15 Facts on Cuba and its Education System

January 8th, 2015


On December 17, 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba and ease economic restrictions on the nation. The President also said the U.S. will move towards re-opening its embassy in the communist nation and allow some travel, education and cultural exchange and trade that had been banned under a decades-long embargo instated during the Kennedy administration.

With recent developments in the renewal of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, we thought it would be good to start the new year by sharing a few facts on Cuba and its education system.

Country Facts


Here are 15 facts on Cuba:

1. The official name of Cuba is the Republic of Cuba.

2. Cuba is the largest of all islands in the Caribbean. The country also includes more than 4000 other much smaller islands and cays.

3. The capital and largest city of Cuba is Havana or “La Habana” in Spanish.

4. Cuba has a population of 11,047,251 (July 2014 est.)

5. Original indigenous inhabitants of Cuba were the Guanajatabey people followed by the Ciboney and Taíno tribes. In 1492, Christopher Columbus arrived on the island and claimed it as a Spanish territory.

6. Cuba remained a Spanish colony until the Spanish-American War of 1898 when the country became part of the United States. The country was given independence in 1902.

7. The United States had a strong influence over the island until 1959, when communist revolutionaries, led by Fidel Castro, overthrew the Government of Batista. Castro himself stepped aside in 2008 due to health complications succeeded by his brother Raul Castro as President.

8. The United States pays Cuba approximately $4,085 a year to lease the 45 square miles that the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station occupies. Cuba has not accepted the payment since 1959.

9. Cuba is renown for its music, bands play everywhere in the capital Havana. The main musical form is called son, which is a combination of upbeat rhythms with classical guitar.

10. Sugar from sugar cane is the main crop grown in Cuba, followed by tobacco which is used in the making of hand-crafted cigars that are famous for being the finest cigars in the world.

11. Nickel is Cuba’s most important mineral resource at 21% of total exports in 2011 nearly 4% of the world’s production.

12. In a traditional Cuban meal the food is not served in courses, instead all the food is served at the same time.

13. Baseball is the most popular sport in Cuba by far. The country is also dominant in boxing and has produced a number of Olympic boxing champions. Other sports of interest include basketball, volleyball, cricket, football (soccer) and athletics.

14. The game of dominoes is extremely popular in Cuba.

15. As of 2013 Cuba has 9 sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list, 7 of these cultural sites and 2 of them natural.

Education Facts

University of Havana

Here are 15 facts on Cuba’s education system:

1. Since 1961, the educational system in Cuba has been run by the state nationalizing private institutions at all levels of education

2, The education system is 100% subsidized by the government, meaning that Cuban students at all levels can attend school for free. The Cuban government has been investing a substantial part of its budget into education for many years.

3. According to a 2014 report by The World Bank, Cuba has the best education system in Latin American and the Caribbean and the only country on the continent to have a high-level teaching faculty. The World Bank Report also praises Cuba for its success in the fields of education and health, with social services that exceeds those of most developing countries and, in certain sectors, are comparable to those of the developed nations. The country’s social system that ensures state-sponsored universal access to education and health services has helped Cuba to achieve universal literacy, eradicate certain diseases and provide universal access to safe drinking water and basic public sanitation. Cuba now has one of the region’s lowest infant mortality rates and longest life expectancies.

5. Cuba is also the nation in the world that allocates the highest share of its national budget, 13 percent, to education.*

6. Education is compulsory for children from the ages of 6 to 16.

7. Students attend primary school for six years, after which they proceed to basic secondary or high school for a period of 3–4 years.

8. On completion of the basic secondary level, education splits into two categories: pre-university education and technical or professional training. A pre-university education leads to a Bachillerato diploma; completion of technical or professional training enables students to attend one of the country’s many technological institutes.

9. From an early age, children are indoctrinated in their schools with the government’s political beliefs of communism. Parents who violate this code by teaching their children contrary doctrine face the prospect of prison.

10. All universities and technical schools are run by the Ministry of Higher Education (Ministerio de Education Superior – MES). The MES is responsibilities include managing the schools, regulating teaching methodology and courses, establishing educational policies and ensuring all the schools comply with government standards.

