On the Teaching of English in Matanzas Province, Cuba: Memories
Rolando Ramos is a teacher of English at the Language Center of Matanzas University, Cuba. He is a 1979 university graduate in Education, English Language Specialty, and member of the founder teaching staff of the Pedagogical Institute of Matanzas. Rolando Ramos is interested in TEFL matters. He is currently developing a Higher Education Sciences Master`s Degree research on evaluation. He enjoys working with students of all levels, and also with peers in teams.
With the triumph of the Revolution in 1959 the Cuban National System of Education undergoes essential structural changes which lead to the foundation of the basis for a higher qualitative jump in all levels of education.
As regards teaching foreign languages, the formation of language teachers starts at the Foreign Language Institute "Máximo Gorki" in Havana. The program begins with Russian and in 1964 it includes English too. By this time other Pedagogical Institutes are also included in the plan, namely,"Enrique José Varona", "Frank País" and "Félix Varela" (Ministerio de Educación Superior. (2016); Modelo del Profesional Plan E. Caracterización de la Carrera. Antecedentes. República de Cuba - Ministerio de Educación Superior - Universidad de Matanzas - Carrera Licenciatura en Educación - Lenguas Extranjeras, Inglés - Modelo del Profesional Plan E - Caracterización de la Carrera. La Habana; p. 2)
Though historically present in the elementary and junior high programs in Matanzas since the 19th century, the systematic study of the English language can aspire to include all educational levels only after the 70’s of the 20th century, with yearly graduations of the Higher Pedagogical Institute (ISP, in Spanish) of the province, a branch of the Pedagogical Institute “Enrique José Varona” from Havana until 1977.
Before 1977 Matanzas province has no institution of its own officially qualified to prepare English teachers whatsoever, to work at any level of the educational system of the Cuban Ministry of Education. Studying the history of the teaching of English and the formation of professionals in this field becomes an imperative to reach higher achievements, and to avoid repeating mistakes. Human improvement is possible, and it is our responsibility today to make sure that any future time, owing to historical needs, will always be better… Much better!
Back in 1972 the leadership of the Cuban state faces a truly difficult situation to guarantee professors to the secondary level of education, from seventh to twelfth grades. If no solution is found, this would in turn have serious repercussions on the educational system as a whole, and on the future life of the country itself.
Such a situation compromises the immediate fulfillment of the continuity of the educational policy of the Cuban social project, started with the anti-illiteracy campaign, and of course, all state socio-political, economic and scientific plans.
In spite of the incredulity of some people, the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution finds the key to success among the main characters of the problem itself: Since the dilemma concerns secondary schools students, there is no one better to tackle the problem than those young people themselves.
Hence, with his unmatched future vision and his unwavering trust in Cuban youth, Fidel Castro addresses the very young students who are about to finish the first stage of secondary education, those at tenth grade. He carefully explains the situation to these fifteen-sixteen-year-old adolescents. He speaks plainly, unaffectedly to carry the message about the critical situation the country is going through: The Revolution grows, and there is not enough teaching staff to face the ever-increasing demand that secondary education enrollment poses. Actually there is a very high risk that lots of children of the still younger generations, the younger brothers and sisters of these youngsters themselves, might not be able to continue their regular studies after seventh grade.
Also, Fidel is very eloquent about the disastrous repercussions the current situation would bring to the future of all the Cuban people. He masterly gauges and strikes the most sensitive fibers of the revolutionary youth at the time.
A colossal task is so set before this young generation, and it is vital for the future of Cuba, for the healthy continuity of its revolutionary social project. An unforeseen option is presented. Many of the young people of that time, just as in any epoch, do naturally have their own aspirations, their life projects; but it is imperative to make a big decision. An unexpectedly historic and sublime choice has become unavoidable.
A time of revolutionary effervescence springs up, involving many people and in most diverse ways. Generation contradictions sharpen between youngsters on the one hand, and the older generations of parents and grandparents on the other. Most of the latter have always dreamt of an entirely different future, than that of becoming secondary school teachers for their offspring.
