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Few countries can compare themselves to Cuba where literary rates approach 100 per cent.  Cuban education is good in terms of both quality and the breadth and equality of its' application.  Education has been at the heart of the revolutionary process in Cuba and its educational systems are widely seen as amongst the best in the world.  Free education is a universal right up to and including higher education. Pre-Revolution, education was the privilege of the wealthy and there were few schools in rural areas.

Cuba provides a free and comprehensive education to its' young people that exceeds the quality of that provided by many of the so-called developed nations.  There are no privatised schools in Cuba and in the universal state system colour and social status have no impact on student opportunity.  Any person can progress as far as he or she wishes, and Cuba enjoys the distinction of producing the highest proportion of university and tertiary level graduates in all of the Americas. As a result, the Cuban National Education System is a source of pride to all Cubans.

 In 1959, at the time of the triumph of the revolution, 30% of the 7 000 000 Cubans were illiterate and as few as 150 000 Cubans had more than five years of schooling. There were more than half a million children without schools and more than ten thousand teachers without work. Of the 6,000 doctors at the time, only 3,000 stayed in Cuba after 1959.  Literacy was one of the first priorities of the Cuban revolution. A huge campaign was launched across the nation and in the first two years more than 1,000,000 Cubans learned to read and write. Today, education remains a priority. Literacy rates are better than 95% and nine years of schooling are obligatory.

A mass literacy campaign was initiated in 1960, designed to educate the entire population, with particular focus on the poor in rural areas who up until then had been neglected.  The Great Literacy Campaign of 1960-61 was run by almost 100,000 volunteers and saw illiteracy levels drop from 42% to 4% in under a year. Literacy rates now stand at 99.8%.  More recent campaigns include Cuba's ‘Yo Si Puedo’ (Yes I can) teaching method has taught more than nine million people to read and write throughout the world.

Of Cuba's 11,000,000 people, 600,000 are university graduates, including 64,000 doctors. With just two percent of Latin America's population, Cuba has almost twelve percent of the region's scientists. Cuban professionals are in demand in many parts of the world.

World leaders in Education

According to World Bank figures, Cuba spends more as a proportion of its GDP on education than any other country in the world. Between 2009-2013 it spent 12.9% compared to 6% in Britain and 5.4% in the US.  "Mobile teachers" are deployed to homes if children are unable to go to school.  School meals and uniforms are free for everyone. Many schools provide free morning and after-school care for working parents with no extended family.

There are now 23 medical schools in Cuba, up from only 3 in 1959 before the Cuban Revolution

Nina Lakhani writes on Cuba's literacy campaigns for The Independent

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