Today, Sunday 8th September 2019, is International Literacy Day, an initiative inaugurated by the United Nations agency UNESCO in 1966. Its stated aim is to promote and foster the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies, as well as empowering individuals and societies through the written word.
To mark the occasion, the World Economic Forum (WEF) this week published key facts on youth literacy globally as part of their worldwide agenda on the issues of education, gender, work, the digital society and economy.
The WEF stated that youth literacy has increased steadily within the past three decades, according to data gathered by UNICEF. The number of youngsters unable to read and write has dropped by 75 million in that time. This is in spite of the global population increase, from 5.2 billion in 1989 to 7.7 billion today.
However, the goal of getting every young person literate is still a long way off, with the WEF stating that more than 100 million young people were still illiterate in 2016, with significantly more girls being affected than boys. For example in 2016, 13 million more females than males were unable to read or write. The gender gap in literacy is however shrinking, with the increasing emphasis on female education, empowerment and rights of the girl child.
International Literacy Day 2019 will celebrate multilingualism, the speaking of many languages by persons and communities and also the need to embrace linguistic diversity, particularly in a digital modern world, where linguistic differences and smaller languages are being overshadowed by the widespread reach of major world tongues.
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“International Literacy Day: What you need to know about youth literacy” – Joe Myers, World Economic Forum (6 September 2019) https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/09/world-literacy-day-what-you-need-to-know-about-youth-literacy