Many young people identify themselves with Fidel Castro’s words, understanding the historic moment they have the privilege of living and decide to take active part in it. Of course, besides the ones who immediately or almost immediately decide to undertake the historic task of their current time, there are those who firmly stick to their vocation for other studies, or those who have a strong feeling that they would never ever become good teachers; and also there are the indifferent ones, who do not even feel they have been addressed to, and won’t take the hint.
Eventually, there are still those feign and pretend to be the “most convinced of all people” and put forward “very revolutionary arguments” to “convince” the indecisive fellow students; but they themselves would never show where the job is to be actually done.
However, life itself and history always do justice to the true men and women of their time. Cuban youth responds at the height of its historic stature. Hundreds of revolutionary young, humble, simple people, the purest souls at the time step forward to meet the call of their country. And they keep doing so time after time, for over a lustrum and more.
Once more Che Guevara’s prophetic words: “This Revolution gives us the opportunity to graduate ourselves as revolutionary people, the highest step of the human species” become apparent. A revolution in education begins with the creation of the University Pedagogical Detachment “Manuel Ascunce Domenech” (DPUMAD, in Spanish), named after the anti-illiteracy campaign adolescent teacher assassinated by counter-revolutionary bandits back in 1961. This new plan raises the unbeaten flags held by the Anti-illiteracy “Conrado Benítez” Brigades, named after another adolescent voluntary teacher also assassinated by counter-revolutionary bandits back at the very beginning of the Campaign in 1961.
The small yet great odyssey for the rescue of the Revolution’s educational masterpiece starts. The direct, immediate role is played by thousands of young men and women eager to fight, to deliver their youthful energy, and the best years of their lives to the cause.
DPUMAD becomes a symbol of the humble but unstoppable and monumental work of Cuban youth in the field of education. Its members are the pioneers of a new era in the history of education in Cuba and the world, without even knowing they are doing so. They are cheerful, happy, jovial, humble, naturally unaffected, tender, shrewd; yet incisive, profound, responsible, and accountable at what they do to the point of astonishing those who have for a split second doubted theywould be capable of bringing the titanic task to success.
In 1972 Matanzas is unable to raise secondary school teaching professionals. There is no specialty with a full team of professors; therefore, it becomes necessary to “import” specialists in quite diverse matters. The vast majority is mainly from Havana, though most of them are not educators: they do not belong to the educational field, but from other,“pure”,sciences.
There arrive graduates in mathematics, chemistry, geography, physics, biology and other specialties. They are excellent professionals, with outstanding academic records, and with a positive attitude which constitutes an example to be followed by their future students. They do also contribute with their share of sacrifice. Some come to do their social service period; others have decided to come all the way from Havana to a school in the countryside in the middle of nowhere in Jagüey Grande (a municipality in the center-south of Cuba) to contribute to the formation of secondary school teachers, and in so doing they have given up very promising, comfortable and interesting posts in the capital of Cuba.
Most of them also face a great challenge: With scarce or no pedagogical training…. they have to model future teachers! In fact, they are supposed to form the future generations of professionals for the National System of Education. That is to say, not just for secondary schools, but for universities as well. Once there is enough teaching force wide-range polytechnic education may begin, friendly countries may be helped educate their peoples…. The sky is the limit!
Regarding English language teaching, specialized personnel orphanage is so acute that it is mandatory to send the members of the first DPUMAD matriculation to Havana, to be trained by the Pedagogical Institute “Enrique José Varona” for a course at least (1972-1973).
The initial group in the specialty of English language teaching in Matanzas comprises just four students: two girls from the Pre-university Institute “José Smith Comas” and a boy from the secondary school “Víctimas de La Coubre” in Cárdenas; and one more girl from the secondary school “Leonel Fraguela” in Colón. These four students meet at Jagüey Grande, together with the rest of the people at the schools-in-the-countryside plan of this municipality of Matanzas province, before they leave for Havana.
Once in another schools-in-the-countryside plan at Ceiba del Agua in Havana province other three students from Matanzas arrive there too (two boys and a girl), summing up seven now. They come from different schools in Havana city. Next course, however, only four do return to Jagüey Grande in Matanzas: curiously enough, they are the same initial four people, who will also be the first graduates from the DPUMAD English language teaching specialty in Matanzas, in 1979.
