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International literacy day 2021

International Literacy Day 2021: Narrowing the digital divide

September 8, 2021
-Riya Ganguly

“Education is the most powerful weapon for changing the world.”- Nelson Mandela

September 8 is globally celebrated as the ‘International Literacy Day’ every year, marking the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights and the power of education. The idea for a day devoted to celebrating literacy was conceived in the 1965 World Conference of Ministers of Education in Tehran addressing the elimination of illiteracy. Subsequently, on September 8 1966, UNESCO proclaimed the day to be annually celebrated as the international day for literacy to remind international as well local communities of the significance of education for the community and the individual, becoming a key component of the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and goals towards intensified spread of literacy.

Considering the significant impact upon education due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the theme for this year’s International Literacy Day has been announced as “Literacy for a human-centred recovery: Narrowing the digital divide”. The onset of the pandemic in late 2019 and early 2020 resulted in the widespread disruption of literacy, as educational institutions had no choice but to shift to a completely digitalized mode of education. UNESCO research pointed out 62.3% of the world’s student population to have faced hinderance in their education owing to the pandemic and shutdown of institutions in the early stages of the virus outbreak. The educational disruption has also significantly widened the gap in illiteracy as the rapid digitalization of education has broadened the already existent inequalities in literacy owing to the uneven distribution of infrastructure, electricity, technology and connectivity, subsequently affecting over 773 million people lacking access to literacy.

This year’s international literacy day thus seeks to augment educational inclusivity, extending literary access to wider sections of the population and address optimum resource development to narrow the digital divide in literacy created in the past year. This literacy day also provides the possibility to create and implement new innovative functional pedagogies to enable adult as well as youth literacy schemes to make technology-enabled learning more accessible, inclusive and effective for future generations.National Institute of Open Schooling

The UNESCO also awards the “UNESCO Literary Prizes” annually on September 7 on the occasion of international literacy day to honour educational contributions and innovations in the field of literacy. It is significant to note that India’s National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) was honoured with the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize 2021 for its “Enabling education of persons with disabilities through technology enabled inclusive learning material, with specific focus on Indian sign language-based content” programme.

Also read: Disruptive changes due to Covid-19 gave fillip to digital literacy in India

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