Learn English or Fail Your Degree – Is This The Future of Education for Cuban Students?


Dominance of the English language will soon be part of the requirements needed to graduate from universities in Cuba as U.S. relations thaw, Cuba’s Granma reports.

Russian has, in recent history, been the language of choice following Fidel Castro’s relations with the former Soviet Union, however since 1991 English started to see a rise in popularity, as tourism began to increase and the Soviet block crumbled.

“We are gradually incorporating study plans for which a requirement will be to demonstrate dominance of the English language before graduating from university.” Higher education minister Rodolfo Alarcón commented.

“We have to solve this problem of how Cuban professionals are unable to express themselves in the universal language of our times,” he added, outlining that “courses and access to online platforms will enable self-study.”

“Necessary” requirement

“Using these methods, speaking a foreign language (English) will become a necessary requirement for students,” Alarcón outlined in a report by the State National Information Agency (AIN).

In 2008, even Fidel Castro recognized the importance of Cubans learning English, “even the Russians were learning English. Everyone was studying English apart from us (Cubans) who were studying Russian.”

“The language (English) is indispensable as day-by-day we are going to be making more contact (with the United States and other countries).” Communist party member José Ramón Machado Ventura commented during holding meetings with university students, La Tercera reports.

U.S. and Cuba diplomatic relations were restored on July 20 of this year.

The move has split opinion, with many expressing the idea that this will not only benefit students who wish to study or live abroad and are looking for entrance into foreign institutions, but will also improve graduate employment opportunities and will help prepare students for an increasingly internationalised careers market.

Many others however have raised concerns that the initiative may put some students at a disadvantage and may be damaging the chance of qualification for students who, whilst excelling academically, may not possess the level of English needed to earn their degree.

This article first appeared on Latin Correspondent

Image via AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa


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