International Literacy Day 2016

ILD 2016 Poster

ILD 2016 Poster – Click for full size

Today is the 50th anniversary of International Literacy Day (ILD), an annual observance promoted by UNESCO to “actively mobilize the international community and to promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities and societies.”

UNESCO is celebrating ILD’s 50th anniversary under the banner “Reading the Past, Writing the Future,” in recognition of the past five decades of national and “international engagement, efforts and progress made to increase literacy rates around the world.”

The main global celebration of the day takes place at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris, in the form of a two-day conference and the awarding of UNESCO’s International Literacy Prizes for 2016. In addition, a new program, the Global Alliance for Literacy (GAL) will be launched. UNESCO calls GAL a “new and ambitious initiative to make all major stakeholders pull together to promote literacy as a foundation for lifelong learning.”

There are events, articles, and statements from government officials around the globe today to mark the occasion. ILD celebrations are generally more prominent outside of the Unites States, although many U.S. adult literacy programs mark the day as well. This UNESCO page has links to some of the more prominent ILD 2016 events.

I find that ILD provides a good opportunity to explore literacy efforts outside the U.S., and so I always take some time out on September 8 to explore ILD-related activities in other countries. If I have time today, I will post a few links.

For those of you who are fans of infographics, here is the official UNESCO ILD 2016 infographic (click on it to see the entire thing):

ILD 2016 - Link to Infographic

PIAAC Survey Results Released

Results from the World Cup of Literacy were released early this morning by the OECD. Interestingly, OECD’s news release focuses on income inequality in the lede, noting that [c]ountries with greater inequality in skills proficiency also have higher income inequality.” Perhaps this will grab the attention of economists and other commentators who are concerned about growing income inequality in the U.S.

Megan Rogers, writing for Inside Higher Ed, notes that the while the U.S. comes out higher than average in terms of educational attainment, it ranks below average in basic literacy and numeracy skills. She writes that the report also found that socioeconomic background has a stronger impact on proficiency levels in the U.S. than in other countries.

Another difference: according to Rogers, the survey found that participation in adult education and training is more common in the United States than in other countries.

Nonetheless, Joanne Kantner, dean of adult education and transition programs at Kishwaukee College in Illinois tells Rogers that “this isn’t an adult education problem, a math education problem, a developmental education problem or a work place issue. The math adults need is not determined by adult education. It’s determined by the work place.” I have no idea what this means. But it’s early.

Rogers also cites at least one critic of the study: Grover Whitehurst, director at the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institute. Well, not a critic exactly—he just doesn’t think the results are all that much to get worked up about, pointing to the small number of participating countries and the small U.S. sample size (5,000 adults were surveyed). He acknowledges, however, that the results are consistent with previous findings on adult literacy.

Finally, Rogers quotes David S. Baime, senior vice president for government relations and research at the American Association of Community Colleges, who says that community colleges “have an essential role in redressing this situation,” but bemoans the lack of a “meaningful or effective national policy for adult education.” This goes to the point I was trying to make last night. Participation in the PIAAC study, which has been going on for several years now, presented an opportunity for the Obama administration to develop a stronger, more effective strategy for addressing adult literacy in anticipation of the release of the survey results today. The Secretary of Education is commenting on the study this morning at 10:35 during NBC’s fourth annual “Education Nation Summit.” His initial comments will tell us a lot about whether a more effective national policy for adult education is in the works. Will the Secretary present a new proposal to address adult education today, or merely use this as opportunity to restate the administration’s already existing education policy priorities?

International Literacy Day

(Updated Below)

International Literacy Day 2013Today is International Literacy Day, an annual observance aimed at focusing attention on the importance of literacy to individuals, communities, and societies around the world. According to new data released today by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), over 774 million adults on this planet do not know how to read or write (two-thirds of which are women), and roughly 123 million children not only lack basic literacy skills, but are often without access to any education at all.

According to UNESCO, on the basis of current trends, 743 million adults will still lack basic literacy skills in 2015, the deadline for the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.

