been a long time since the last revision, and the goal was to modernize things while still focusing on the ideals of the revolution. The process was quite elaborate and collaborative. It took years. Anyone was allowed to submit a proposal, and thousands of them were considered. People felt really engaged, like they got to be a part of the referendum. It had just been ratified when we visited, and people were still carrying around the newspaper copies of the new constitution from when it first came out. It wasn’t really available online yet, even if they would have been able to access it easily. People were excited and wanted to talk about it. In terms of my professional interests, the new constitution reaffirms the right to free public education for all. That has been a cornerstone of Cuban society for so long that it was never really at risk of changing. But it is important for the Cuban people to see it written down. I only wish more Americans were as dedicated to education as the Cubans.
IT décor in one the rooms we used for small group discussions. The digital divide seems to be narrowing every day in Cuba. I now have Facebook friends from Cuba and that seemed like a crazy idea just a few years ago.
Besides the new signs for the anniversary of the founding of Havana, these signs were also quite prominent. Even though the vote had already passed, people were so enthusiastic that they kept them up. And check out the #!
- Part 1: The Return
- Part 2: Medical Treatment in Cuba
- Part 3: New Curricula and Thematic Plans
- Part 4: Celebrating 500 Years of Havana
- Part 5: Cuba & Venezuela
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.