The Republic of Cuba (La República de Cuba) is uniquely located at the intersection of the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. It in close proximity to the United States, only 150 kilometers from the Straits
of Florida. Cuba is an archipelago with 1,600 islands, islets, and cays with varied terrain ranging from plains to rolling hills to mountains. The largest mountain range is the Sierra Maestra with the highest peak of the range,
Pico Turquino, reaching 1,974 meters above sea level according to Britannica. The population is approximately 11,451,652 and the literacy
rate is 99.8%. The official language is Spanish.
Originally, the island was inhabited by the Ciboney, Guanahatabey, and the more numerous Taino peoples having an approximate population of 75,000. On October 28, 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on Cuba’s northern coast where he claimed the islands
for Spain. Cuba became a Spanish colony in 1511 when conquistador Diego Velazquez de Cuellar initiated a permanent settlement in Baracoa.
Cuba remained a Spanish colony for 474 years until the end of the Spanish-American War and ceded to the United States through the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898. Cuba gained independence from the United States on May 20, 1902.
Elementary and secondary education in Cuba under colonial rule was mainly limited until the creation of the Royal Economic Society of Friends of the Country in 1793. The first public elementary and secondary schools were established by law in 1842. Schools
were segregated and largely attended by urban, higher-income children. Under U.S. military occupation following the Spanish-American War, education in Cuba improved. Under the School Law of 1900, compulsory education was established for ages 6 to
14 years old, an annual school census was instituted, and local and national school administrators were further established.
After independence, the newly created Ministry of Education prescribed the curricula and regulated the requirements for admission and graduation except for the University of Havana which had been founded in 1728, which remained autonomous. Provincial
superintendents administered locally the public and private elementary and secondary schools. The academic track of the education system consisted of 5-6 years of primary school beginning at age 6, then 4 years of lower secondary education, and 2
years of higher secondary education leading to the bachiller. Vocational, technical, and rural education were separated from the academic track at the end of primary school. Despite having established a national education system and administration,
education in Cuba suffered from severe inequity and access issues. According to Dr. Rainer Schultz of the Casa de las Américas in Havana, on the eve of the 1959 revolution, 73% did not regularly attend school and the literacy
rate was 50%.
On January 1, 1959, the overthrow of President Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar brought significant political change to the country. While not initially a socialist government, Cuba’s leadership eventually instituted such a government through the Cuban
Communist Party in 1965. As such, education is shaped by the central government according to the needs of the national and local economies. Within the current education system, education is compulsory from 6-14 and all levels of education in Cuba
Primary and Secondary Education
The general structure of the academic track of primary and secondary education is 6 years of escuela primaria leading to the certificado de sexto grado, 3 years of
secundaria básica (lower secondary), and 3 years of preuniversitaria leading to the bachiller.
The technical and vocational track begins in secundaria básica. Students may study these subjects in escuelas de oficios or escuelas politécnicas earning a diploma de obrero calificado.
Technical and vocational upper school is 3-4 years in length leading to a título de técnico/a, or técnica de nivel medio.
Teacher education begins in upper secondary school in escuelas pedagógicas and are 4-5 years in length leading to the Maestro de Educación Primaria, Educación Especial, Preescolar, or
Inglés de Educación Primaria.
Tertiary education is offered at state universities as there are no private universities in Cuba. Entry to study programs is determined by earning a bachiller or, in limited fields, a técnico or técnico de nivel medio title as well as a specialty examination for specific study programs chosen according to the economic needs of the state. This 4-5 years of first university study leads to a licenciatura degree. A
specified period of service is also required upon the completion of study.
A maestría degree is earned in either full-time or part-time programs after 1-3 years of study, research, and thesis defense. Especialista certificates
of varying length and focus in a given area of study and internship are also available. These programs require a Licenciatura for entry. Doctorado en Ciencias degrees
are earned after 3-4 years of study, research, and thesis defense. The doctorate may include the name of the field such as Doctorado en Ciencias Pedagógicas which are
awarded in teaching fields.
Verification of transcripts, degrees, and plans of study can be obtained by the Consultoria Jurídica International and the Bufete de Servicios Especializados (generally outside Cuba).