11. Cuba has over 47 universities with a total enrolment of over 400,000 students. The older and more well known universities in Cuba include:
• The University of Havana
• Universidad de Oriente
• Universidad Central de Las Villas
• Universidad Catolica de Santo Tomas de Villanueva
• Universidad Masonica
• Universidad de La Salle en Nuevo Vedado

12. The requirements for entering a university or technical institute of higher education in Cuba are as follow:
• Students must show proof of completing a secondary education
• Students must pass college entrance exams
• Men must show proof of having completed compulsory military service or proof of non-compliance due to medical reasons or family obligations

13. Political Clearance: Students must be cleared by the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution before they are allowed to take the university entrance examinations. Students demonstrating good political standing in relation to their Communist beliefs receive a letter of approval allowing them to take college entrance exams. Students with a “poor” political standing may be “blacklisted” from furthering their education.

14. Distance education is available for students in Cuba to study for a professional career. There are approximately 15 centers for distance education throughout Cuba providing degrees in the following career choices: History, Law, Finance and Accounting, Economics and Science and Technology. Requirements for distance education include completion of secondary education, one year work experience and being between 25 and 35 years of age. Male students must also show proof having completed mandatory military service.

15. There are three stages in the university system which include the following:

Stage 1- The Licenciatura (Bachelor’s degree equivalent) or professional degree (Titulo) is the first stage of university studies requiring completion of 4-5 years of study. A degree in medicine may require 5 to 6 years to complete.

Stage 2 – The second stage of higher education consists of three levels: Diplomado, Maestria and Especialista. Within each of these levels, students must complete a minimum of 200 hours in theory, practicum and internship. Upon completion of this stage, which generally lasts for two years, students are awarded the degree of Diplomado, Maestria or Especialista (equivalent to the Mater’s degree).

Stage 3 – The third stage of higher education is to obtain a Doctoral Degree. Students must study for 3 to 4 years before they are considered for candidacy in a Doctoral program. Once they are approved for candidacy, students are admitted into the Doctoral Program where they will conduct their scientific research, defend the findings of their work and finally be awarded their Doctoral Degree.

*Salim Lamrani, Cuba : les médias face au défi de l’impartrialité, Paris, Estrella, 2013, p. 40.



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5 Helpful Blogs on New Year’s Resolutions for Students

January 2nd, 2015


We hope your holidays were happy and fun and you’re ready to take on the New Year.

The start of the New Year is when many of us make resolutions in hopes of getting rid of bad habits and making positive changes to our lives. But for most, even those with the strongest willpower, sticking to our resolutions for the course of the year can become difficult. Life gets in the way and throws us off the track by inundating us with everyday tasks, the stress of juggling school, work, family, or all. We simply lose the motivation we had at the start of the year.

Don’t beat yourself up. Not being able to carry out all your New Year’s resolutions is nothing to be ashamed of! We can only imagine how challenging this must be for college students who have to balance school work and a social life and perhaps a part-time job while away from home and the support system offered by family.

We realize the popular New Year’s resolutions tend to be exercise more, lose weight, spend less and save more, but international and U.S. students can use this as an opportunity to prepare for the year ahead.

Here are a few blogs which we’d like to recommend that offer great tips on how to plan your New Year as a student:

5 Tips for Making a New Year’s Resolution for 2015 by Christina Bowers


5 New Year’s Resolutions International Students Should Make, by Bryanna Davis


7 New Year’s Resolutions for Students by Laura Bridgestock


College Student’s New Year’s Resolution by Dave Berry


Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for College Students


But if you ask our advice, make only one resolution. Instead of packing a litany of resolutions on your list, try focusing on one and set a deadline. If you need the help and support of a friend, reach out to one and set up a buddy system, someone who can check in with you and see how you’re doing or you can check in with them and update them on your progress or give you a friendly nudge or reminder when needed. Getting one resolution checked off successfully from your list is a
huge accomplishment. You can always add a second one to the list.

And finally, don’t be hard on yourself. Have fun and make it a great year!

From all of us here at ACEI, we wish you a




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Advanced Business Management Concepts: Helping Integrate Iran into the Global World Economy

December 18th, 2014


The 1979 Iranian Revolution caused an exodus of its people who left the country in search of safer havens. You can say that the Iranian Revolution helped globalize Iranians by creating a large diaspora scattered throughout different continents. According to various sources, in 2010, there were an estimated four to five million Iranians living abroad, mostly in North America, Europe, Persian Gulf States, Turkey, Australia and the broader Middle East. Their combined net worth is estimated at $1.3 trillion (2006 est.)

