Education Launches a New Offensive against the “Weekly Packet”

Un cubano accediendo a 'El Paquete' desde su laptop en casa. (14ymedio)
A Cuban accessing the “Weekly Packet” from his laptop at home (14ymedio)

Under the name  To Educate Yourself, the Ministry of Education announced Thursday a collection of documentaries, films and music that it will begin distributing monthly in its learning facilities during the current academic year. In open competition with the illegal  weekly  packet of audio-visual material, this official rival seeks to establish itself as “an attractive offering of Cuban education” through content of “good taste.”

The compendium is aimed at those among whom the  weekly packet is a hit. The majority of Cuban children and teens frequently watch cartoons, video clips, series and films that are distributed on the black market. In order to compete with those materials, the Ministry announces that its offering has “a search engine so that the user is not lost searching among more than a terabyte of data.”

The new product will include courses and tutorials for the self-study of foreign languages, computation, agriculture, and masonry, as Barreto detailed. Some materials will be accompanied by animated graphics and a tool to display video, text and photos at the same time, reported the official.

However, the official announcement did not address how copyrights will be managed on  To Educate Yourself. Cuban television and national media frequently overlook payment for rights to films, concerts and musical recordings, especially those coming from the United States, which are the majority.

Divided into folders, like its rival alternative, the file will contain a section called  Learn to Look with “expert commentaries and interesting facts so that the young form critical judgment about what they are watching,” Barreto specified.

The Cinesoft manager added that a second  packet aimed at teachers and entitled  The Teaching Library will also be distributed every fifteen days and will consist of books, articles and theses.

Given the serious material problems which plague labs in many of the country’s learning centers,  To Educate Yourself will include a collection of virtual labs for Physics, Chemistry and Biology so that “when [the students] truly perform the exercise, there will be less risk that they will break some implement or spill a substance.”

This is not the first time that the government has tried to compete with the  weekly packet. Distribution in Youth Clubs of the  Backpack, a collection of audio-visual materials, began in August 2014; so far it has had a poor popular reception.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

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