May 3, 2017

Education Through a Cuban Perspective: Adelphi’s Education and Community Service in Cuba Program

In January of 2016, STEP student Jacqueline Castelli ’16 ventured with classmates for a 10-day study abroad program led by Professors Anne Mungai, Ph.D., and Devin Thornburg, Ph.D., of Adelphi’s Ruth S. Ammon School of Education, with the purpose of investigating the educational system of Cuba. Castelli was eager to observe what positives and negatives could be gleaned from the trip and which elements she could implement in her future classrooms.

She noted that community-driven culture manifested itself in Cuban schools via things such as the plentiful after-school programs, dance performances, and the concentrated efforts for art education. School is mandatory from 1st grade to 9th grade and children are expected to be at school from morning till evening. While they are only two universities in the country, all students are given thorough exposure to sports, music, art, and agriculture. Schooling is free and students who do not wish to continue on to higher education are also given the option of trade school.

Castelli appreciated the opportunity for variety in student experiences but also noted that American students are afforded more autonomy in their choices. Jacqueline, studying Childhood Education, fondly remembers pre-schoolers playing Bingo in both English and Spanish. She appreciated the amount of attention given to students as well as the implementation of many Montessori methods. She notes that some benefits of the American system are physical space of the classrooms, ability to decorate, as well as the implementation of inclusive-classrooms. In Cuba, students with special needs, while given the same exposure to subject material, are instructed in separate schools throughout their education.

Castelli feels the trip expanded her attitude towards classroom instruction and has broadened her understanding of both Cuban and American educational systems. The program, largely centered on the arts, cultivated a strong sense of community and Castelli felt her goal of exposure to various approaches in education was met profoundly by this trip.


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