World Bank: Cuba Has the Best Education System in Latin America and the Caribbean

In terms of education, this Caribbean country has no cause to be envious of even the most developed nations. The Caribbean island is also the nation in the world that allocates the highest share of its national budget, 13 percent, to education.
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This post originally appeared at Opera Mundi

According to the international organization, Cuba is the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean to have a high quality education system.

The World Bank recently published a revealing report on the status of education in Latin America and the Caribbean. Entitled Great Teachers: How to Raise Student Learning in Latin America and the Caribbean, the study focuses on the continent's public education systems and the major challenges they face. [1]

In Latin America, kindergarten, primary and secondary teachers constitute, in human terms, a resource of 7 million people, or 4 percent of the region's workforce and more than 20 percent of all technical and professional workers. Their salaries absorb 4 percent of the continent's GDP. Their working conditions vary from one region to another, even within national borders. Teachers, mostly women -- 75 percent on average -- are poorly paid and tend to be of lower socioeconomic status. In addition, the average age of teachers is more than 40. Thus they constitute a workforce considered to be "aging." [2]

The World Bank notes that all world governments scrutinize carefully "the quality and practices of teachers," particularly at a time when the objectives of education systems are required to adapt to new realities. The emphasis is now on skills and not merely on the accumulation of knowledge.

The report's findings are final. The World Bank emphasizes "the poor quality of Latin American and the Caribbean teachers," a condition that constitutes the main obstacle to the advancement of education across the continent. Further, academic content is inadequate and educational practices ineffective. Insufficiently or poorly trained teachers devote only 65 percent of their time to classroom instruction, "the equivalent of wasting an entire day of instruction per week." In addition, available instructional materials are under utilized, especially those that deal with new information technologies and communication. Finally, teachers struggle to assert their authority, keep their students engaged and retain their attention. [3]

According to the financial institution, with the notable exception of Cuba, "no teaching faculty in the region can be considered to be of high quality when compared to global parameters." The World Bank also notes that "today, no Latin American school system, with the possible exception of that of Cuba, has the high standards, strong academic talent, high or at least adequate salaries and high degree of professional autonomy that characterizes the world's most effective educational systems, such as those of Finland, Singapore, Shanghai (China), the Republic of Korea, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Canada." [4]

Indeed, only Cuba, where education has been the top priority since 1959, has a truly efficient education system and high-quality teachers. In terms of education, this Caribbean country has no cause to be envious of even the most developed nations. The Caribbean island is also the nation in the world that allocates the highest share of its national budget, 13 percent, to education.[5]

This is not the first time that the World Bank has praised the education system of Cuba. In a previous report, the organization characterized the excellence of the island's social system:

Cuba is internationally recognized for its success in the fields of education and health, with social services that exceeds those of most developing countries and, in certain sectors, are comparable to those of the developed nations. Since the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and the establishment of a communist one-party government, the country has created a social system that ensures universal access to education and health services, provided by the state. This model has helped Cuba to achieve universal literacy, eradicate certain diseases and provide universal access to safe drinking water and basic public sanitation. Cuba now has one of the region's lowest infant mortality rates and longest life expectancies. A review of social indicators in Cuba reveals an almost continuous improvement from 1960 to 1980. Several major indices, such as life expectancy and infant mortality rates, have continued to improve even during the country's economic crisis of the 1990s [...]. Today, the social performance of Cuba is one of the best in the developing world, a fact well documented by many international bodies including the World Health Organization, the United Nations Program for Development and other UN agencies as well as the World Bank. [...] Cuba outperforms both Latin American and Caribbean as well as many other middle-income countries in the most important indices of education, public health and hygiene. [6]

The World Bank points out that the development of good education systems is vital to the future of Latin America and the Caribbean. It highlights the example of Cuba, which has achieved excellence in this field, as being the only country on the continent to have a high-level teaching faculty. These results reflect the political will of the Cuban leadership that places young people at the center of the social project and allocates the resources necessary for their acquisition of requisite knowledge and skills. Despite its limited resources as a Third World nation and a state of economic siege imposed by the United States for more than half a century, based on the maxim of José Martí, its Apostle and national hero, "to be cultured is to be free," Cuba demonstrates that quality education is within the reach of all nations.

______________Translated from the French by Larry R. Oberg.

Salim Lamrani is a lecturer at the University of La Réunion, and a journalist specializing in relations between Cuba and the United States.

His new book is The Economic War Against Cuba, New York, Monthly Review Press, 2013; prologue by Wayne S. Smith; foreword by Paul Estrade; translated by Larry R. Oberg. Contact:; Facebook Page:


[1] Barbara Brown & Javier Luque, Great Teachers: How to Raise Student Learning in Latin America and the Caribbean, Washington, D.C., World Bank Group, 2014. (Accessed August 30, 2014).[2] Ibid. [3] Ibid. [4] Ibid. [5] Salim Lamrani, Cuba : les médias face au défi de l'impartrialité, Paris, Estrella, 2013, p. 40. [6] Ibid., P. 87-88.

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