As the world marks International Literacy Day 2021, Esther Prins considers what it would mean to narrow the digital divide and how we can foster a more creative and critical use of technology for all
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed stark inequalities in access to
educational opportunities, particularly those requiring digital technologies.
The 2021 International Literacy Day theme, Literacy for a human-centred recovery: Narrowing the
digital divide, offers a chance to reflect on
digital access and why it matters for human potential.
When we hear about the ‘digital divide’, we typically think
of having a smartphone, other mobile devices or a computer, plus reliable and affordable
internet. But access involves much more than these physical resources. In this post,
I discuss more complex ways of conceptualizing access. We cannot close the
digital divide only by increasing broadband internet, technology ownership and technical
know-how. Youth and adults must also be able to use digital tools creatively,
critically and strategically to produce new knowledge. Continue reading →
talk about infrastructure, we tend to think of roads, railways, cables and
other physical networks crossing the landscape, enabling economic activity and
growth. But the term can be extended to other areas that provide people with
ways to achieve their goals, such as culture, research, and, of course,
looks at the last of these – the infrastructure for learning, throughout life.
In particular, it considers the role of libraries both as providers of support
and as partners and platforms for others, and looks at how to make the
most of the unique characteristics of libraries as public, non-commercial,
well-known and trusted community spaces. Continue reading →
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the least advantaged the hardest and highlights the harsh reality of educational inequality. As we look to rebuild, we must ensure that the global literacy challenge is finally and decisively met, writes Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, UNESCO Special Envoy on Literacy for Development.
COVID-19 has disrupted education worldwide in an unprecedented way.
Millions of students have not been able to continue learning in schools,
universities, vocational training institutions and adult learning programmes. Many
governments responded to the pressing need to provide school children with
learning possibilities via online and distance learning. Virtual lessons were
adopted, home learning materials distributed and education provided through TV
and radio or in open air spaces. These efforts were essential and undeniably
very challenging for many governments, teachers and students alike as it
demanded a reshuffling not only of delivery mechanisms but also of roles and responsibilities.
The crisis also shows us, with a frightening clarity, what consequences a
lack of basic literacy skills can have. Some 773 million youth and adults globally
lack basic levels of literacy and numeracy, two-thirds of them female. Most of
these youth and adults face multiple disadvantages. They are often unable to
acquire decent jobs, suffer from hunger and bad health, cannot make informed
choices, and are excluded from social interaction and full participation in
society. Continue reading →
While the long-term impact of COVID-19 on education will be dramatic, the future will be much more precarious if we do not focus on building systems for lifelong learning that safeguard quality and inclusiveness, writes Per Magnusson
The COVID-19 pandemic
has unleashed an unprecedented global crisis affecting societies and
communities in a multitude of ways for which few of us were prepared.
schools has been part of the strategy to mitigate the spread of the novel
coronavirus in almost all countries around the world. With a peak of 1.5
billion children out of school in April, the number is still estimated to be
around 1.2 billion, or 70 per cent of total enrolled learners (13
May). Even if many countries have simultaneously introduced
programmes to allow for continuity of learning and distance learning, in varying
levels of digitalisation, we can be certain this will not compensate for the
learning lost when schools and education institutions are up and running in
closures will undoubtedly have long-term effects for both individuals and
societies. We also know that school closures will have an even more intense
impact for girls, especially from the poorest and most vulnerable groups
because they are the ones most exposed to domestic violence and sexual
harassment, including pregnancies and early marriages. Continue reading →
The COVID-19 crisis has made online distance learning the new norm for many. It has also prompted stakeholders to be more creative and agile, in ways that could make open and online learning better and more inclusive, writes Jonghwi Park
Few areas of human life are
untouched by the crisis. From techniques to prevent back pain when working from
home to the
challenges of home schooling, the demand for new knowledge has created an urgent
need for learning, unlearning and relearning to deal with new normalcies. For those
at risk of losing their jobs, reskilling or upskilling is not a choice but a necessity.