The next graduation quadruples this figure, and they continue to grow until the fifth and last of the matriculations of the first stage of these new teaching formation plans. Then the baton change will be executed with the new “Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara” project. This is yet another part of this history worthy of being documented in detail as well.
Up to 1977 the most highly qualified English teaching professionals in Matanzas come from two centers in Havana already mentioned before: the Foreign Language Institute “Máximo Gorki” and the Pedagogical Institute “Enrique José Varona”. There are also professors who follow regular part-time courses for workers at the Institute of Educational Perfecting (IPE in Spanish) and another regular part-time course for workers, also a branch of the Pedagogical Institute “Enrique José Varona”.
This is, in outline, the start of the history of the last 46 years of the formation of human resources for the teaching of English in Matanzas. There must still lapse five more years for the foundation of the institution for higher pedagogical studies in Matanzas. It is in 1977 that the ISP “Juan Marinello” is founded, for preparing secondary and pre-university schoolteachers. It is a simple yet emotive celebration in Matanzas main office facilities, located at Matanzas between Medio and Rio Streets, pleasantly entertained by Carlos Puebla and his “Traditionales”.
It is curious to realize how one´s memory tends to fondly recall pleasant memories, while at the same time it gently mitigates, softens, even hide unpleasant ones.
On arriving in Jagüey Grande there is another inevitable generational clash, now among the “old teachers” and the incoming adolescent would-be teachers. The “oldies” brand the “green horns” as “immature”. They can only see spots and stains in the sun. The reaction of the young newcomers can be imagined, regarding the “oldies” as schematic, conservative and even coward, afraid of evolution, and denying the need of changes.
This is something worth meditating about, even more so now with the current study plans, when it is very often becoming necessary to employ young Technical Auxiliaries for Teaching (ATD in Spanish), within the context of the reality of Matanzas Pedagogical University today.
At first there are some difficult, even tough and humiliating scenes staged by people whom life itself takes the burden of correcting or just do away with. Though not too many, there are a few school chairs, teaching and production assistant directors who contemptuouslyand quite unethically address the would-be teachers as “mini-teachers”(“maestricos” in Spanish) in loud, offensive, harsh manners in the presence of school students. Or refer to them, either directly or indirectly, in very disdainful or derogatory terms. There are also a few “oldies” among the teaching staff that look at the newcomers over the shoulder: They are so young and naïve! At times there occur a few very, very tough clashes.
But again, with the passing of time, day after day, the true history is written: Those who dare humiliate the vigorous youth must rectify their positions. They cannot remain oblivious of the facts they witness: the unaffected, natural deeds of these straightforward young people always ready to sacrifice the best of their lives and make themselves present at every minute of the school life of thousands of secondary and high school students. The really good ones among the “oldies” eventually embrace their younger partners in the trench they all love and share. Those who, spluttering, stick to conservative reactionary positions have to withdraw in the end, due to the overwhelming evolution of the new generations upholding the most novel ideas in the field of education. As s matter of fact, those who opposed the presence of the young teachers actually contribute to their growing process and must therefore be thanked for that.
Of course, everything is not wine and roses. There are many shortages, many difficulties. DPUMAD members, full of revolutionary enthusiasm are ardently ready to give it all to the cause, without asking for anything in return; but they also have the disadvantage of lacking enough maturity to understand certain things, to make certain appropriate decisions in due time. And there is no other way but to mature fast, to learn from mistakes, whether their own or others’. There is no backing up.
Quite often students at secondary and high schools are of the same age, give or take, as their DPUMAD teachers. Many students are even older or physically taller or heftier.
But life is full of surprises: In most cases, if you dare take a closer look by gently approaching them, you might feel astonished at how respectfully those students address their teachers; how they love, admire and support them. And that can only be attained with hard work, self-discipline, and endless love. That cannot be bought or imposed with authoritarian behavior, abuse or humiliation.
After returning from Havana, the four would-be teachers of English are sent to different schools to work with… Tenth grade students! This means about no age difference! There are even students who are one or two years older than their teachers! Those first days’ incredulity looks can never be forgotten.