In 2000, the Iran Press Service reported that Iranian expatriates had invested between $200 and $400 billion in the United States, Europe, and China, but almost nothing in Iran. One Iranian has chosen to return to Iran and invest in the country. Recognizing mismanagement as Iran’s curse at both the private and public sectors, an Iranian expatriate, Rouzbeh Pirouz, decided to do something about it in 2007 and conceived the Iranian Business School (IBS), a graduate institution in Tehran, Iran, focused on teaching Iranians advanced business management concepts.

IBS started offering classes in 2010 and already hundreds of Iranian men and women have enrolled and attended classes. In cooperation with Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland, IBS is offering an Executive MBA (EMBA) program.

On Oct. 4, 2013, the IBS received an Office of Foreign Assets Control license from the U.S. government allowing it to raise funds as a charity in the United States and to bring American faculty to teach in Tehran and pay them.

Admission to IBS requires the Karshenasi (undergraduate degree equivalent to the US Bachelor’s), five years of work experience and English language proficiency. TOEFL and IELTS test scores may be required of those who had completed their previous studies at a non-English speaking institution.

Classes at IBS are structured to include lectures, seminars, case studies and interactive simulations highlighting the challenges of managing business in Iran. International experts, mainly prominent Iranian-origin academics, will work closely with the local faculty. Programs at IBS are bilingual: Persian (Farsi) and English.

Mr. Pirouz believes that isolating Iran only helps the hard-liners and not the people. According to Mr. Pirouz: “An Iran integrated in the global economy, with a growing private sector, will be good for Iran and the world.” He hopes that IBS will help promote this vision through its cohorts of graduates and help from the Iranian diaspora.

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
President & CEO, ACEI



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Caveat Emptor! Buyer (Student) Beware! Pitfalls to avoid in pursuit of higher education

December 11th, 2015


Are you thinking of getting a college education? Do you believe that a college education will help you excel in the job market? Do you want to graduate debt free? Do you want to get a diploma or degree that is recognized by employers and other colleges? Then, don’t get seduced by the glitz and hype of some for-profit colleges promising you guaranteed employment and easy access to higher education. Don’t let them lure you into believing that you’re getting an education that’s going to be worth something. It will be worth something alright, tuition so high which you can only pay by taking on huge student loans that you would need to pay off whether or not you complete your program.

What boggles the mind is how unaware we are of the very affordable and accessible community college systems in our very own backyards. So unaware, that people turn to the private for-profits as their salvation to acquiring higher education with a chance to land a good job once they graduate. It has a lot to do with marketing something the community colleges don’t but private for-profits do with a vengeance. They advertise on TV, radio, print, online and take huge bill boards on city streets and freeways. They recruit aggressively and pay their recruiters a commission. Some even take drastic measures in their recruiting tactics like the for-profit college in Florida that used strippers and exotic dancers to impersonate admissions officers in an effort to lure the unsuspecting male candidates to register. This college, which was shut down in June 2012 after an FBI raid, falsified high school diplomas for students who hadn’t graduated from high school or didn’t have one, falsified financial aid and grant applications, and if that wasn’t enough falsified attendance records and backdated students’ enrollments to make sure they qualified for aid.

The for-profit college in Florida is not alone in its complicity to bilk millions of dollars of federal funds under the guise of student loans. Recently, the spotlight was thrown on another college with charges of misleading students into committing to unaffordable loans by falsely advertising job prospects, then using illegal debt collection tactics to force distressed students to pay up, according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. So that 40,000 students enrolled in this college’s 50 plus campuses aren’t left in the lurch, the US Department of Education is helping broker a deal with a nonprofit student loan guarantee agency to buy the failing college. It’s a mess and the students are the ones who’re left with a huge debt burden. All this could have been avoided had the students received honest and proper counseling at the high school level about access to higher education opportunities through the community college system.

