Havana, Cuba – Shortly after the Castro regime took over the Cuban government, more than 100,000 youngsters, aged 10-16, were recruited to go into all corners of the island to teach all citizens how to read and write.
These literacy volunteers received several weeks of training with the materials they were to use in their work. They went out to the countryside and moved in with the “campesinos,” the Cuban farmers, working the fields during the day and teaching them to how read and write at night. In urban areas, military barracks were converted into schools and thus began a very intensive and successful indoctrination program that brought Socialism, along with literacy, to the island.
Over the 57 years of the regime, those 100,000 literacy volunteers bonded and became some of Castro’s biggest supporters. Today, Cuba’s teachers continue the literacy initiative while focusing as well on the principles of the “Revolution”. Moral, ethical and civic conduct are seen as important as academic achievement. Teachers are on the alert to detect what issues might be affecting the child’s ability to come to school ready to learn. Every school has a “school council” made up of not just teachers and parents in the school, but other professionals in the social and health arenas who offer support services to families and students.
Teacher training and professional development is a process, not a product. It is ongoing, with two days of in-service per month and weekly on-site activities. The evaluation of teachers is a collective process involving peer review and emphasizing development rather than the documentation that might lead to dismissal. According to the officials charged with the professional development of teachers, dismissal only happens in the event of fraudulent or other criminal activity. Indeed, they see a teacher’s failure as the failure of the entire system.
The country is currently undergoing a teacher shortage. Fewer students are opting to go into teaching, paralleling the reduction of individuals opting to pursue college careers in favor of higher paying jobs in other sectors of the economy. Attempts are being made to begin the teacher recruitment process as early as the primary grades in the hopes of establishing a pipeline of future Cuban educators.
Dan Domenech is the executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association. His blogged about the April 17-22 AASA Delegation to Cuba.