There also come flashbacks, remembrances and thankfulness to those school chairs, directors, assistant directors, methodology specialists and so many others from both Jagüey Grande and Ceiba del Agua, who share their knowledge and expertise during those tough initial years. English teaching trainees are not officially allowed to deliver regular classes or any other kind of direct teaching until their second year of training. Some experienced English language teachers, however, do trust the newcomers so much that they encourage their “teaching” in special motivational groups, under close surveillance for any necessary aid, of course. Some even dare encourage them to deliver a class every now and then, provided they prove to have developed a thorough preparation. Though not yet officially, that very first experience as a “teacher” is quite something to remember and worth writing about!
These school chairs and experienced teachers feel, and are convinced of the fact that all this hard work is for the best, since practical knowledge and skills will be indispensable to prepare and deliver classes when these young trainees face a real classroom the coming year. This training course, far away from home, in the middle of nowhere, proves to be invaluable to succeed in the subsequent years.
Coming back to Jagüey Grande in 1973, though still far, feels like getting back home to old friends, to school mates who will stick together for many more years to come. And no one at the time can still imagine how many more: on October 27, 2018 this first DPUMAD group meets one more time. They regularly meet at least once a year as a huge and growing family.
Remembering Jagüey Grande also means to remember the unforgettable Isolina Carrillo, a great lady, the Methodology Assistant those years: always full of positive energy, with more love each coming year, her distinguished looks, her thick glasses, her books and control documents, her sweet smile, and her loving but demanding look, her never warned class controls, her appropriate advice at the right time. A moment with Isolina Carrillo is an everlasting life experience remembered even today, after so many winters have passed. This is a loving iconic character worth writing about.
The second year of studies also elapses full of contradictions, tripping, setbacks, and successes. This is the year when solid foundation stones are eventually laid, upon which there will grow the prestige of the strength and technical, teaching and educative qualities of the DPUMAD members. Municipal, provincial and national supervision controls happen one after the other in numerous occasions. The results speak for themselves: None of the English teaching DPUMAD members get even an average or mediocre evaluation in any occasion, neither by the very demanding, though lovely, municipal specialist, nor by the provincial specialist, another great human being, Mr. Canito; nor by the tough national inspectors. All evaluations are above standard.
Once may be beginners’ luck, twice might be…. coincidence? But each time such good results….? Well, that is consistency! That is the result of systematic hard work! And the consistent work of the municipal Methodology Assistant, together with her schools chairs and the classes received at the university underlie that entire success story. Thus, there is still more prestige earned, more respect among colleagues and students, who enjoy the good results together with their teachers, because each success also belongs to them!
There is no false modesty or conceit. There is, however, much pride on having just met the expectations of professors and peers, on the basis of sustained effort and sacrifice. There is much pride of being as good as their words.
Methodological meetings become quality time for team working on class and teaching media preparation. Everyone feels great, and eager to meet once more and share ideas, experiences. Isolina Carrillo humbly masterminds all this work.
Towards the end of the 1973-1974 school year the Provincial Bureau of Education in Matanzas decides to do something special with those students who have decided to follow their studies in the DPUMAD. They make the decision to gather all those tenth grade students in the province at a school-in-the-countryside in Jagüey Grande, “Silva Tablada” (a Cuban martyr pilot at the Bay of Pigs). Also, the bureau minutely chooses teaching staff to teach there. Needless to say, all four English DPUMAD first group members are chosen to work there, which constitutes a demonstration of confidence by the educational authorities in the province, as well as a strong commitment for the still fresh would-be teachers of English.
DPUMAD members cannot cover all needs, especially when students begin to arrive from the most remote areas of the easternmost provinces. Then education authorities have to resort to the most advanced high school students, especially trained at their schools of origin and directly supervised at work by school chairs, experienced teachers and DPUMAD members, if needed. These are called “Pedagogical Brigades”. This process is directed and carefully monitored by the municipal and provincial bureaus of education in the province.
