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From exploitation to education, let’s celebrate 54 years of International Literacy day

A talk on Literacy during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns that have impacted 1.2 Billion students across India and other 153 countries, according to UNESCO.


Imagine not being able to read during the pandemic and miss out on life-saving information. Today, this is the case for at least 773 million adults and young people around the world who lack basic literacy skills. Two-thirds of them are women, and many of them are young people. This problem is urgent. The COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in history, affecting 91% of students and 63 million teachers that is 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries and all subcontinents. Similarly, educational disruption has had and will continue to have substantial effects in the future. While efforts have been made to continue education through distance learning. Youth and adult literacy programs have mostly been suspended. This is a stark reminder of the fragile state of literacy learning. This needs to change. By combining literacy learning with skills development, the most vulnerable population can be supported in improving their lives and livelihoods.

September 8th is World Literacy Day. First started in 1966 by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Its goal is simple, to quote, highlight improvements in world literacy rates, and reflect on the world’s remaining literary challenges. Reading is something we all take for granted. It took all of human history up to 1900 to get 21% literacy worldwide. Only a hundred years later, we hit 82%, which is amazing and absolutely worth celebrating but the challenges aren’t over. In an increasingly digitized and globalized world, literacy is more vital to navigate life and work than ever. The rapidly changing labor markets require that skills are developed throughout life. Today 174 million people around the world are unemployed and decent livelihoods are difficult to sustain for many. Low skills and low levels of literacy don’t have to be a barrier for young people and adults to acquire new and necessary knowledge.

SD 56, an elementary school in Sorong District, West Papua, Indonesia. Image Credit: United Nations

The digital revolution is changing our world faster than ever. knowledge and information are at our fingertips, unleashing new opportunities and basic services are being transformed into E-services. During this unprecedented time, education and learning are increasingly happening online anywhere, anytime. But without literacy, the opportunities of the digital world turn into obstacles. As long as the literacy gap remains, the digital divide will grow and further marginalize the gender imbalance in education. Literacy is crucial to navigate our increasingly digitized societies. COVID 19 has disrupted education across the world. As our school year comes to an end, our students aren’t in the classroom and many don’t have access to the books they need to improve their reading. Unfortunately, statistics show that 61% of students from low-income households have zero books at home.

Literacy has never been just about reading. It’s about speaking, listening, writing, and reading. To be a literate human being, you really need all four of those skills. So, those four pieces are difficult to tackle but to also know that in the 21st-century literacy has taken on a huge term. There’s digital literacy and media literacy and 21st-century literacy but in the realistic world, none of that has been well defined. What underpins a lot of it is the general idea that there is so much information streaming at us these days and recognizing that the basics are absolutely important, needed and knowing how to read words on a page is very much a part of it.

Image credits: Getty

India is the second-most crowded nation where 65% of the population is under the age of 35, which implies that there are over 800 million individuals, preparing for a job who won’t just change the course of India, yet moreover the world. The most challenging task Is to give quality education to this emerging workforce The current education infrastructure is lacking for the increasing demand of the developing population and the best way to strengthen it is by utilizing digital technology and e-learning the major problem in the long term education is the unstable financial state of the family that gets a child far from pursuing higher education. While on the other hand, it is the absence of proper teaching set-up in suburban and rural areas. Moreover, areas with limited resources, location, language boundaries, have restricted access for individuals from these states into different states but the advancement of web and e-learning has opened new roads for advancement. This encouraged the initiation of the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (PMGDISHA) program under its Digital India initiative for spreading digital learning to the remote areas.

So, at the risk of sounding cliche, reading really does open doors.  So today, let’s take a second to appreciate how far we’ve come but also remember how much work there is left to do.  Ending with just something to think about.

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