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International Literacy Day

This topic provides information about International Literacy Day which is celebrated on 8th September every year.

The International Literacy Day is celebrated on 8th September every year throughout the world.  On this day, in the year 1965 the World Congress of Ministers of Education met in Tehran for the first time to discuss the programme of education at the international level.  The UNESCO in its 14th Session in November, 1966, declared 8th September as the International Literacy Day. Since then, ILD is celebrated on 8th September every year by most of the member countries.


The key aspect of the observance of ILD is to mobilize public opinion in favour of struggle against illiteracy. ILD is a forum to disseminate information on literacy and raise the public awareness and the significance of literacy for individual and national development. It is an occasion to mark achievements and reflect on ways to counter remaining challenges for the promotion of literacy as an integral part of lifelong learning within and beyond the 2030 Education Agenda.

International Literacy Day (ILD) 2017

Theme and main objectives of ILD 2017

The overarching theme of ILD 2017 is "Literacy in a digital world".

Main objectives are:

  • To reflect on what it means to be literate in increasingly digitally-mediated societies;
  • To explore effective policies and programmes for literacy skills development in a digital world; and
  • To explore how digital technologies can support progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal 4, especially Target 4.6 on youth and adult literacy

Global landscape: digital economy and society

Digital technologies, including the Internet, mobile phones, and all the other tools to manage information digitally, are fundamentally changing the way people live and work, learn and socialise. This transformation is taking place at record speed with the rapid advancement and expansion of technologies. For instance, mobile subscriptions, which had been a few tens of thousands in 1980, were about 7 billion in 2015.

The transformation has both positive and negative sides. For many, digital technologies provide better access to information and knowledge that used to be out of reach or costly, while facilitating the use of obtained information and knowledge. Digital technologies also enable a host of services - including administrative, educational, health and agricultural ones - to be delivered in a more accessible and efficient way. In industry, Industry 4.0, including the Internet of Things and Cloud Computing, has realized a direct and real - time interface between the virtual and physical world to create so-called ‘smart factory’, bringing about the fourth industrial revolution. For societies that are less equipped with conventional infrastructure, digital technologies are offering opportunities for people to benefit from information and services that are not available in their immediate environments and for policy-makers to bring ‘ICT - enabled transformation’ into the public services.

At the same time, there is a global ‘digital divide’ in terms of access to digital technologies, their use and impacts. The broader development benefits associated with the rapid technological advancement are unevenly distributed across and within countries. Around 4 billion people, more than half of the world population, do not have any internet access, nearly 2 billion do not use a mobile phone, and almost half a billion live outside areas with a mobile signal. In 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs), only around one in seven people is online. Beyond simple technology access, there exist capacity gaps. The knowledge, skills and competencies required to access and analyse the accessed information, and to best utilize it in a given context affect to what extent the “digital dividends” can be reaped or, worse, to what extent the digital divide can be magnified. Usually, the harvest is greatest amongst groups that are already privileged. Those who are marginalized due to their gender, ethnicity, geographical location or economic status, tend to be left behind in participating in our digital societies and digital - enabled transformation.

Potential implications for literacy

The rapid expansion of these digital technologies also poses a range of questions in promoting literacy where challenges are still prevalent. Despite the significant literacy progress made in the past decades, the world was still home to 758 million illiterate adults and 263 million out-of-school children of primary and secondary school age in 2014. Some 250 million children worldwide, including those who are in school, are failing to acquire basic skills. Considering the nature of the data, however, these figures, based on indirect measurement, could be an underestimation of the degree of literacy challenges and their complexity. The OECD’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), which adopted direct measurement, shows that even in the OECD countries surveyed, 8.9% of adults have poor reading skills and 22.7 % of adults have poor numeracy skills.

Literacy challenges also lie in lifelong learning systems, governance, policies, practice, financing as well as monitoring and evaluation. Collective efforts to counter these challenges will require the consideration of not only literacy’s undividable relations with social, economic, political, cultural and linguistic contexts, but also ‘digital opportunity and divide’.

Source : UNESCO

Related resources

  1. Education 2030: Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action (2015)
  2. Sustainable Development Goal 4 and its targets.
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