A normal classroom, a big school and many, many students. This is something, which we have not seen for a while now. But during our stop at Cuba we took part at the daily school life of Cuban students and this was a very special time for us.
We visited the ‚Federico Engels school‘ for high-intelligent people and learned a lot about the school system of Cuba. In fact there are not so much differences between the German and the Cuban system as I thought. They also start school with about six years in grade one. This school form is called „primario“ and takes six years. After that the pupils move to the „secundario“, which is from grade six to nine. Then many of the students go to the „preuniversitario“, which takes from grade ten to twelve and shall prepare them for university. A big difference to our system is that all students have to wear a uniform.
Every school form has its own one: In the „primario“ the girls have to wear a red skirt and a white blouse and the boys wear red trousers instead of skirts. The uniform for girls also includes high white socks. In the „secundario“ the colours change to yellow skirts and trousers and in „preuniversitario“ they change completely. There the girls wear a light blue blouse, a dark blue skirt and white socks. Of course the boys have to wear trousers in the same colour-combination.
The ‚Federico Engels school‘ in Pinar del Rio is a „preuniversitario“, but a special one: Only students with very good marks are allowed to go to this school, which has its main focus on the scientific subjects. The students have the opportunity to sleep in the school and there are two big bedrooms, one for the boys and one for the girls. To be accepted by the school you need to have an average markmarks of 1,0 and to stay there you have to reach at least 95 of 100 points in the yearly final exams. Those, who live in the school are allowed to go home every eleventh day and the parents, who have enough money to pay a transport, can visit them every Sunday.
In my opinion the best aspect of the Cuban school system is that everything is for free. For example the parents do not have to pay the books, the food in the school, the beds, in which the interns are sleeping, and the students can also use the transport home for free. This is a very important point because otherwise students, who are not from a rich family and sleep in the school, would not have the chance to go home and see their parents.
The lessons are from Monday to Saturday and last until 4 o’clock pm. The school offers all the main subjects like Maths, English, Spanish, History, Biology, Chemistry and Physics and during our stay there we recognized that they learn nearly the same stuff like German students. Of course they also have the opportunity to go to physical Education lessons like Volleyball, Basketball or Football and we enjoyed playing and competing with them very much.
Those, who sleep in the school also have a kind of cleaning duty. This is one day at which they do not have to wear the school uniform because they need to clean for example the floors or help in the kitchen.
They also have to go to a kind of ‚free learning time‘ after the lessons, which they can spent in the school-owned library and use for learning for exams.
In my opinion the daily routine there is very hard because they do not have so much free time, only about two hours a day. But all the students were very motivated and it was nice to see how proud they are to be at this school and have the opportunity to get such good education. The students also are like a big family and I was very surprised how close they are. For example for saying hello they kissed each other and it seemed like everybody knows everybody.
During our stay there we recognized many similarities between the German and Cuban system, but also between our system on board. We enjoyed the exchange very much and were happy about the chance to take part in the daily school life of a Cuban student and have founded many new great friendships.