For the uninitiated, in the United States, community colleges, sometimes called junior colleges, technical colleges, two-year colleges, or city colleges, are primarily two-year public institutions providing higher education and lower-level tertiary education, granting certificates, diplomas, and associate’s degrees. Many also offer continuing and adult education. After graduating from a community college, some students transfer to a four-year liberal arts college or university for two to three years to complete a bachelor’s degree. They also offer career education to the traditional two-year student who graduates with an Associate Degree and directly enters the workforce

US community colleges need to better promote themselves by spreading the word about their programs, accessibility, affordability and opportunities. They need to do this to help serve their community so that people don’t fall prey to the false promises of college degrees and prospects of employment by those who have nothing but their own best interest and profit margins at heart.

For a list of community colleges, please visit the links below:



The Frustrated Evaluator

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Dispatches from AIRC Annual Conference, Miami, FL

December 5th, 2014


I arrived in Miami this past Tuesday with Yolinisse Moreno, our Assistant Director of Marketing, for our first AIRC (American International Recruitment Council) Conference on a blustery night and rush hour traffic that made Los Angeles congested freeways pale in comparison. Our full days at the booth and afternoon receptions have left us little time and energy to explore the city. And, another full day on Friday at the booth before our flight back to Los Angeles in the evening means that we will not get to see the sights or taste the flavors of Miami. At least, not this time but perhaps next year, since Miami is AIRC’s designated venue for its annual conference

The goal of AIRC is to focus on the issues of international student recruitment and this conference offers multiple networking opportunities with recruitment professionals from US colleges and universities and private agencies. As the provider of international credential evaluations, ACEI hopes to bring awareness of its services to the AIRCE members and forge new relationships.

Hosting the annual conference on international recruitment in Florida is very appropriate given that according to 2014 IIE Open Doors, the State of Florida ranks #7 amongst the top destinations for study by international students. The institutions with the highest number of international students include the University of Florida (Gainesville), University of Miami (Miami), Florida International University (Miami), University of South Florida (Tampa), Florida State University (Tallahassee). The countries leading with the highest number of students studying in Florida include China, India, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil.

Though the number of attendees is smaller than those of other professional conferences, we find the intimate set up of the exhibit hall and its close proximity to meeting rooms conducive to connecting with college representatives and recruiters. Some of the conference session topics at AIRC include: Beyond the Rankings, Marketing ‘Right Fit’ to Chinese Students, Falsification of Educational Credentials, The Student Perspective-Agent Use and Services, Emerging Markets: Malaysia and Myanmar, to name a few.

In today’s rapidly changing international student landscape, with new emerging markets competing with the U.S. institutions of higher education, ACEI’s flexibility in providing comprehensive evaluations that include additional information to meet the unique needs of a college are seen as a plus. Our take away from the AIRC conference is that several institutions expressed their disappointment in having relied solely on the services a single credential evaluation service provider. They realize that their international students as well as their own institutions benefit by having options in choosing between a select and not one approved evaluation service companies. And, happily for us, they see ACEI as a preferred option.

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
President & CEO, ACEI



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ACEI Annual report 2014

November 27th, 2014


Dear Friends of ACEI,

As we near Thanksgiving, we wanted to take time and reflect on the year and thank you for your continued support and confidence in ACEI.

2014 has been a significant year for ACEI in that it marks our 20th anniversary. Twenty years ago in April 1994, ACEI opened the doors of its first office on 280 South Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, CA and began to offer its international credential evaluation services to schools, institutions of higher education, state regulatory boards, federal agencies, and employers of small and large businesses across the USA.

In the past 20 years, we have weathered the September 11 attacks and the economic recession that triggered a decline in the number of international students coming to the US. We remained steadfast and true to our mission by not compromising. We have continued to this date to offer a service, unmatched in the industry. We pride ourselves in providing superior talent to deliver high-quality evaluation and translations aligned with your institutions or organizations key objectives. We do so with flexibility and nimbleness that fit your objectives-not ours. Our attention to detail, adherence to standards and best practices, and commitment to provide personal assistance to our international students and institutional and organizational clients are the hallmarks of ACEI’s principles since its inception in 1994.

At ACEI, delivering results that exceed your expectations is our top priority. And, to demonstrate our commitment to excellence in client relations, we opened three new mail processing centers, expanded our client relations phone services to 24-hour seven days a week, and began offering customized applications for evaluation to meet the needs of U.S. institutions.