Of course, everything is not just work, work, and work. There is also a recreational tradition which begins right in 1972. Every month there is a night meeting at a recreational facility in Jagüey Grande where the work of every school is analyzed in terms of achievements and drawbacks; with the corresponding recognition and measures. There always follows a huge party where all educational workers, not just teachers, meet, get together and share. There is good music, food and drinks. Prices are almost symbolic at the time. Of course, the special day dedicated every year to education workers is never forgotten and the parties are just huge.
On the third year of studies, 1974-1975, the four young would-be teachers of English feel those initial, sometimes sour times are in a very distant past. This is the time when the first trial to constitute a special vocational school in the province is made. Two schools-in-the-countryside (ESBEC in Spanish), are chosen first. They are “Henry Reeve” (Henry Reeve, an American citizen hero of the Cuban war of independence versus Spanish colonialism) and “X Festival” (Tenth Festival of Youth and Students). The following school year another school is added to the project, “Primer Congreso” (First Congress of the Cuban Communist Party). It goes without saying that the four members of the initial DPUMAD matriculation are chosen to work there, which constitutes still another proof of trust.
But the need of English language teachers already knocks at the doors of the Pedagogical branch of the Pedagogical Institute of Matanzas, too. There is an urgent need for qualified personnel to teach English and other subjects to students from junior years belonging to specialties other than English, what is called “Culture English” at the time. Most departments are in a similar position regarding their own subject matters. The most viable solution is to incorporate the most advanced DPUMAD students to face this task, because matriculations are more numerous every time.
A curiosity: The first DPUMAD student processed and approved to work in this kind ofproject in the history of the Pedagogical Institute of Matanzas belongs to the specialty of English language teaching, chosen among the four members of the first group. Other three will follow shortly afterwards, and the forth is requested to stay working at a Pre-university “26 de Julio”. All those chosen to work at the pedagogical institution are called “Student Aids” (Alumnos Ayudantes in Spanish). The second student approved belongs to geography and the third one, too.
Initially all student aids belong to the first DPUMAD matriculation. However, once the initiative proves to be really viable, a good number of advanced students belonging to subsequent matriculations and from several specialties are incorporated to the quotidian life at the pedagogical institution.
Very soon there is a pressing need to teach groups from a number of specialties, English language teaching among them. Again, certified authorities decide to try advanced students at this new task, hence there is a switch from “Culture English” to working with specialty groups which come chronologically later: Integrated English Practice for beginners, English Language Phonetics, Grammar, and other subject matters. This happens during the fourth and fifth years of study. Gradually student aids are instructed to teach about all subjects included in their own curriculum.
The pedagogical branch of the Pedagogical Institute of Matanzas in Jagüey Grande is a nomad institution at first, since it has to move from one facility to another as it grows larger. It must migrate from one to another secondary-school-in-the-countryside (ESBEC in Spanish) from one course to the next, until it has its own special facility in Torriente, a town in Jagüey Grande municipality.
The first DPUMAD group is rather small, about a hundred students, and develops its classes at the ESBEC “Mariscal Antonio José de Sucre”, during the school year of 1972-1973. However, with the advent of the second group more classrooms are needed, and the solution is to prepare the male students’ dormitory lobbies at another ESBEC, “Henry Reeve”, where they develop the second course, 1973-1974.
For next course, 1974-1975, there is still more need of classrooms, to teach the still larger third matriculation and also improve the quality of the teaching process. Then The Municipal Bureau of Education starts preparing a new facility, this time a complete school, “República Popular China”. This becomes a fact after a “stopover” at another also still unfinished new school, “General Pedro Betancourt” (a school named after a General of the Independence War, born in Matanzas province). While the teaching course goes on, the construction of a special facility for the pedagogical institution starts. It is the still operational Pedagogical University Branch “Alberto Fernández Montes de Oca” in the small town of Torriente, Jagüey Grande municipality, Matanzas province.
All DPUMAD students voluntarily contribute to embellish the new facility in their free time. They cleanse every single hall, room, corner; plant trees and flowers in the gardens, you name it! Eventually, course 1975-1976 starts at the new facility specially built to meet the needs of the formation of education professionals. There is even a room specially designed to become a language laboratory!
