University 2018: Cuba is the Reference

Environment, renewable energy sources, sustainable and local development, the use of new technologies, tourism, industry, studies of Medicine, curricula, didactics, the role of university in different contexts, all of these subjects were discussed in the 11th International Congress of Higher Education Universidad 2018 — event that marked the 100th anniversary of the Argentine University Reform.

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University 2018 gathered more than 2,000 delegated from 60 nations.

Few hours before the closing ceremony, Cuba’s Minister of Higher Education Jose Ramon Saborido Loidi was asked by a colleague about the most interesting thing of the Congress and he highlighted that Cuba “is today a reference in the educative field.”

Without ignoring handicaps and obstacles, the truth is that our country can boast realities that are still yearnings for other countries of the world.

In this regard, following the 2030 Agenda and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN, 2015), the Minister pointed out: “we are in a better position to fulfill them” and noted that Cuba is working hard to meet these goals as soon as possible.

As he stressed in the opening ceremony speech: “The advance of the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development is imperative for the world as nations are trying to counteract the current unsustainable model of development—discriminatory, hegemonic, and predatory.

Today’s University in Cuba

There have been many changes in Cuba’s Higher Education from the Triumph of the Revolution to the present days, always aiming at improving the quality and access to Universities in Cuba.

In this regard, almost 1.5 million professionals have graduated from 1959 to present days. Therefore, 12% of the population and 22% of workers in Cuba has university level.

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Cuba’s Higher Education has graduated almost 1.5 million professionals

The remarkable growth of its institutions is another achievement. Cuba boasts today 50 universities all around the country compared to the 3 universities that existed back then (in Havana, Las Villas, and the Eastern side of Cuba). The system also includes 126 university centers in municipalities.

Destined to experience a continuous development process, the Higher Education in Cuba advances on the basis of an inclusive process, which has certainly brought positive results concerning material resources and financial savings as well as a better use of the workforce in universities, especially in the field of teaching.

The process that has been implemented since 2011 to updating Cuba’s economic and social model has demanded the accompaniment of the Higher Education as well. Thus, new policies have been approved.

A very good example of this is “the graduate and postgraduate teaching process improvement, short-and-medium term, so human potential stands behind the necessary technical, integral, and civic training, which allows working for the strategic goals for development.”

Likewise, as the Minister himself highlighted in the opening speech of Universidad 2018, “Cuba advances in the implementation of a new generation of curricula that sets the length of majors to four years and proposes a better interaction with the system of master’s degrees and postgraduate specialization through continuous training programs.”

The World and Higher Education

The critical nature and dissatisfaction of Cuban citizens lead us to believe we are the only nation in the world suffering from a certain ill.

However, this Congress allowed us not only to reflect on extremely serious problems affecting many countries in the region, but also to become aware of the right path of the policies undertaken by the Cuban State in order to overcome obstacles and certain quality index.

The testimonies of several foreign participants showed Higher Education is not going well and therefore, there is no positive sign in General Education (263 million students were not enrolled in schools as of 2014).

Uruguayan professor Fernando Rodal Mc Lean —President of the American Federation of Teachers— spoke in one of the panels about the need to “fight” against universities that limit enrollment. He also criticized that students, in order to access higher education, have to go into great debts.

“The university struggle —he pointed out— is the struggle for the quality of life of our people for the purpose of modifying the structure and functioning of capitalist society. It is to fight for a free university.”

Daniel Ricci, President of the Federation of University Teachers’ Union in South America, noted that Latin America is showing a regressive trend as the right has regained power in some of the nations. “Imperialism dislikes justice, equity, and free education and health care.”

Hence, it is important to reach that free, inclusive education and teachers can enjoy a decent job.

A moving situation was narrated by Salvadorians Monica Fernandez Rubio (Spanish woman naturalized citizen of El Salvador) and Sabas Clavel Fuentes, who showed the situations of young people in that country where just the 8% of the population have access to universities. In rural areas, this number barely represents 2%.

The International Congress of Higher Education Universidad 2018, in the words of the Minister Jose Ramon Saborido, was successful. “We have showed our truth and we have felt the appreciation of other nations for Cuba’s actions.”

The next Congress will take place on February 10-14, 2020. A lot will happen from now on. Nonetheless, Cuba will surely present new experiences, contributions, and impacts.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz/CubaSi Translation Staff

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