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International Review of Education

, Volume 60, Issue 4, pp 559–580 | Cite as

Cuba’s “Yes, I Can” mass adult literacy campaign model in Timor-Leste and Aboriginal Australia: A comparative study

  • Bob Boughton
  • Deborah Durnan
Article

Abstract

In the field of international adult education, mass literacy campaigns enjoyed wide support in the 20th century, when they were seen as a way to increase the participation of previously marginalised and excluded populations in national development. Cuba’s 1961 campaign achieved iconic status, but was only one of many successful campaigns in Latin America, Africa and Asia. In the 1990s, while mass literacy campaigns continued in many countries, scholarly interest in them declined under the influence of World Bank empirical critiques of their effectiveness and increasing postmodern scepticism towards the socialist “grand narrative” of liberation which underpinned some of the more famous examples. Recently, the mass campaign model has gained new impetus through Cuba’s international literacy missions, which use an approach known by its Spanish name, Yo, Sí Puedo [Yes, I Can]. This paper reports on the deployment of this model in two very different settings, one being a national literacy campaign in Timor-Leste, a newly-independent island nation in the Asia–Pacific; and the other a pilot campaign in an Aboriginal community in Australia. The authors have utilised participatory action research methods to evaluate the model in both countries, and locate their comparative analysis in the theoretical tradition of popular education.

Keywords

Literacy campaign Popular education Comparative and international education Timor-Leste Aboriginal adult education Yo, Sí Puedo Yes, I Can 

Résumé

Modèle cubain de campagne d’alphabétisation de masse pour adultes « Moi, je peux » appliqué au Timor oriental et en Australie aborigène : une étude comparative – Dans le domaine international de l’éducation des adultes, les campagnes d’alphabétisation de masse ont été largement plébiscitées au cours du XXe siècle, jugées alors comme un moyen d’accroître la participation des populations jusque-là marginalisées et exclues du développement du pays. La campagne cubaine de 1961 a acquis un statut emblématique, elle n’a été cependant que l’une des nombreuses campagnes concluantes d’alphabétisation menées en Amérique latine, en Afrique et en Asie. Dans les années 1990, si les campagnes d’alphabétisation de masse ont été poursuivies dans de nombreux pays, l’intérêt des spécialistes pour cette formule s’est affaibli, les critiques empiriques sur leur efficacité sous l’influence de la Banque mondiale ainsi que le scepticisme postmoderne croissant envers le « grand récit » socialiste sur la libération ayant accompagné certains des exemples les plus célèbres. Mais la formule de la campagne de masse connaît ces derniers temps un regain d’intérêt à travers les missions internationales d’alphabétisation de Cuba, qui appliquent une approche connue sous sa dénomination espagnole Yo, Sí Puedo (Moi, je peux). Les auteurs de cet article présentent la mise en œuvre de cette méthode sous deux formes très différentes, à savoir une campagne nationale d’alphabétisation au Timor oriental, nation insulaire de la région Asie-Pacifique ayant accédé récemment à son indépendance, et une campagne pilote menée dans une communauté aborigène d’Australie. Les auteurs ont appliqué les principes de la recherche-action participative pour évaluer le modèle dans les deux pays, et insèrent leur analyse comparative dans la tradition théorique de l’éducation populaire.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia
  2. 2.University of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia

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