September 8th was proclaimed International Literacy Day by UNESCO back in 1965, and first celebrated in 1966. In my experience it tends to get a bit more attention outside the Unites States, although there are events here in the U.S. as well.

Every year, for example, the International Reading Association (IRA) hosts an event marking the day in Washington, D.C. This year’s event, “Career Ready Reading: What Employers Need from Schools and How We Can Work Together,” focuses on the connection between reading skills and career-readiness. This event reflects the IRA’s theme for this year’s ILD: “Invent Your Future,” aimed at highlighting “the crucial literacy skills that prime students for success in school, work, and life.”

UNESCO also picks a theme for each year’s celebration. This year’s theme is “literacies for the 21st century.” According to UNESCO, this means highlighting the need for not only basic literacy skills, but the need to “equip everyone with more advanced literacy skills as part of lifelong learning.”

In his International Literacy Day message, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “In our knowledge-based era, literacy is a foundation for a more just, inclusive and sustainable world.”

Here are some additional ILD links you may find of interest:

thumbnail of ILD 2013 infographic

  • To illustrate the disparities in adult and youth literacy rates, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics has created an interactive map with literacy statistics from 150 countries and territories, including literacy rates by sex and the correlation with national wealth. UNESCO has produced a huge ILD 2013 infographic (click on the thumbnail on the right for the full version) that highlights these statistics.
  • UNESCO is also hosting a colloquium in Paris tomorrow and Tuesday, entitled, “Advancing towards a Literate Twenty-first Century.” According to UNESCO, the colloquium will discuss the idea of a Global Coalition, a multi-stakeholder Partnership for advancing a literacy agenda proposed to be launched in November.
  • “On International Literacy Day, Let’s Remember the Children Who Don’t Have a Chance to Read” — blog post by Alice Albright, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Partnership for Education.
  • What Literacy has Done for Us” — article from the Norwegian Refugee Council.
  • Editorial in the Gaston County N.C. Gazette.
  • Editorial in the Times-News (Alamance County, N.C.) — “Raising literacy in the community raises us all.”
  • Editorial in Davidson County, N.C. Dispatch.
  • Three ways to celebrate International Literacy Day today  — ChicagoNow
  • Free admission to any Florida state park today for anyone who presents a valid library card, a book checked out from the library, or donates a new or used, family friendly book!
  • Editorial in the Daily Star (Bangladesh)
  • Pakistan will celebrate the International Literacy Day 2013 with a three-day nationwide campaign to enrol at least 500,000 out-of-school children. More on ILD in Pakistan Today. Meanwhile, The U.S. has announced the launch of a new $160 million dollar Pakistan Reading Project to boost the reading skills of 3.2 million Pakistani children.
  • Statement from Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares.
  • Here is a story about an ILD event at the U.N.’s office in Armenia. And here is one about a similar event in Azerbaijan.
  • Speaking at the International Literacy Day celebration held in New Delhi, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee called for achieving a literacy rate in India that is “at par with leading countries in the world.”
  • Here’s a post I wrote last year on ILD 2012.

And remember, in the immortal words of Krusty: “Give a hoot, read a book.”

Give a hoot, read a book

UPDATE 9/17/13: Here are some more links to ILD 2013 activities and announcements from around the world that I’ve come across since my original post:

Catching up on Summer Reading: New Book on Health Literacy from National Academies Press

Health Literacy: Improving Health, Health Systems, and Health Policy Around the World: Workshop SummaryThis is (relatively) old news, but in case you missed it, the National Academies Press recently released an interesting new book on health literacy interventions around the world, Health Literacy: Improving Health, Health Systems, and Health Policy Around the World. The book is basically a summary of the discussions and findings that came out of a workshop held here in Washington earlier this year on international health literacy efforts.

You can read it online or download a PDF of the book for free. You can also order a hard copy directly from National Academies or through Amazon.

Michael Lytton, Blog Editor for the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, discusses this publication in a recent blog post the first installment in a short series he is planning to write on the subject of health literacy.