Cuban Teenagers and Education

Updated December 11, 2018
Cuban teens go to boarding school

Cuba offers a diverse culture that is unique to Cuban teens. The way the country approaches education and teen lifestyles are different from other countries. Learn more about Cuban teens, their education and how they differ from American high school students.

Cuban Teenagers and Education

The education system in Cuba is a bit different from the United States. In the US, students generally attend elementary school for grades 1 to 5, middle school for grades 6 to 8 and high school for grades 9 to 12. In Cuba, all students attend primary education for six years and then move on to secondary. The secondary education ends at the age of 16. Education until the age of 16 is compulsory but many teens choose to move on past that. In fact, the level of education in Cuba is often considered one of the strongest educational systems in the world.

New Choices

In the 1970s, parents were given the choice of whether they would send their children to boarding school. In the 1990s, the government began to control the system more and decreed students would attend boarding school. However, in the early 2000s, the educational system was moving past compulsory boarding schools. Instead, the culture seems to have adopted a system many times referred to as a semi-boarding school. While children aren't housed at the school, the school day is considerably longer, about 12 hours, but there are ample breaks and meals. Additionally, the school year goes from September to July.

The Effect of Boarding Schools

That's not to say that boarding schools are extinct. There are still several boarding schools found throughout Cuba. Check out a few of the positive effects of boarding schools.

  • Meeting good friends
  • A focus on studies
  • A chance to get away from work (many teens in Cuba work on their family farm or in the business when they are not in school)
  • An opportunity to develop more skills

While there are these benefits for Cuban teenagers, there are also many concerns such as:

  • The intense focus on education can often be too demanding for young teens.
  • A lack of social activity such as friends and parties.
  • Being away from friends and family at home for too long. Teens in boarding schools in Cuba generally only see their families on long breaks. Parents do not frequently visit their teens at school.

Government and Education

Whatever your perspective on boarding schools may be, it can't be denied that the school system in Cuba has improved. Some state that since Fidel Castro began his rule over the country, the education system has been revamped and infinitely better for teenagers. Prior to his role in government, there were still many who could not read or write, and education was arguably subpar. Now, however, the Novak Djokovic Foundation noted that only 0.2% of the population is currently illiterate.

Free Education

Contributing to this high literacy rate is the fact that education, even at the college level, is free to teens. Cuban teens complete school until 9th grade before choosing a path for further education. They might choose to complete a pre-college path or a technical path. Their choice will lead to different degrees, college choices and careers. While it isn't required, most students choose to stay in school.


Cuba requires all teens to wear a school uniform. Teens typically wear a white shirt, red shorts and a red scarf. However, there are variations with yellow shorts and scarves. This is different from the blue scarf that is worn by younger children. The uniform is mandatory throughout their primary and secondary school education.

A Celebrated Affair

Overall, Cuban teens enjoy school. In fact, the first day of school, September 1st, is celebrated by families around the country. Additionally, Cuban education emphasizes togetherness, ensuring that teen's needs are met. They also strive for low student-to-teacher ratios so teens can get more one-on-one attention. Statistics even show their happiness. According to the Novak Djokovic Foundation, truancy was rare, and most students are happy to go to school.

Improvement by Leaps and Bounds

The educational system in Cuba has made leaps and bounds from the days of compulsory boarding schools for teens. While much of the life of Cuban teens is controlled and their days are longer, the happiness in school is high. Many teens are glad to come to school and learn with friends.

Cuban Teenagers and Education