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1959 marked a watershed in Cuban history. Tyranny had left an unsavory legacy across all spheres of society including education: of a population of five and a half million, 23.6% people over the age of 15 were illiterate.

The Moncada Program, referenced by the leader of the Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, speaking in his own defense on trial for the attack on the Moncada Garrison, July 26, 1953, highlighted Cuban society’s most pressing problems, including universal access to free education – a feat later achieved by the Revolution. Today Cuba has met teacher coverage and literacy targets for basic education, outlined in the World Conference on Education Action Plan, held in Jontien (Thailand).

Figures from the United Nations Development Program rate the average number of years of education received by Cubans aged over 25 at 11.5. Meanwhile the expected years of schooling, that is the total number of years of schooling (primary to tertiary) that a child can expect to receive is 13.8 years (almost up to the second year of university education). Likewise, with a population of 11.27 million inhabitants, Cuba has more than one million university graduates.

Although much remains to be done, efforts must continue to follow the path charted 57 years ago, when the official discourse changed to focus on transforming schools into the epicenter of Cuban cultural life; an initiative which also addressed global illiteracy with the creation of the Yo, sí puedo (Yes, I can) method which has taught over nine million people in 30 countries to read and write…an achievement which transformed the country’s reality after January 1, 1959, and today continues to be reshaped in search of better education for all.

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