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“LITERACY SUSTAINS DEVELOPMENT”: International Literacy Day Draws Attention to 1 in 5 People Worldwide Who Cannot Read or Write

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“Literacy is not merely a cognitive skill of reading, writing and arithmetic, for literacy helps in the acquisition of learning and life skills that, when strengthened by usage and application throughout people’s lives, lead to forms of individual, community and societal development that are sustainable,” said Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura

Each year, on September 8, the United States and the world observe International Literacy Day, a day to focus attention on worldwide literacy issues and needs. According to estimates, 1 in 5—771 million of the world’s adults (nearly two thirds of whom are women)—do not know how to read or write. In addition, more than 100 million children lack access to education. This year’s theme, “Literacy Sustains Development” emphasizes that literacy can be a lever of change and an instrument for achieving further social progress.

“Literacy is not merely a cognitive skill of reading, writing and arithmetic, for literacy helps in the acquisition of learning and life skills that, when strengthened by usage and application throughout people’s lives, lead to forms of individual, community and societal development that are sustainable,” said Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura, director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The United States faces its own literacy challenges. According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) released earlier this year, 12% of American adults had below basic document literacy, indicating that they would struggle using a television guide to find out what time a program aired, or in identifying a specific location on a map. In addition, 14% lacked prose literacy, indicating that they could not find how people were selected for a jury pool from a pamphlet for prospective jurors. According to the report, adults without a high school degree or a GED comprised 55% of the adults in this category, even though high school dropouts only represent 15% of the total NAAL population.

Based on scores from the Nation’s Report Card, more than two thirds of middle school students fail to read at grade level, and 28% read significantly below grade level, making them likely candidates to drop out of school.

Even more highly educated individuals struggle with literacy skills. For example, ACT has determined that roughly 23% of high school graduates are not ready to succeed in an introductory-level college writing course. Achieve, Inc. has found that about 40% of high school graduates lack the literacy skills that employers seek. According to the NAAL report, only 31% of college graduates have “proficient” prose literacy, indicating that they can compare two viewpoints in an editorial.

More information on International Literacy Day is available at http://www.unesco.org/education.

 

Register for the Alliance’s Third Annual High School Policy Conference: Early Bird Registration Deadline: Sept. 10!

 

Seats are filling up at the Alliance for Excellent Education’s Third Annual High School Policy Conference, “Taking the Next Step–Defining a Shared Federal Agenda for High School Reform.” The conference will take place on October 12-13, 2006 at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington, DC.

If you want to guarantee your seat in the room, go to https://all4ed.org/register and register. After September 10, the conference fee will increase from $75.00 to $100.00. The Alliance has added several new & exciting speakers to the agenda; a complete list of speakers and the agenda can be viewed at https://all4ed.org/events/2006HSConference/conf_agenda.html.

For additional information, please contact the Alliance for Excellent Education at (202) 828-0828 ext. 871; or conference@all4ed.org.

 

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