Since 1967, International Literacy Day (ILD) celebrations have taken place annually around the world, on 08 September, to remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights, and to advance the literacy agenda towards a more literate and sustainable society.
Despite progress made, literacy challenges persist with at least 771 million young people and adults lacking basic literacy skills today; most of whom women, who still lack basic reading and writing skills and are faced with increased vulnerability.
Rapidly changing global context took a new meaning over the past years, hampering the progress of global literary efforts. In the aftermath of the pandemic, nearly 24 million learners might never return to formal education, out of which, 11 million are projected to be girls and young women. To ensure no one is left behind, we need to enrich and transform the existing learning spaces through an integrated approach and enable literacy learning in the perspective of lifelong learning.
This year’s International Literacy Day will be celebrated worldwide under the theme, Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces and will be an opportunity to rethink the fundamental importance of literacy learning spaces to build resilience and ensure quality, equitable, and inclusive education for all.
Excerpts from the Concept Note – sourced from ild-2022-cn-en.pdf (unesco.org)
Transforming literacy learning spaces: Leverage, Adapt, and Transform
Literacy learning spaces include the physical environment, learning materials, and activities required to facilitate the creation of the space, while the socio-cultural environment, political environment, partnerships, and the assessment of literacy activities is crucial for the sustenance of these spaces. With an expanded definition of literacy, it is evident that literacy learning is occurring beyond traditional ‘school-classroom’ spaces such as at workplace, community, family, library, digital, to name a few informal and non-formal learning spaces. As per the UNESCO recommendations of United Nations Transforming Education Summit, Thematic Action Track 2 on Learning and Skills for Life, Work, and Sustainable development, the characteristics of youth and adult learners, their evolving needs for literacy learning such as flexibility, proximity, ease of access, and link with the labour market are guiding factors for the transformation of literacy learning spaces. The transformation of literacy learning spaces not only entails the management of physical facilities more sustainably but also comprises changes in the governance structure of the educational systems and institutions by allowing the outcomes of literacy learning from informal and non-formal settings to be recognized, validated, and accredited through flexible data-driven monitoring and evaluation processes.
During the pandemic, in some countries, the technological advancement in literacy learning spaces ensured the continuation of learning for adults and youth around the world. Countries with existing technological infrastructure could adapt to digital and hybrid modes of learning whereas countries with low infrastructure were left behind. Nevertheless, the quality of education was compromised for all learners across all countries. An equitable, inclusive, and intergenerational approach to address learners’ learning, social, and emotional needs is crucial especially for those at utmost risk due to compounded vulnerability in disruptive global contexts. Policies and the following measures can and should leverage the development in literacy learning spaces, equally in formal, informal, and non- formal contexts, while adapting and transforming them to be safe, resilient, equitable, and inclusive in setting the stage for lifelong learning of youth and adults around the world.
Although not limited to, there is an imperative need for countries in conflict, host countries receiving refugees from conflict regions, for countries facing the devastating impact of climate change, for countries accelerating the post-COVID-19 recovery, and for countries facing the consequences of rapidly changing world contexts, to leverage from the existing innovations among the countries, adapt to the ever-evolving learner needs of the youth and adults, and transform their literacy learning spaces.
Learner-centric literacy spaces: Embracing multiple types of literacy learning spaces such as home, community, workplace, digital, and hybrid, ensures a holistic approach by involving all key-stakeholders and meets the learning needs of youth and adults of different profiles and contexts. It allows the inclusion of marginalized groups, ensures learning continuity, enables learners to be active citizens, and progresses towards the notion of creating learning societies. Additionally, these learner-centric spaces by design may promote the literacy in local language and support the learners in becoming literate in their first language along with their literacy in national languages. As reinforced through the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032) by the UN General Assembly, literacy in local languages as a key-driver for sustainability and retaining indigenous knowledge for fighting against climate change.
Evolution of digital literacy learning spaces: For the success of any learner in the knowledge-based economy, proficiency in subject matter is less important than learning how to learn. ICT enabled learning both in high- and low-tech systems could be leveraged for designing and scaling innovative learning practices such as self-regulated learning for youth and adults and setting the stage for lifelong learning.
Beyond digital literacy learning spaces to ensure inclusive and equitable education for all: The sudden and massive shift to remote digital learning in response to COVID-19 presents itself as both an opportunity for innovation and a risk for furthering the existing digital learning disparities among the youth and adults around the world. The growing digital divide in terms of connectivity, infrastructure, and the ability to engage with technology in providing quality education for all, excluded at least one third of the learners from pursuing learning remotely, catalysing the vicious inequality cycle. There are significant gaps in the inclusion of indigenous and ethnic minority individuals in the formal education systems given the linguistic and geographical barriers, along with factors such as racism, discrimination, and lack of cultural relevance. Policies and the following action need to adapt literacy learning spaces for all through gender responsive spaces, spaces for refugees, internally displaced people, and migrants, and spaces with low-tech or no-tech solutions for low-and middle-income countries.
Connecting learning pathways through governance of literacy learning spaces: Historically, literacy learning for youth and adults is occurring outside of the formal education systems through non-formal and informal learning mechanisms such as workplaces, entrepreneurial experiences, families, gaming, social media, to name a few. Skills and knowledge gained by youth and adults through these systems activate career opportunities and enable their participation in society as active contributing-members rather than as passive-recipients of circumstances. Literacy learning spaces are transforming, and policies and strategies need to keep up with these transformations through targeted financing and by allowing systemic level recognition, validation, and accreditation of the informal and non-formal learning outcomes. Capturing these learning outcomes through monitoring and evaluation methodologies sensitive to informal and non-formal outcomes are essential for supporting the existing and future transformations in literacy learning spaces.
- Increase awareness of diverse literacy learning spaces centred on needs of youth and adults based on new knowledge and evidence related to effective policies, systems, governance, programmes, teaching and learning practice, and monitoring of learning spaces.
- Leverage the existing progress and transformation in the development of literacy learning spaces while setting the stage for lifelong learning.
- Adapt the existing and the upcoming transformation in the literacy learning spaces to ensure quality, equitable, and inclusive education for all.