Over many years the Pedagogical Institute of Matanzas is divided in a number of different and even distant sections. Rectory and central offices, some classrooms a theater and a library are located in a building occupied at present by a school of economy and a branch of the Cuban Exchange Bank (CADECA in Spanish); on the corners and half block of Matanzas, Medio and Río streets, by downtown.
There are many classrooms and all student dormitories, the English Language Teaching, Labor Education and Physical Education departments, as well as a language laboratory, labor education workshops and physical education sports fields at the facilities now occupied by both an elementary and also a secondary school at Peñas Altas, on the beach area of Matanzas city. Collective male and female dormitories for professors are located in apartment buildings at Armando Mestre housing project far from the institute. At a later stage these dormitories are moved to Carlos Marx Vocational School of Matanzas.
Still other classroom sites are used in various places, like the School of Languages of the city, the Institute for the Formation of Elementary School Teachers, the School of Art Instructors, Galainena secondary school and others. It does require strong will, dedication and organizing capacity and skills to make things work smoothly under the circumstances. Yes, everything is a pleasant journey to Varadero Beach!
As mentioned once before, the Pedagogical Institute of Matanzas is officially founded during the first term of the school year 1977-1978. It receives the name of a most relevant Cuban writer and man of ideals; “Juan Marinello”. Founders and guests meet at the facility located in Matanzas city downtown. There is a nice cultural conclusion whose central character is the famous late Cuban singer Carlos Puebla and his band “Carlos Puebla y sus Tradicionales”. His humorous double-meaning songs still echo in the audience, especially in the founders’ ears.
It is only by the start of last century 80’sthat the official facilities of the Pedagogical Institute of Matanzas “Juan Marinello” are inaugurated, though still unfinished.
The study-and-work combination is the formation modality used for DPUMAD graduates is inspired in José Marti’s ideas (José Martí, the Cuban Apostle and National Hero). This study-and-work program actually becomes the crucible where many generations of Cuban education specialists and students are formed.
From day one till graduation the young would-be teachers, aspiring to graduate for working as secondary and high school education professionals, follow the same study-and-work modality as do their students. Therefore, they attend classes at their pedagogical institution during one section; but they spend the rest of the time in the schools they work at, assisting their students.
This means they are not just giving classes at those schools, but they lead student groups to the field and help out technicians to organize, lead and control work at the citrus plantations. Back in schools they also develop administrative school activity controls at the dining rooms, dormitories, and night study sessions. In fact, they participate in every possible activity at schools.
Once DPUMAD members commence working as student aids at the pedagogical institution, they become accountable for a much higher level of responsibility. They initiate a new phase of development as teaching specialists: They have been trusted with the formation of their own university peers! Therefore, class preparation and scientific research time augments. The accuracy of the decision made becomes apparent as time goes by: results are highly satisfactory for all those involved in the process.
Also, as part of their integral formation they take part in scientific research and forums, as oriented in their curricula. The four members of the first DPUMAD group begin scientific research activities quite early, more as a special training motivated by their professors than as required by their syllabuses at the time. They fairly meet success form the very First Scientific Conference held at their pedagogical institution in Torriente.
But now, as student aids scientific research work intensifies. They now work on and present their own research projects and may at times even function as tutors for junior students’ researches. In senior years they are invited to take part as members of scientific conference boards. During their sixth and seventh years of study they already begin presenting research project results at national events they get invited to, and are frequently awarded recognition.
The first graduation of DPUMAD students takes place after five years of intense study and practice,in 1977. It is only shortly before that moment when they are told that they are finishing only a first phase of the entire project. There are still two more years to go, called “Broadening”(Ampliación in Spanish), to be able to actually graduate from the university. This first phase is, give or take, just like a bachelor’s degree!
To everyone’s astonishment, “Broadening” is a two-school-year plan which takes place as a part-time study modality for workers, on Saturdays. To make things much worse, most “Broadening” programs merely repeat the very same subjects already studied during the tough five-school-year regular courses just finished, and using exactly the same texts and exercises, just like faint blueprints.
