Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Gold stars for Cuban kids (Updated)

In 2001, when UNESCO tested elementary school kids across Latin America and the Caribbean for math and language attainment, the test results from Cuba didn’t seem to make sense.

As Christopher Marquis wrote then in the New York Times, the “performance of Cuban third and fourth graders in math and language so dramatically outstripped that of other nations that the United Nations agency administering the test returned to Cuba and tested students again.” They tested again, and the results didn’t change.

A just-released UNESCO education study of third and sixth graders’ math, language, and science achievement has just been released, and it’s no mystery why Granma is crowing over the results.

Cuba creamed the rest of Latin America.

Cuban education has its problems – teachers leaving for better-paying jobs, the use of young, inexperienced maestros emergentes, ideological content – but these test results tell a striking story.

In every area tested – third grade math and reading, and sixth grade math, reading, and science – Cuban students had by far the highest average achievement level. Cuba is the only country whose average score in any area was more than one standard deviation above the regional average, and Cuban students achieved that distinction in four of five categories – sixth grade reading being the only exception.

You can see the study, with charts depicting all this, here (in Spanish, pdf, 50 pages). A Reuters Spanish story is here.

[Update: Did Cuba pull the wool over the testers' eyes and rig the tests? At Encuentro, a writer thinks so, and so do some of the commenters.]


Ernesto said...

Please, Phil, don't make me laugh... Do you know how these tests are run?

Check this link: the other side of the news


Al Godar said...

I worked as a teacher in Cuba for 5 years and at that time Cuban students were doing really bad. I doubt it is any better now.
Lets not forget that the Cuban government pays exceptional attention to these questions and they dedicate huge resources to prepare for these activities.
Al Godar

Anonymous said...

Cuba also has the smallest differences between urban and rural students.

Anonymous said...

its totally true... Go to a country like DR, Hati, Jamaica, Mexico.

the common Cuba is so so much more educated and smarter than a common DR for example... its obvious just in common interactions with ordinary cubans in Habana, compared to DF in Mexico or santo domingo in DR.

In fact, I would say common Cuba is much more intelligent - in math and the classics- than ordinary gringo. Again, talk to average cuba in havana then go talk to your average southern redneck - its obvious who has smarter folk.

Anonymous said...

The big differnce is rural. In Cuba, the rural areas have relatively good quality services compared to similiar countires in LA.

Go to rural area in Peru, for example, they probably don't even have books (or a school house). Rural schools in Dominican republic are nothing but shacks. Same with Guatemala.

In Nigurauga, even in Managua, the public schools are dirt floors without roofs.

In this context, Cuba derserves the gold star -

no ideology meant here, just speaking the facts (i am anti-castro for teh record).

Anonymous said...

I do believe that, in this case, as in many others, not everything is the way it appears. To the Cuban government this is a question of honor and they will do anything possible, legal or illegal to get these scores. Regardless of how Cuban students are actually doing. It is no secret that education in Cuba has deteriorated, instead of improving, since the fall of the USSR and even after the 'special period" it did not truly recover. However, it is still doing better than the health care system. But I do doubt Cuban students score higher that Uruguayan or Argentinian students.

At the same time, the average Cuban in Havana, and other cities, is more knowledgeable on many issues than many Americans or Cuban-Americans.

Anonymous said...

Jacobo Timerman hit the nail on the head: "If it's true that every Cuban knows how to read and write, it is likewise true that every Cuban has nothing to read and must be very cautious about what he writes."

Anonymous said...

The point is, in comparison to the rest of LA, Cuba no doubt scores higher, no other LA country has the same literacy rates or the reality of having schools in the most remote rural areas. The unfortunate part is that no matter what the accomplishment is, certain elements do their best to discredit it. It's the same crap you hear all the time; the schools are bad, the teachers are leaving etc, the hospitals are bad, there are few medicines. Well it's better than having NO school or NO teachers, no hospitals, no doctors,like so much of the rest of LA has. Go to Guatemala in the countryside and ask a farmer would he rather have a small hospital with limited resources, or no hospital with no resources. Well Duh. If the Cubans cured AIDS, some would blame them for manipulating the results, or for the poor medical facilities they have.
Nothing to read? Are you kidding me? Have you ever been to the Havana Book Fair? Millions of books sold, on all topics, from publishers around the world and the Cubans buy them all. Now, re about writing things cautiously, there is truth in that, and that's unfortunate. But keep it in perspective and understand why.

Anonymous said...

"Did Cuba pull the wool over the testers' eyes and rig the tests?"

The Castro regime has been manufacturing statistics and manipulating outside inquiries from the very day it seized power. My God, where have you people been?

Anonymous said...

"But keep it in perspective and understand why."
Since you seem to know, why don't you explain to us what you mean by why?

Anonymous said...

To me, when I hear that they're liberalizing rules like cell phones and the ability to go to hotels and such, I think that it's even less likely that they will be funding their programs any better. These are the conversations I think we should be having, whether the Cuban social programs can be sustained or whether Cuba is going to turn into every other latin american country.

Anonymous said...

Anon wrote: "Nothing to read?... Have you ever been to the Havana Book Fair? Millions of books sold, on all topics, from publishers around the world..."

Then there must be two Havana Book Fairs, the fantasy faIR you are describing, and the real one where "unsuitable" books of foreign publishers are banned from being displayed or sold.

Anonymous said...

the day I can find the Gulag Archipelago, or a book by Vargas Llosa or even one by Jorge Luis Berges at a Cuban Book Fair, then I can believe what you have said. Until then, is just a lot of hot air.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the typo. I meant to write Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentine writer.

Anonymous said...

...don't forget Orwell!

Anonymous said...

I am sure that after the next changes Education in Cuba will improve still more. It is a shame that's not the same in LA, full of drugs, gangs, etc., where boys have to work in order to live and help their families. Education and Health should not be private.