Literacy for peace

Growth Parameter

What is literacy ? Traditionally literacy has been commonly defined as the ability to read and write at an adequate level of proficiency that is necessary for communication.

More recently however, literacy has taken on several meanings. Technological literacy, mathematical literacy, and visual literacy are just a few examples.

While it may be difficult to gauge the degree to which literacy has an impact on an individual’s overall happiness, one can easily infer that an increase in literacy will lead to the improvement of an individual’s life and the development of societies.

Why is literacy important?
Literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. Educational opportunities depend on literacy.

Literacy is at the heart of basic education for all, and essential for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy.

There are good reasons why literacy is at the core of Education for All (EFA). A good quality basic education equips pupils with literacy skills for life and further learning; literate parents are more likely to send their children to school; literate people are better able to access continuing educational opportunities; and literate societies are better geared to meet pressing development challenges.

Literacy has a significant role in building healthy societies, with a strong emphasis on epidemics and communicable diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. These are some of the world’s most important public health concerns.

Literacy remains an elusive target: some 793 million adults lack minimum skills; one in six adults is still not literate (two-thirds of them are women) and 67.4 million children are out of school and many more attend school irregularly and drop out.

Teachers play a critical role towards the achievement of the Education For All (EFA) goal on gender equity. In many developing countries there is a shortage of female teachers particularly at secondary and tertiary levels and in the subjects of  Science and  Mathematics.

Capacity development and awareness  raising are essential to empower women teachers to be both effective practitioners and gender advocates. UNESCO also works to support gender equity in education, in terms of access and achievement through partnership with key organisations, research and production of guidelines and policy briefs.

Facts about illiteracy
According to UNESCO, in the world today there are about 793 million non-literate adults

*This 793 million is approximately 24 per cent of the world’s adult population.

*Women make up two-thirds of all non-literates.

*98 per cent of all non-literates live in developing countries.

*In the least developed countries, the overall illiteracy rate is 49 per cent.

*52 per cent of all non-literates live in India and China.
While in developed nations, the majority of the population over the age of 17 possesses basic literacy skills in reading and writing, the rate of literacy in developing nations is much lower. This lack of widespread literacy hinders the further development of such nations.

International agencies like UNESCO are campaigning to raise literacy rates worldwide. While progress has been made and literacy rates have increased, the growth in population worldwide has led to a further expansion of illiterate individuals. UNESCO has found a correlation between illiteracy and poverty, low life expectancy, and political oppression.

Literacy campaigns around the world also include programmes to increase the level of adult literacy. Increasing literacy rates among adults can serve several purposes. Equipping adults with basic literacy skills can enable them to be more proactive when it comes to their child’s education. As this works to increase literacy, political conditions in oppressive countries may improve. Moreover an increase in literate adults means an increase in individuals campaigning for education as a fundamental human right.

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