AACRAO releases report on the Cuban educational system

November 1, 2020
  • International
  • International Admissions and Credential Evaluation
  • cuba
  • Cuba Project
  • work group
teacher wearing a blue collared shirt points to a student who is raising their hand

Researchers with the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) have just released a white paper on the higher education system of Cuba. The report is based on two field visits to Cuba, in 2018 and 2019, and published to support the work of international credential evaluators, an important constituency of the AACRAO membership. According to the report, very little English-language literature has been available regarding Cuban post-secondary education before now. 

In fall 2018, 12 AACRAO members traveled to Cuba in Fall as part of Búsquedas Investigativas (BI), an intensive educational seminar that facilitates research on the Cuban educational system.The weeklong event included lectures, cultural events, and site visits. Building upon these connections, two of the initial members of the AACRAO group returned to Cuba in 2019 for ongoing academic research. 

3 key findings  

In Cuba, education — including post-secondary education — is a constitutionally enshrined as a right for all. Education is free for everyone at all levels, designed to produce students with qualifications needed for particular aspects of the socialist economy. Selection of which occupation a student will fulfill during their life is ultimately determined by the government, but input from the student is considered. Three categories are used in this determination: student choice, student performance, and social/economic need. All are expected to contribute to the greater good. 

Perfeccionamiento (improvement or “perfecting”) is a key concept in Cuban educational system. The Cuban education ministries are in a state of constant reform to optimize the education system, and students and teachers are always implementing new ideas and programs. This has important implications for credential evaluation.

Professional education, particularly the health and education sectors, are highly developed in Cuba. Medical training is a major export of Cuba, and there is significant international student and researcher exchange. The educational sector itself makes up nearly a third of the Cuban economy. Teaching is a lifelong profession with significant professional development opportunities. 

The health and education ministries develop educational opportunities for the people who reinforce and grow these key sectors. While the pursuit of further education is a constitutional right in Cuba, teachers and health professionals are more organized than other groups to take advantage of the opportunity for free graduate education. People are allowed to progress academically in their field in order to progress in their careers. For example, it is common to find teachers in Cuban elementary school classrooms with doctorates. In general, these degrees can be considered comparable to Doctor of Philosophy programs in most parts of the world.

Read the report

The white paper also includes coverage of the following aspects of the Cuban education system:

  • Primary and Secondary Education,

  • Adult and Vocational Education

  • University Education credentials, including Licenciatura, Maestría, and Doctorado (a.k.a. First, Second, and Third Cycles),

  • Document Legalization,

  • Cuban Higher Education Institutions, and 

  • Example credentials. 

In addition to this report, the AACRAO Cuba Group’s research was proliferated via conference presentations, published in articles, and used to update the Cuba education system profile in the AACRAO Electronic Database for Global Education ( EDGE).



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