International Literacy Day

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“Literacies for the 21st century” was the theme of this year’s International Literacy Day (September 8), chosen to highlight to the evolving range of literacy skills required to full participate in today’s connected societies. For over 40 years now, UNESCO has been celebrating International Literacy Day by reminding the international community that literacy is a human right and the foundation of all learning.

An international colloquium on “Literacies for the 21st century” was held at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters on September, as part of the celebration for the International Literacy Day. Opened by the director general, the event brought together ministers and deputy ministers of education, development and culture from Afghanistan, Benin, the Republic of Chad, India, Namibia, Pakistan and Senegal, along with representatives from other intergovernmental organizations, NGO’s working in education and literacy, and the private sector. The colloquium laid the foundations for a Global Coalition, a multi-stakeholder partnership for advancing the literacy agenda, to be launched in November.

UNESCO Literacy awards…

The award ceremony for UNESCO’s annual literacy prizes also took place following this event. This year’s awards were being presented to winners from Bangladesh, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, India and Namibia. From India, The Saakshar Bharat (Literate India) Mission will receive one of the two UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prizes. Run by the National Literacy Mission Authority of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt of India the programme aims to promote and strengthen adult learning in India.

Literacy facts…

Over 84 percent of the world’s adults are now literate, according to the latest data from UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics (UIS). This represents an eight percentage point increase since 1990, but it still leaves some 774 million adults who cannot read or write. The new data released for International Literacy Day on September 8, show that most of the world’s illiterate adults live in South and West Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. On the basis of current trends, 743 million adults (15 years and older) will still lack basic literacy skills in 2015, the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals. Two thirds of these people are women.

Illiteracy also remains a persistent problem in developed countries. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), one in five young people in Europe had poor literacy skills in 2009, and some 160 million adults in OECD countries were functionally illiterate. This means that they do not have the skills needed to function in today’s environments such as the ability to fill out forms, follow instructions, read a map, or help with their children with homework.

“This situation is exacerbated by the rise of new technologies and modern knowledge societies that make the ability to read and write all the more essential,” said UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova in her message for International Literacy Day.

“Literacy is the first condition for dialogue, communication and integration into new connected societies. Young people need new skills to enter and succeed in the job market: knowledge of several languages, understanding of cultural diversity, lifelong learning. Literacy is the key for acquiring knowledge, interpersonal skills, expertise and the ability to live together in community – all skills that are the foundations of modern society. In the twenty-first century, more than ever before, literacy is the cornerstone of peace and development,” she added.

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