Comparison of the Education System Between the US and Cuba


Education may simply be describes as the formative ability of people to acquire relevant skills and knowledge in the process of personal development. The education system within a give region therefore greatly influences the development process. Education being the art of acquiring knowledge is very critical for the country’s development. Education system in the United States and Cuba has all along differed and this continues to be the case even today. The major difference between the two systems is brought about by the different governing systems that the two exhibits. The United state with its federal and capitalist mode of government provides the funding of education offered in public schools. Such funding is offered through federal, states and local levels. On the other hand, the Cuban communist government has a well established education system which is based on Marxist ideology. In the two countries, education is compulsory for all children. This paper will comprehensively compare the educational system between the United States and Cuba.

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Comparison in the educational structures between US and Cuba

The education systems in the two countries tend to differ since each state offers its educational services differently. For instance in the United States primary school is the lowest level of education which is offered to children aged five years. A child begins by being enrolled into the kindergarten where preliminary knowledge is installed in their minds. From the kindergarten the child proceeds to the second year of his or her education and this is considered to be the first year or first grade of the primary school. In most cases the primary school level consists of a five years term when a child is said to have completed the first five grades (Mincer, 59). On the other hand the Cuban system of education has a primary education which is divided into two cycle grades. The first cycle runs from grade one to four while the second cycle contains the fifth and the sixth grades. The first four grades have a curriculum focusing mathematics and reading, writing and oral expression subjects. The two subjects possess more than 55% of the classroom sessions in the initial four year grades. The scientific, social, physical and economic subjects are inculcated in the children’s minds in the advanced fifth and sixth grades. The main emphasis in the primary curriculum is to provide basic education, social responsibility and productive activity in the children’s minds.

There are similarities between the two primary educational systems. The first similarity is the time frame required to complete the primary school level. In this case six years is the minimum recommended duration. The second similarity is the uniform requirements. All children attending primary school level in the two education systems are required to wear school uniforms. This was introduced in order to create uniformity in children. Uniforms also assist in the reduction of students and teachers distractions emanation from the current dress code. It therefore increases the concentration rates of the students which in turn raise the quality of education. In additions uniform adherence helps in the reductions of social classes which disrupt the students from the poor backgrounds.

After the successful completion of the primary education level, students are enrolled in the secondary school. In United States the secondary school level consist of seven years with ninth to twelfth grade being referred to as high school (Herbst, 107). In the US there is very little national standardization of the curriculum as individual states have a great control over the coursework offered in high schools within their jurisdictions. There is a variance in the courses and subjects offered as it depend on the high school locations. Subjects will also differ depending on whether the school is private or public. The public are operated by the government and the public funds finances the schools. These schools are freely accessible to all students including the foreigners. The education quality varies mainly because of the differences in the funding elements. On the other hand the US private high schools are operated and funded by the private individuals. The government has no control over them although the students must meet the minimum graduation requirements as established by the state (Daron 1371). All the students attending the US private schools must pay the tuition fees regardless of where they come from. The private schools are popular among the American people as they offer additional subjects which are not available in the public schools. Such subjects include the advanced mathematics, science and foreign language courses.

In Cuba, the secondary education involves completion of the first level (basic) secondary education and pre-university level before the student joins the university education. The primary and secondary curriculums are nationally predetermined. The students are free to choose between the pre-university secondary educations, professional or technical education. Both the basic and the pre-university education take duration of three years each. After a successful completion of the secondary school level a student is offered a certificate known as Bachillerato.

The major similarities between the two education systems as secondary school level is concerned is the fact that this level is enrolled after the successful completion of primary level. All secondary school students wear uniforms in both cases which unifies students and increase their concentration capacity. The government through the states regulations has full control over the education system.

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Upon the completion of the secondary education students can choose to attend college or university. In the United States education system the university contain either the undergraduate school or the graduate schools. The undergraduate schools offer a two year degree also known as an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree which takes four years to complete. At this level students select the course they want to major in and concentrate with it until the end of the course. The graduate school on the other hand offers two types of degrees. The first is the master’s degree which is a two year program and highly specialized degree. However some student would wish to further their education in the specified field thus going for doctorate degree. The doctorate degree is also referred to as the PhD and it takes a period ranging between three and six years, depending on the field chosen and the ability of the student. The pursuance of PhD degree must always be preceded by the completion of bachelor’s degree and obtained the qualifying grades for such admission (Dale 68). It is important to note that in US the higher education is provided by both the private and public universities. The public universities are substantially funded by the government thus reducing the amount of fees payable by the students. The students in the public universities are relieved the tuition fees burden as it is catered for by the government. On the other hand the private universities are wholly owned by private entities and as a result considerable high amounts are paid by all students who wish to undertake their studies there. The quality of the education systems offered in these institutions differs from one institution to another. This is because the amount of funding extended by the government in the public universities will have a significant effect on the facilities the institution possesses. In most cases the universities with adequate learning facilities will provide quality form of education system. Those with inadequate facilities on the other hand will exhibit a lesser quality of education.

