What does this 53rd International Literacy Day tell us?

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UNESCO declared September 8 as the International Literacy Day in its 14th General Conference which was held on October 26, 1966. This year, the theme of International Literacy Day is ‘Literacy and Multilingualism’. An event will be held at the Paris headquarter of UNESCO where UNESCO International Literacy Prizes will also be conferred.

While the last census in 2011 indicating a total of 74.04% as literate, we are getting geared up to take this number to 100%. There was an increase of 9.2% from the last decade 2001-11.

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A report from the 1966 UNESCO’s General conference stated: “The need for the real emancipation of people and for the increasingly active and productive participation, in the economic, social and political life of human society, of the hundreds of millions of illiterate adults still existing in the world, make it essential to change national education policies.”

The report added that education systems across the world should provide the training required for children and working adults so that they can learn to read and write. “National educational plans should include schooling for children and literacy training for adults as parallel elements,” the report said.

The first International Literacy Day was celebrated in 1967 and this tradition has been continuing every year. While the UNESCO has noted positive trends of growing literacy rates among children, the same cannot be said about the adult population.

“The wider adult population has not benefited to the same extent in some regions. It is a troubling fact that there are now more adults without literacy compared with 50 years ago, meaning that our efforts have not kept pace with population growth,” said Qian Tang, UNESCO education assistant director-general, in the 50th International Literacy Day Review.

Qian mentioned that the international community is focusing on 2030 with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and has aimed to “ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning” within its goals.

In India, the adult literacy rate has increased by merely 18.4% in 15 years. It was 61% in 2000 and 72.2% in 2015. Nepal and Pakistan have seen the most growth among South Asian nations with 33 and 32.2% increase in adult literacy during the same period, closely followed by Bangladesh at 29.5%.


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