Many of us face a steep learning curve in adapting to these new circumstances.
This new learning, while undoubtedly challenging, is, however, critical if we
are to emerge from this crisis into a better future. Continue reading →
Educational interventions to address the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic need to acknowledge the realities of life in the most disadvantaged communities if they are not to exacerbate existing inequalities, argues Rakhat Zholdoshalieva
The magnitude of the global health
crisis, and the long-term impact it is likely to have on the economy, society
and education, was unimaginable just a few weeks ago. Such crises spark
understandable fear and anxiety, as we come to terms with the impact both on our
physical and psychological health and on our economic, financial, environmental
and social life in the months and years to come.
As someone who works in adult learning,
with a focus on youth and adult literacy and people who experience multiple
forms of discrimination and disadvantage, I observe that many of our evolving solutions,
advice, lessons and reflections ignore the reality of life for many children,
youth, adults, families, communities and regions around the world. In times of massive
disruption, disorientation and anxiety at global level, it is more important than
ever that we do not lose sight of those who historically have been out of sight
and out of mind when it comes to policies and actions. Continue reading →
In a world increasingly globalized, multilingualism is becoming the norm rather than the exception. Supported by mother tongue-based multilingual education, linguistic diversity brings a number of benefits to learners but also to society as a whole. Growing evidence suggests that multilingualism can effectively contribute to sustainable development and to peace, argues David Atchoarena
Since the year 2000, the world has been celebrating International Mother Language Day on 21 February. Linguistic diversity is an invaluable part of the heritage of humanity. About 7,000 languages are spoken around the world. Yet, 2,680 of them are in danger of disappearing, and many more are already gone.
In that context, offering education and learning opportunities in the mother tongue is essential to transmitting and preserving traditional knowledge and culture in a sustainable way. Children, youth and adults require learning opportunities that are relevant to their lives and needs. This also includes having access to an education in their own language. Evidence shows that such provision contributes to improving learning and developing confidence and self-esteem. Continue reading →
Qiongzhuoma Heimbel explains how family and intergenerational literacy and learning programmes can improve literacy rates around the world
Despite a rise in literacy rates in the last quarter of a century, more than 781 million adults around the world still lack basic reading and writing skills. Low levels of literacy prevent people from securing decent work and improving their lives. The 2014 United Nations General Assembly resolution, Literacy for life: Shaping future agendas, reaffirmed literacy as ‘a foundation for lifelong learning, a building block for achieving human rights and fundamental freedoms, and a driver of sustainable development’. In response, Member States began promoting more basic adult literacy programmes, especially for disadvantaged groups.
Quite often, the motivation for the adult learners who take part in these programmes is to improve their literacy skills in order to support their children’s learning. These adults, many of whom have never been to school or dropped out, understand that literacy can lead to a better life for their children. However, despite a desire to see their children progress at school, many parents who see themselves as ‘uneducated’ or ‘illiterate’ are reluctant to take part in learning programmes. Continue reading →
Lisa Krolak on the critical role community libraries play in promoting literacy development and lifelong learning
All over the world, libraries serve as proactive community and learning spaces that directly address the needs of children, youth and adults. They are constantly evolving and responding to social, cultural, economic and political changes in their environment. Community libraries, in particular, have demonstrated great potential in supporting literacy development and lifelong learning through diverse services and successful outreach activities. But what is it that make community libraries so effective?
Community libraries are established, owned and managed by and for a specific community, clearly based on community needs. They represent one of many alternative library models that have emerged since the 1970s. In comparison to public libraries, community libraries are often small and usually not supported by government funds. They do not primarily target the mostly literate, urban populations, but rather develop diverse ways to provide various learning opportunities to marginalized populations. This is done not only by providing access to reading materials, but also by offering literacy training and linking literacy activities to practical livelihood concerns. Continue reading →