In Cuba the higher education is provided by the universities or centre of higher education. It is important to note that all the higher learning institutions in Cuba are public. It therefore means that all this institutions are under the control of the ministry of higher education. All the curriculums and programs are offered by the centre for higher education under the ministry’s close supervisions. All higher education institutions in Cuba have same status. Cuba has approximately fifty public universities with roughly 113,000 students already enrolled in the system. The government closely monitors the system of education in the country after the nationalization of all the private schools in 1961.

Financing mode

In the United States the federal government through the states and the local government finance the public school education systems. The funding is done by the use of public funds obtained from the tax revenue and government reserves. The government therefore allocates a significant amount of money towards the proper facilitation of quality and efficient education in the region. The increasing demand for education in the US has added more pressure to the government to increase the budgetary allocation towards education. This is because knowledge and skills are obtained from the learning institutions and translates to the economic growth when put into practice. The technological advancement and economic growth of a country therefore depends on the country’s educational capacity. A country which is currently investing much on the quality education stands in a better position than the one that is investing in short-term objectives. The rapid growth of the private schools in the US has greatly assisted the US government as these schools absorbs quit a good number of students every year. The schools also join the government in its relentless effort to establish a qualified and competent labor force. It has also significantly reduced the scrambling of the limited positions in the public schools. The private schools are funded by the private individuals through the amount charged to the students.

The Cuba government finances the educational systems within its jurisdiction. This is because all the schools are publicly owned and therefore has direct relationship with the government. The government therefore has a considerable amount directed to the education sector. It is because of this reason that the quality of education in the last two decades has significantly reduced due to the continuous reduction of funding by the government. Cuba has all along been accused of allocation huge amounts to education compared to other sectors. There has been a sluggish economic growth in the country as other sectors have been under funded. Government therefore ought to balance its expenditure in order to enhance a well coordinated growth in the country. The abolition of private schools in Cuba led to total transfer of the educational burden to the government.

The major similarity between the educational systems in United States and Cuba is the substantial amount allocated to the sector by the two governments. It is evidenced that one of the largest government allocations are directed towards education. The allocation has continued to grow with the consistent increase in education demands.

Educational quality in United States and Cuba

The quality of education in the United States is considerably high compared to the one offered in Cuba. This is because the quality of education mostly depends on the financial capability of the government (Psacharopoulos 1325). America is therefore financially equipped to effectively sponsor educational process within its boarders. Proper learning facilities such as libraries, laboratories, and structural buildings are available in the US educational systems. Due to the financial capabilities the US government is able to remunerate the teaching staff well. Good salary scales motivates the teachers to extend quality services in their duties. The increasing competition offered by the private schools also contributes towards the educational standards improvement in the US (Hanushek & Ludger 607).

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On the other hand it was not until the year 2001 when the educational system in Cuba transformed to uphold new technology and improved standards. Before then the education system had lost its main focus not only because of funds inadequacy but also failure to motivate teachers. Quit a big number of teachers decided to leave their careers and engaged other form of employment due to the reduced salaries that the government offered. Financial deficiency also greatly hampered the education quality in Cuba since many schools could not have adequate facilities (Wolff, Schiefelbein & Valenzuèla 94). The abolition of the private schools reduced the quality competition between schools since their status are similar throughout the region. The continuous increase of education skilled people in Cuba has led to the flooding of the education skills in the market. The government has in return sort to increase the employment capacity by reducing the amount of salaries entitled to each. A good number of teachers has therefore left their teaching careers and engaged in other form of employment. The educational system in Cuba has in the resent years improved. Modern technologies have continued to be acknowledged through the implementation and installation of computers in schools. The government has also increased the educational infrastructure in order to bring the services closer to its citizens. As a result an estimated percentage of 99% with approximately 99.9% retention rate has been observed according the United Nations statistics.

