Presentation Details

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Eleventh International Literacy and Education Research Network Conference on Learning

Educating 'Good Socialist Citizens' in the post-Soviet, Capitalist World-system: Reporting on a Survey of Cuban Youth in the Special Period

Dr Tom Griffiths.

This paper reports for the first time on a survey of secondary school students in three schools in Havana, collected by the author in Cuba in the 1990s. The paper draws on the findings of a larger study investigating the historical development of secondary schooling in Cuba since 1959, from a world-systems perspective. In this context, students' responses are considered in terms of two major factors shaping Cuba’s revolutionary school education: 1) the explicit national objective of creating socialist students through formal schooling; and 2) the economic and cultural influence of the capitalist world-economy.

The qualitative and quantitative data from secondary students in Havana, in the heart of Cuba’s “Special period” and official warnings of a “crisis of youth values”, reflect the tensions contained in the school system. For example, students highlight the importance of good wages and conditions, and access to hard currency, in their career choices, alongside a rejection of the growing inequality and the enrichment of intermediaries in the new economic conditions.

It is argued that students’ responses also reflect the tensions of the school system in more subtle ways, endorsing a meritocratic system in which hard work, and educational achievement, is rewarded. These responses support the argument that in their pursuit of Soviet-styled political objectives, Cuba’s revolutionary schools came to function in ways similar to systems throughout the capialist world-system.


Dr Tom Griffiths  (Australia)
Research Associate
Professional Learning in Education Research Group School of Education
University of Newcastle

  • Cuban secondary schooling
  • World-systems
  • Socialist education

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)