Cuban students are simultaneously introduced to two styles of letters, unjoined print letters for reading and cursive for writing.
Cuba has a centralized, state-run and public education system, which is governed by the Ministerio de Educación, or Ministry of Education, also known as Minedu. Education is divided into four stages: pre-school, primary (grades 1–6), secondary (grades 7–9) and pre-university (grades 10–12). Of these, primary and secondary stages are compulsory.
The Minedu publishes a national curriculum, as well as textbooks and workbooks for all levels through the state-owned publishing house Editorial Pueblo y Educación. All schools must use these books. They are available in PDF format for each year on the ministry website, which is regularly maintained with its latest update in 2022. In addition to these, the Minedu also published Modelo de escuela Primaria Cubana, una propuesta desarrolladora de educación, enseñanza y aprendizaje, or the Cuban primary school model, a proposal to develop education, teaching and learning, in 2008.
Across the country, students receive the same handwriting instruction. The Modelo de escuela Primaria Cubanaestablishes the ability to write in joined cursive letters as one of the objectives of primary education. While fine motor skills development starts in pre-school, students begin to learn handwriting in Grade 1, and according to the document, must have clear and legible handwriting that emphasises proper drawing, joining, uniformity and slant by the end of Grade 2. Students are simultaneously taught print style letters for reading, and continuous cursive letters derived from the Palmer Method for writing. Further, students are not allowed to write in unjoined letters until they finish Grade 7.
Books on three subjects mention handwriting — Reading, Writing, and Calligraphy. They show the correct body posture and way to hold the pen, demonstrate letters for writing, and provide exercises ranging from for fine-motor skills training for pre-school to calligraphy for Grade 4.
According to UNESCO, Cuba has one of the best education systems in the world. The country’s investment in education after the 1959 revolution, and its subsequently achieved high teacher to student ratio (1 to 12) are seen as the foundation to this success.
Features of Cuban literacy education
Literacy education in Cuba is distinctive in that students are simultaneously introduced to two styles sets of letters, one for reading and the other for writing. In textbooks, letters for reading are print style and typographic, and represented by either geometric or grotesque sans serifs. These are used in all workbooks and textbooks across subjects, except for the ones dedicated to writing and calligraphy. Here a fully-joined, cursive style, based on Palmer Method created by Austin Palmer (1860–1927) in the United States, is used.
Workbooks and textbooks produced by the Minedu are the only materials available to teachers, and so become very central to handwriting instruction. Students use the textbook called Preescritura, or Pre-writing, in preschool. It focusses on drawing shapes and strokes that aid in fine motor skills development and trains students for learning handwriting in primary school. In grades 1 and 2, they use books called Escritura 1 and Escritura 2, or Writing 1 and Writing 2, and in grades 3 and 4, Caligrafía 3 and Caligrafía 4, or Calligraphy 3 and Calligraphy 4. This change in name shows a purposeful shift from a literacy-oriented first stage to a second stage that emphasises the refinement of presentation skills. Workbooks for these four grades contain a series of exercises of increasing difficulty that require students to copy letters and their connections in their practice sheets.
Workbooks for writing education, published by Minedu.