Some of the highlights of our achievements in 2014 include the launch of our new user-friendly website http://www.acei-global.org containing instructions and information for the international candidates as well as the U.S. institutions and organizations requiring our services. We even gave our logo a facelift! In addition, we issued several informative guides on international education concerning detecting credential fraud, glossary of educational terminologies, and tips on selecting a credential evaluation service.

We continued our research endeavors in the field of international education with our posts in our blog Academic Exchange (40,000 subscribers) and articles in our newsletter The Report: Education News From Around the World. In both our blog and newsletter we explore and share a myriad of topics related to credential evaluation, study abroad, language, education policies, travel, arts, culture and science. As part of our ongoing professional development, we presented at webinars and attended various conferences such as CCID, NAFSA, NAGAP, and NACAC. At this year’s NAFSA national conference in San Diego we hosted a reception and celebrated our 20th anniversary with several of our friends from various US and overseas institutions.

Over the years, we have remained dedicated to developing our team, strengthening our capabilities, and building trusting relationships with you. We are excited for the future and the opportunity to continue working with you in these areas to exceed your expectations.

On behalf of the ACEI family, we thank you and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and Holiday season.

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
President & CEO, ACEI

Alan A. Saidi
Vice-President & COO


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Rewriting History, One Textbook At A Time

November 20th, 2014

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” George Orwell

There is an epidemic and it is sweeping across continents, again. I’m not speaking of an infectious disease that is rapidly spreading and infecting a large swath of the population. I am speaking of a different kind of an epidemic that has happened before and is happening again. It’s target: school textbooks.

Recently in Russia, a purge has started where hundreds of textbooks that for many years have been used by the schoolchildren and their teachers at the country’s 43,000 schools have been scrapped and deemed unsuitable. The reasons given have been a series of bureaucratic nitpicking mixed with accusations of unpatriotic content. Not only has this rash ban on textbooks by the Ministry of Education and Science upset curriculum and lesson plans, angered principals, teachers and parents, but is also threatening the livelihood of the small publishers for the textbook market. The purge, however, appears to have cleared the way for Enlightenment–a publishing house that used to be the sole provider of school textbooks during the Soviet era–whose CEO is a close friend of Mr. Putin, Russia’s President. To get an idea of how Enlightenment, ended up in such a cushy position, please read the article by Jo Becker and Steven Lee Myers in the New York Times. Now that the power of textbook publishing rests in the hands of a publisher with ties to the former Soviet era and the country’s current ruling powers, one is apt to expect that the content of history textbooks will soon be revised to meet the political views of those in charge today.

Next, we head over to China, where education officials are thinking of changing elementary and middle school textbooks to include more subjects on Chinese philosophy and literature in an effort to emphasize China’s cultural heritage. If the Ministry of Education approves these changes, they would go into effect next September in time for the new school year. What is unclear is if these changes are approved which components of the existing curricula will be dropped to make room for the new subjects? Are there any qualified teachers in China who are available to teach the traditional Chinese language and literature? The young teachers today were educated under the influence of Chinese Communism. Most of the experienced teachers with knowledge of these traditional subjects are long gone. How will these subjects be taught in today’s modern China?

Moving on to Japan and South Korea, we see their respective Prime Minister and President, each pushing to have high school history textbooks rewritten to reflect their political views. The Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe has instructed the country’s Ministry of Education to revise the textbooks so that they are more patriotic and no longer include Japan’s atrocities during WWII. The South Korean, President, Ms. Park Geun-hye, wishes to downplay and do away with Korea’s history of collaboration with the Japanese colonial authorities and have the textbooks rewritten so that Koreans are seen as having been coerced into collaboration rather than having done so willingly. Much of this push has to do with the fact that a majority of South Korea’s professionals and elite members of the civil service come from families that did in fact collaborate with the Japanese colonizers.

And, right here in the USA, we recently heard news of students and teachers in Jefferson County, Colorado, protesting a controversial conservative plan to change the AP U.S. History curriculum to stress more positive elements and “promote patriotism and avoid encouragement of civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.” The students, their parents and teachers opposing the proposed changes see them as censorship and an attempt by the conservative board to rewrite history in accordance to its own political views.

I’m sure by now you see the common thread amongst the sampling of countries mentioned in this blog. There’s no better way to sum this up but with this quote from “The Lost Sisterhood,” by the writer Anne Fortier: “He always says that those who control the present can rewrite the past.”


The Frustrated Evaluator


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