(UNESCO / Japan Young Researchers' fellowships programme)

The School of Intercultural Communication in Cuba

Summary of research carried out: 
The School of Intercultural Communication in Cuba

Intercultural education is becoming an essential alternative when facing the inevitable modern multicultural condition. In Cuba, social groups are obviously becoming increasingly diverse, hence the relevance of introducing this paradigm in education.

The purpose of this research was to analyse the concept of cultural diversity at work in educational policy, as evidenced in statements by various educational players and participation processes in a primary school. A qualitative approach was taken in combining document analysis with in-depth interviews (national and institutional directors), questionnaires (teachers and families), observation of meetings (institutions), drawing techniques and discussion groups (pupils).

The results of this research bring us closer to understanding the role that schools play in the socialization of individuals who are tolerant and respectful of others different from themselves. The research identified the factors that determine cultural diversity in the school environment, as perceived by the interviewees, with directors and families opting for the pace of learning, and teachers for families’ economic capacity.

The social functions of school, conflict management and classroom practices are viewed differently by teachers and families: teachers tend to prioritize creativity and ability to reflect, while families focus on autonomy and ability to generate knowledge independently. Although both views involve active citizenship, they give precedence to individuality to the detriment of dialogic communication.

Participation was found to be formal. People do not participate in decisions central to daily school life. Classroom practices are the purview of teachers, parents deal with organizational and support matters and pupils do as they are told. Opportunities for participation are routinized, with top-down communication in favour of those who hold authority in law, generally the teachers. Relations between the teachers and the family are asymmetrical in favour of teachers, which undermines the responsible and committed inclusion of families in the teaching process.

On the strength of the real nature of the dynamics studied and the perceptions identified, we have outlined the key features of an intercultural education model for Cuba, namely recognizing Cuban cultural diversity and safeguarding its potential in our schools, accepting that tolerance and respect are essential attitudes to adopt, altering the emphasis on teachers in classroom practices and giving pupils a more active role, and securing joint institutional responsibility and inclusive participatory platforms for all stakeholders in the educational community.

A change in the participatory scenario and views recorded is therefore urged so that intercultural education will be regarded as a viable project for everyday school life in Cuba rather than as a possible means of overcoming difficulties or as a mere utopia. This is only possible if we break with narrow views of cultural homogeneity, with the teacher as the exclusive bearer of the “legitimate culture” and with top-down communication.


25 November 2011