Hallmarks of Cuban education have been reorganization and adaptation to changing social needs and social conditions. There have been three major periods of Cuban education: mass education (1959-1962), education for economic development (1962-1968), and "creating the new man" (1965-1990). To this we might add a fourth period—the "special period," an era of post-Soviet adaptation after 1990 (Gillette 1972).
The goals of this changing system have been constant: to provide improved educational opportunities for all persons, to develop skills necessary to improve the industrial and agricultural output, and to promote collective responsibility. Education is compulsory for students through the ninth grade. The school year is roughly 200 days per year, organized in four 10-week terms. The language of instruction is Spanish. Schools place heavy emphasis on Cuban history, mathematics, practical and applied knowledge, community service, and problem solving. A close relationship exists between education, daily life, and work.
Following the literacy campaign, Cuba created a two-pronged, multi-faceted, but complex educational structure. However, in the last 15 years, they have streamlined the structure while allowing a small series of highly specialized institutions with very limited foci for students with special abilities, interests, or needs.
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