Let's celebrate International Literacy Day

Since 1967, International Literacy Day is celebrated every year on September 8

Let's celebrate International Literacy Day

For more than 50 years, International Literacy Day has been celebrated worldwide on 8 September. This is a date that was proclaimed by UNESCO in October 1966, to raise awareness about "the importance of literacy for individuals, communities, and societies, as well as the need to intensify efforts towards more literate societies."

Leer en español: Celebremos el Día Internacional de la Alfabetización

In addition, every year UNESCO invites governments of the world, leading actors in the education sector and other interested parties to an international conference that focuses on a topic chosen by the international organization. The objective is to reflect on the challenges that still exist to achieve this "ideal of a fully literate society", according to Audrey Azoulay, General Director of UNESCO, as well as to exchange knowledge on how to achieve this.

"Reading the past, writing the future" (2016) and "Literacy in the digital world" (2017), for example, are some of the topics that have been discussed in previous years. This year's theme is "Literacy and skills development" and what UNESCO is looking for is how "literacy and technical, professional and digital skills can help people to live with dignity and participate fully in the society ", according to a video published by the UN agency.

The issue of literacy is very important if one takes into account that there are still approximately 750 million people in the world who can not read or write. However, for the UN, literacy is very important to "achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, within the framework of the 2030 Agenda ". This is because literacy not only helps to combat exclusion, according to Azoulay but also allows fighting against other problems, such as social and gender inequality.

How is Latin America and the Caribbean in literacy?

Latin America and the Caribbean is one of the regions that still has a long way to go to achieve that ideal of a literate society that Azoulay speaks of. Although every day some nations are approaching the goals proposed by the UN within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals, they still need to achieve this, since illiteracy is still a challenge they face.

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According to a report of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) of 2016, the country with the lowest literacy rate for 2015 is Haiti, with 60.7% of literacy in adults over 15 years of age and 82.1% in young people from 15 to 24 years old.

In contrast, the country with the highest adult and youth literacy rate for the same year is Cuba, with 99.7% and 99.9% respectively. Nowadays, however, Cuba has "a 100% literate population", according to UNESCO.

What are the countries in this region doing to promote literacy?

On September 8, UNESCO also carries out the International Literacy Awards. This is an award created in 1967 that awards the best projects or literacy programs in two categories: the UNESCO-Confucius Literacy Prize and the UNESCO-King Sejong Literacy Prize. According to the agency's website, "through these prestigious awards, UNESCO aims to support effective literacy practices and encourage the promotion of literate societies."

The last prize mentioned is an award that "pays special attention to the development and use of literacy in the mother tongue" and that has two winners. In 2018, the Ministry of Education and Culture of Uruguay has been awarded the UNESCO-King Sejong Literacy Prize for its Aprender Siempre Program. This is a project that "offers flexible citizen education to inmates, along with literacy and education and technical and professional training."

For its part, according to UNESCO, Cuba is a nation that "advances towards higher goals in education and has developed a method of literacy, the Yes I Can, which has been used successfully in about 130 countries and whose results made it a creditor of UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize in 2006 ".


LatinAmerican Post | Diana Rojas Leal

Translated from "Celebremos el Día Internacional de la Alfabetización"

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