Educational rivalry between US and Cuba educational systems

The communist adoption by the Cuban government initiated the unnecessary competition between the United States and Cuba. Since then the two have had unfriendly relationship in almost everything. The Marxist ideology adopted in the Cuban educational systems has continuously led to a lot of criticism from the US elites. The two countries therefore have a very minimal cooperation’s on the educational matters. They therefore seek educational cooperation from other countries. For instance Cuba has off late joined with the Britain and Pakistan and in the year 2005-2006 the Higher Education Commission in Cuba sponsored a number of Pakistani students in their system. The students opted to pursue medicine and surgery scholarship in Cuba as it offered better health care system than the US. The two countries have elaborate plans to increase their cooperation and more so in the biotechnology field.

The US on the other hand has been seeking educational cooperation’s with other nations which support democracy and capitalism mode of economy (Samuel & Herbert 53). A lot of criticisms have been consistently been directed towards the Cuban educational system in an effort of positively influence it to change. The United States has all along used the educational elites to influence the Cuban political system. The handing over of power from the ill Fidel Castro to his brother triggered the cooperation between the two nations (Brundenius, 2000 Para 5).

Education system sustainability

The United States stands in a better position as far as sustainability issue is concerned. This is because the budgetary allocation towards educational sector can continuously be catered for as they have enough financial resources. They also have a well balanced budget that looks at all sectors of the economy with great care (Sacks 175). The educational funding therefore does not have any significant effect on the other sectors.

There is a higher risk of educational sustainability in Cuba as it is difficult for the government to consistently support the growing financial need. Currently Cuba is criticized for having allocated a significant share of its budget in education sector. It is said to be the highest third world country to extend such amount on education. The country therefore faces a risk of financial constraints which may hinder the smooth flow of education system in future. Unless something is done to prevent such financial hardships from occurring then the system may experience a lot of troubles in future.


Every nation should make sure that it provides effective education system to its citizens. This is because a good system translates to better skills and knowledge in the society. In addition adequate skilled labor force within a country contributes to an increased rate of development. In my own opinion each nation should adopt a system which perfectly suits its developmental systems. Cuba having adopted a communist ideology in its educational system perfectly matches the country’s requirements. The only thing that the government should take care of is the sustainability of the same in the future. The Cuban government should adjust with the current changes in the country’s economy. The increased demand for educational services in the country should trigger the government into legalizing the operations of the private schools. This is because with the introduction of private schools the quality of education will improves due to the competition between the public and private schools. The private schools will also absorb a considerable number of students which will reduce congestions in the public schools. On the other hand the united state should continue adopting the capitalistic education system as it fits the economic systems within the US. The two educational systems should cooperate in order to improve each others systems whenever there is a need to do so. Adequate budget allocation should be made so as to cater for the future generation’s education. Effort should be made to guarantee free and quality education to all children. Adequate facilities should be provided by the government in order to enhance effectiveness. The curriculum should be adjusted to suit the market within which the country operates.

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Works cited

Brundenius, Claes. “The Role of Human Capital in Cuban Economic Development, 1959-1999,” Working Paper: Center for Development Research, Copenhagen. 2000. Web.

Dale, Roger. Education and the State: Schooling and the national interest. Basingstoke, Taylor & Francis. 1981.

Daron, Acemoglu et al. “The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation.” American Economic Review, 91 (5), 1369-1401. 2001.

Hanushek, Eric & Ludger, Woessmann. “The role of cognitive skills in economic development.” Journal of Economic Literature, 46 (3), 607-608. 2008.

Herbst, Juergen. School Choice and School Governance: A Historical Study of the United States and Germany. Palgrave Macmillan. 2006.

Mincer, Jacob. Schooling, Experience and Earnings. New York: Columbia University Press. 1974.

Psacharopoulos, George. “Returns to Investment in Education: A Global Update.” World Development, 22(9):1325-134. 1994.

Sacks, Peter. Tearing down the gates: confronting the class divide in American education. CA: California University of California Press. 2007.

Samuel, Bowles & Herbert, Gintis. Schooling in Capitalist America: Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life. NY: Routledge. 1976.

Wolff, Laurence et al. Improving the quality of primary education in Latin America and the Caribbean: toward the 21st century, Part 63;   Part 257. Hague: World Bank Publications. 1994.

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