Incubating mediocrity

In the middle school where my son studies we had a parent meeting that lasted almost three hours and almost ended in a fight.

The central school director read Ministry of Education Resolution 177, approved last December, where it is established that the academic index will not be the determining factor when the time comes to pursue higher education.  Those who have the best results will not be awarded the best seats in high schools of science, schools of the arts, or technical schools of information technology and communications. Instead, the selection screening will benefit those students who are most “comprehensive.”

The well-known scale, established on the basis of grades received in the three years of middle school, has ceased to exist.  In its place, the teacher has the power to determine – that is, pull strings for – the student who excelled in each specialty.  The nine parameters that, according to the new grading system, make up a comprehensive young person are:

1. Attendance and punctuality.

2. Attitude towards work.

3. Attitude towards study.

4. Discipline.

5. Appropriately wears the uniform and demonstrates the attributes of a Pioneer.

6. Participates in demonstrations and political/patriotic activities.

7. Participates in cultural and sports activities.

8. Cares for society and the environment.

9. Human relations.

Point six is enough to set off the alarms, as it provides fertile ground for the growth of opportunism and fakery.

The disturbing meeting occurred in the same days as the UNEAC Congress [Artists and Writers Union of Cuba], where several delegates criticized the state of Cuban education and the formation of values. On the one hand, there is a demand to encourage talent and creativity and on the other hand, the limits of iron ideology segregate those who think differently.

I do not worry too much for my son because, in the two years remaining before he will move up to a higher level of education, it is possible that this unpopular measure will no longer exist. However, I am afraid for a nation that rewards unconditional ideology rather than talent; where a student who participates in a political demonstration can be rated higher than one who masters the subject matter; where its own educational institutions teach that the most attractive road is a masquerade.

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