Cuban School Uniforms

Figure 1.--Cuban school children wear white shirts and redish maroon pants or suspender skirts. The yonger boys wear shorts and the older boys longs. The younger children also wear blue scarves. I'm not sure how they qualify for the red scarves.

Cuban school children wear red pants or suspender skirts. Many of the younger elementary children wear short pants. I don't know if this was a requirement, but most of the younger boys wear shorts. The children wear white shirts with blue and red Young Pioneer kerchiefs. The two colors signify different stages of participation in the Communist Party youth group. Once the boys earn their red scarves, more and more wear long pants.

School Levels

Cuba has nursery and other pre-schools. The principal school ptohram is divided into primary and secondary levels. Kindergarten is for children 4-6 years of age. The children learn the national anthem, class discpline, and well as the beginning steps with masth and reading. The primary program is 6 years. The children are 6-11 yeats old. Secondary schools are divided into two levels, basic and supper levels. An alternative to the upper level is technical secondary. Basic secondary is a 3 year program for children 12-15 years of age. The children completing the program receive the Secondary School Completion Diploma. These students can choose between pre-university education and technical and professional education. The upper scecondary schools offer a 3 year program for children 15-18 years of age. There is both a ciclo medio superior or preuniversitario. The graduates receive a Bachillerato (Secondary School Leaving Certificate). The technical secondaries also offer a 3 year program for students 15-18 years of age. These students can persue two levels of qualification: skilled worker and middle-level technician. Graduates can attend technological institutes.


Students are required to do agriculture work as part of the school program. I do not know a lot about this. One report indicates that there are work sessions three times a week. Often this involves work with sugar cane, the country's most important crop.


The Communist Party has a monopoly on education in Cuba. There are no private or religious schools permitted. The success the Church is having with young Cubans generates episodes of intolerance. A Cuban source reported an incident which provides a good example of the status of education in Cuba. The incident occurred on November 21, 2000, in a high school in the Havana suburb of Aguada de Pasajeros. One of the grade 5 pupils let a picture of the Island's patroness Our Lady of Charity, drop out of a book. The teacher, Olga Lidia, became enraged when she saw it and tore it to pieces. She warned the class not to bring religious pictures to school. When the pupils parents complained to the headmaster, the reply was "In Cuba education is the duty of the state and not the right of the parents". Government intolerance and repression towards Catholics grows. The latest move is a law which suspends diplomas or degrees of professionals who enter a seminary or Religious Order. In recent years a number of medical doctors have entered a seminary or joined a Jesuit or Franciscan community. Under this new law, as priests or Religious these physicians will be barred from practicing their profession.

Soviet Influence

It comes as no surprise that East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria have all adopted educational systems that mirror substantial features of Soviet practice. After all, the regimes in these countries are very much the original creations of Soviet military power. But other communist countries that are less dominated by a Soviet presence, for example, Cuba, Vietnam, and China have also borrowed heavily from Soviet models of education. Their schools have, among others, the following characteristics in common: they are overwhelmingly secular in orientation; a common school is provided through at least grades seven or eight; little or no tuition charge is made; schools are mostly coeducational; the curricula are tightly prescribed, as are the textbooks, to reflect communist orthodoxy; students are offered few electives; the ideal of polytechnical education is supposed to guide the content and practice of teaching and learning; and a good deal of use is made of youth organizations, such as Octobrists, Young Pioneers, or Young Communists, working closely with the schools. Among the communist nations, only China (and, of course, Albania) have formally stated their intention to veer away from the Soviet pattern of schooling. The other nations show variations from the Soviet model, but these tend to be minor or, as in the case of Poland and Hungary, necessary concessions to the popularity of the Roman Catholic Church.

Cadet Program

Cuban secondary schools have a mandatory cadet program which provide basic military training.

Figure 2.--Notice how all the younger children wear blue scarves. The children seem to progress to the red carves as a group rather than indicidually.

Uniform Garments

Cuban school children wear a simple, but standardized school uniform. Cuban school children wear red pants or suspender skirts. Many of the younger elementary children wear short pants. The children wear white shirts with blue and red Young Pioneer kerchiefs. The two colors signify different stages of participation in the Communist Party youth group. The uniform varies by school level. Kindergarten children wear a white top, blue bottom, and blue scarf. Primary children wear a white top, red bottom, and red scarf. The secondary school uniform is a white top and yellow bottom. The Plantation Schools have a white top and navy blue bottom. Medical school students wear a white top and purple bottom.


Despite the hot tropical sun, school children do not wear caps.


The children wear blue and red Young Pioneer kerchiefs. The two colors signify different stages of participation in the Communist Party youth group. Once the boys earn their red scarves, more and more wear long pants.


School children wear white shirts. The boys wear white short sleeved shirts with collars. Many of the girls appear to wear shirts without collars.


Cuban girls wear red suspender skirts. The suspender affairs appear to be a required element of the uniform.


Cuban boys wear redish-maroon pants. The younger elementary children wear short pants. HBC does not know if this is a school or national requirement, but the younger boys all seem to be wearing shorts. Perhaps at a certain grade or age the uniform switched from shorts to longs.

Buying Schoolwear in Cuba

Cuban school children have no alternatives concerning their school clothes. Clothing is rationed in Cuba. Parents do not have to purchase their children's school uniforms. The uniforms are issued by the Government. The younger children (grades 1-4) for years received short pants and the older boys (grades 5 and up) received long pants. Girls received suspender cullotes. The Goverment announce in 1998 that they were going to issue shorts for 5 and 6th graders as an economy measure. A January 1998 press report, "Cuba schoolboys to get shorts pants,"indicated, "Cuba is cutting pants to cut costs, declaring that is replacing schoolboys' slacks with shorts to save cloth. Cuban fifth- and sixth-graders soon will be issued Bermuda shorts, with hems hitting just below the knees, the communist government said this week. The Communist Party daily Granma said the measure would allow the government to produce 28,000 more school uniforms for Cuban children for the 1998-99 school year. The move is among a series of austerity measures Cubans can expect this year as the government struggles to overcome the economic crisis that began almost a decade ago. The economy shrank by 35 percent between 1989 and 1994 with the collapse of Cuba's socialist trading partners in Eastern Europe. While the economy has been growing at a modest rate, the government is looking for additional ways to save money and become more self-sufficient. The school uniform change is part of that strategy. The government also is moving to become more independent in food production in an attempt to cut down on the costs of importing food. Cuban officials said in late December that they expect only modest economic growth in 1998, a smaller sugar harvest and continued economic austerity measures. The party newspaper put a positive spin on the change in school uniforms, saying it better fit with `the actual tendencies of fashion and climate in our country.' All Cuban children attend government schools and are issued uniforms with white shirts or blouses. Younger boys receive shorts and older boys wear long pants. Girls wear culottes."


Careful, clicking on these will exit you from the Boys' Historical Clothing web site, but several are highly recommended

  • Apertures Press New Zealand book: New book on New Zealand schools available
  • School Uniform Web Site: Informative review of British school uniforms with some excellent photographs
  • British Preparatory Schools: A photographic book depicting life at British preparatory schools during the 1980s. Most of the schools are English or Scottish, but schools in Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, and Ulster are also included. The pictures show the uniforms worn at many different schools.
  • Information: Information about school uniforms in America


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    Created: January 4, 2001
    Last updated: 11:09 PM 2/1/2007