International Literacy Day: Eradicating illiteracy starts with free quality public education

published 7 September 2019 updated 17 September 2019

Education International (EI) General Secretary warns that the world is off track in terms of achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on quality education, including in literacy. More needs to be done to turn the tide and eradicate illiteracy.

The 8th of September is International Literacy Day. It aims to raise global awareness of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights. This year, the International Year of Indigenous Languages, the day will focus on “Literacy and multilingualism”. The theme highlights the importance of embracing linguistic diversity in education and the essential role it plays in addressing the literacy challenge.

Although progress has been made, the issue still affects hundreds of millions across the world. 750 million adults, most of them women, cannot read and write and see their opportunities severely diminished because of it. At the same time, 262 million children remain out of school and are likely to become illiterate adults.

In his statement for International Literacy Day, David Edwards, EI General Secretary, highlighted that the world is off track when it comes to achieving SDG4 and ensuring inclusive and equitable education for all. For the hundreds of millions who are left behind the consequences are dire: “In a world where the skills required for life and work change rapidly, those without basic literacy and numeracy skills are oftentimes condemned to hardship. Eradicating illiteracy starts with investing in quality public education”.

Education International calls on all governments to act for free, inclusive, equitable and quality public education for all by meeting the international targets for investment in education; addressing the shortage of qualified teachers; providing educators with the training and conditions they need to support their students; ensuring decent, safe and healthy learning environments; promoting indigenous languages in classrooms and more.

Read the full EI statement for International Literacy Day here.