New subjects are few and mostly culturally complementary. It is general consensus that these new subjects may as well be taken in postgraduate courses. For the English language teaching specialty they are Spanish Elocution (in Spanish of course); General Literature and Latin (in Spanish too), and History and culture of the Caribbean English Speaking Countries (Thanks to its professor’s creativity there is no content repetition in this subject!)
A team of DPUMAD English language teaching graduates even engage in a very serious scientific research project which factually, hence irrefutably demonstrates the obvious: “Broadening” programs are a mere waste of time, resources and effort.
However, nothing is ever done about changing this fact. This period must be minutely studied to draw the necessary lessons and prevent such things from happening again. Actually this demotivated DPUMAD graduates so much, that some did not follow the “Broadening” courses and dropped off in disgust.
After so many years it still feels bad for too many. “Broadening” is the result of the preponderance of conservative ideas of people who never take direct part in the process or do active field work, yet hold decision power, and are incapable of accepting that after “just five courses” (tough, highly demanding study-and-work courses, though) these young people, mostly about twenty-twenty one years old now, deserve becoming university graduates. As to these people university studies must always last about seven years or more. That is the way it has always been!
Luckily enough much time has already passed and these conservative ideas have subsided. They have not yet totally disappeared, though. This may sometime become apparent when discussing the currently starting “Plan E” with its four-course syllabuses.
While studying this new study plan “E”, and under the light shed by the hard working experience of five DPUMAD graduations, over a long, hard studying-and-working period, it becomes a bit difficult to assimilate without minute analysis a statement found in the official presentation of the new syllabus, when analyzing past experiences in the formation of English language teachers at the Higher Pedagogical Institutes (ISP in Spanish) across the country:
“The adjustments made from school year 2000-2001 have been motivated by the need to increment the permanence of trainees at schools, what has negatively impinged on the development of the communicative competence of the foreign language professional, since it has been impossible to apply the principle of systematization, which is vital for a correct command of a foreign language”.(Idem; p. 2)
A question arises: Is the principle of systematization not applied as it should because of the increase of school insertion training time, or because it has just become impossible to do a systematic follow up of trainees during insertion time due to some other reason or reasons, not necessarily inability to do so.
However, this is just but an outline of the vast research field to be documented in order to be able to write the true history of the teaching of English language, as well as the formation of professionals to do so in Matanzas province, Cuba.
These are just some initial “brushstrokes” so far on this interesting history. Let us hope this small piece will motivate a number of English language teaching and other professionals to eagerly embark on this task.
The objective study of this rich history may furnish professionals in the field with vital knowledge to carry out the teaching of foreign languages, not just English, and reach higher stages of development in the province. This way learning the lessons of history may prevent tripping with ancient obstacles, and let us grow.
There is much to minutely document about the teaching of English language in Matanzas province. Let us suffice to mention some possible edges:
- Institutions: (language schools, provincial and municipal IPE institutions, the polytechnic tourism institution in Varadero, Matanzas ISP, Matanzas UMCC)
- Contingency formation plans for specialized personnel for tourism in the province
- The teaching of the English language at Matanzas University, right from its early beginnings last 20th century at 100thMedio Street in downtown Matanzas, until today
- Outstanding people who must never be forgotten on account of their relevant role in the teaching of English and also in the formation of English language professionals
- English language teaching and the growth of the tourism industry in the province
- DPUMAD “Broadening” programs
- History of DPUMAD
- History of “Ernesto Guevara” school teacher formation plan as continuity of DPUMAD
- Qualitative study of graduations at ISPJM from mid 20th century 80’s, and the successive study plans changes in the given historic contexts
- Documentation of the history of the teaching of English language in each municipality of the province. Institutions. People of interest
- Lack of complete staff personnel at the Department of English Language Teaching at ISPJM from 20th century 80’s to the present time
- Minute documentation of the history of English language teaching in higher education in the province
- And more….
Ministerio de Educación Superior. (2016); Modelo del Profesional Plan E. Caracterización de la Carrera. Antecedentes. República de Cuba - Ministerio de Educación Superior - Universidad de Matanzas - Carrera Licenciatura en Educación - Lenguas Extranjeras, Inglés - Modelo del Profesional Plan E - Caracterización de la Carrera. La Habana; (p. 2).
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