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Toronto, Sep 9 (Canadian-Media): International Literacy Day (ILD) on September 8 had been officially proclaimed by United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) -- United Nations’ special agency – at the 14th session of UNESCO’s General Conference on 26 October 1966 to create awareness to the international community towards more literate individuals, societies and communities, media reports said.
This year, International Literacy Day was observed on September 8 across the world under the theme of ‘Literacy in a digital world’ as an occasion to reflect on ways to promote literacy as an integral part of lifelong learning within and beyond the 2030 Education Agenda
On International Literacy Day 2017, as UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova opened the International Conference on International Literacy Day at Paris Headquarters, which focused on Literacy in a digital world said, “To be truly empowering, new technologies must stand on two pillars. First, they must be inclusive, bridging gaps, not deepening them. Second, they must be underpinned by respect for human rights and dignity. All this gives rise to new questions about the meaning of literacy today.”
Message from Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO on the occasion of International Literacy Day,
“Digital technologies permeate all spheres of our lives, fundamentally shaping how we live, work, learn and socialize.
These new technologies are opening vast new opportunities to improve our lives and connect globally -- but they can also marginalize those who lack the essential skills, like literacy, needed to navigate them.
Traditionally, literacy has been considered a set of reading, writing and counting skills applied in a certain context. Digitally-mediated knowledge societies are changing what it means to be literate, calling for new and higher-level literacy skills. At the same time, in return, technology can work to improve literacy development.
This must be understood in the wider context. Worldwide, 750 million adults today still lack even the most basic literacy skills. Some 264 million children and youth are not benefiting from school education. Furthermore, international surveys show that a large share of adult and youth populations all over the world, including developed countries, are inadequately equipped with the basic digital skills required to function fully in today’s societies and workplace. Narrowing this skills gap is an educational and developmental imperative.
Information and communication technologies are creating opportunities to address this challenge. Digital tools can help expand access to learning and improve its quality. They have the power to reach the unreached, improve the monitoring of literacy progress, facilitate skills assessment, and make the management and governance of skills delivery systems more efficient.
To create and seize new opportunities to take forward Sustainable Development Goal on Education and lifelong learning for all, we need collective action. Partnerships between governments, civil society and the private sector are essential today to promote literacy in a digital world. I see the Global Alliance for Literacy within a Lifelong Learning Framework as a model of the concerted efforts we need to advance the global agenda and support national literacy initiatives.
International Literacy Day offers a moment to review the progress and come together to tackle the challenges ahead. This year, the event is devoted to better understanding the type of literacy required in a digital world to build more inclusive, equitable and sustainable societies. Everyone should be able to make the most of the benefits of the new digital age, for human rights, for dialogue and exchange, for more sustainable development.”
Due to global ‘digital divide’ in terms of access to digital technologies, where reportedly only around one in seven people is online in 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and world being home to 758 million illiterate adults and 263 million out-of-school children, people around the world were invited to avail of public services -- to benefit from information and services that are not available in their immediate environments -- offering opportunities of rapid transformation of digital technologies.
This year’s theme, ‘Literacy in a digital world’ hopes, says the report to raise awareness about the different literacy skills. Aligning with this theme, students at the Learning Co-op generated a literacy word list and imported these words into wordart.com, completed an ‘internet scavenger hunt’ and created their own literacy quotes banner to display throughout the school.
Digital technologies are reportedly changing the way people live, work, learn and socialise everywhere and improve all areas of their lives including access to information; knowledge management; networking; social services; industrial production, and mode of work.
However, said the reports, those who lack access to digital technologies and the knowledge, skills and competencies required to navigate them, can end up marginalised in increasingly digitally driven societies.
Sarah Anyang Agbor, Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology from the African Union Commission, emphasized the aspect of inclusion for sustainable development. “When we consider the digital means, we should also consider non-digital means that also enhance our living,” she said. “Therefore we must ensure inclusion and proper interventions in using ICT in building sustainable societies for all.”
There was also a session, according to reports, on ‘Rethinking literacy in a digital world’ to explore the understanding of the broad skills needed in the 21st century.
Promising programmes that advance literacy through an inclusive approach to technology were highlighted at the event. The 2017 UNESCO International Literacy Prizes winners from Canada Colombia, Jordan, Pakistan and South Africa, presented their programmes to illustrate how digital technologies can help promote literacy and create opportunities for lifelong learning.
Another topic discussed during the day was about risks and responses in a digital world where the increasing digitization is deepening the digital divide and risks to marginalize illiterate people further.
Presenters from the OECD, UNESCO Institute for Statistics and the Kenya Institute of Curriculum examined the potential of digital technology to better monitor literacy learning and literacy levels.
At the end of the Day, the five laureates were officially awarded at the UNESCO International Literacy Prizes awards ceremony by the Director-General.
The two awards of the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize dedicated to mother-tongue literacy education and training, sponsored by the Republic of Korea, were given to:
Centre for the Study of Learning & Performance (CSLP) at Concordia University (Canada), for the Using Educational Technology to Develop Essential Educational Competencies in Sub-Saharan Africa project, which develops and distributes its material internationally free of charge.
We Love Reading (Jordan), a programme with a virtual community that offers online read-aloud trainings for parents, mobilizes volunteers to read aloud in community spaces to children and provides age-appropriate material through a digital library.
The three awards of the UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy, supported by the Government of the People’s Republic of China and rewarding work that benefits rural populations and out-of-school youth, particularly girls and women, were given to:
AdulTICoProgram of the Secretariat of Information and Communications Technologies of the city of Armenia (Colombia), for teaching digital competencies to seniors.
The Citizens Foundation (Pakistan) for its Aagahi Literacy Programme for Women and Out-of-School Girls, which conducts digital educational needs assessments and provides teaching services to support the education of younger girls and older women.
FunDza (South Africa) for its readers and writers project to develop a culture of reading and writing for pleasure through an online platform connecting readers and writers.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)