Efforts to improve literacy in this country as measured by scores on tests of international competition have been largely unimpressive. That’s why it may be instructive to look to Cuba (“Bernie’s Cuba Illiteracy,” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 25). Prior to the 1959 revolution, the illiteracy rate for those over the age of 10 was 23.6 percent. At last count, only 3 percent of Cubans over age 15 are illiterate.
The dramatic turnaround was the result of making teaching a highly desirable profession, with wages only somewhat lower than what physicians earn and about the same as in other professions. Hundreds of university students were mobilized to reach out to the lowest-income and most marginalized groups in Cuban society. Special teacher-training schools were created to produce teachers to work in isolated rural areas under difficult conditions.
The paradox, of course, is that although more Cubans are literate, they can read only what the state dictates. But I wonder what would happen if we adopted some of the instructional reforms that have been so effective in improving literacy.
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