International Literacy Day 2012: Cultivating Peace

Education brings sustainability to all the development goals, and literacy is the foundation of all learning. It provides individuals with the skills to understand the world and shape it, to participate in democratic processes and have a voice, and also to strengthen their cultural identity.

-Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General

(September 2012) With this year’s theme for International Literacy Day, UNESCO encourages people around the world to consider the link between social stability and access to education. The 2012 theme, “Cultivating Peace,” highlights the role of education opportunities in creating healthy communities and nations. Literacy is a key component of Education for All (EFA), a UNESCO initiative. SIL contributes to the EFA literacy goals through language development efforts such as multilingual education and mother tongue literacy for children and adults.

Held annually on 8 September, International Literacy Day provides an opportunity to focus on barriers to literacy and to address strategies for improving access to education for people around the world. For SIL, this means a particular focus on the world’s ethnolinguistic minority communities.

Representatives of SIL and SIL LEAD, a partner of SIL, will participate in the second annual International Symposium of the Mobiles for Education Alliance, to be held 5-7 September in Washington DC. SIL President Dr. John Watters will join other development leaders for a panel discussion event entitled, “Diversity that is deeper than the digital divide: How the use of mobile technology could benefit the three billion most marginalized people." Dr. Paul Frank, Executive Director of SIL LEAD, will present results from a pilot project in mother-tongue first education in the African nation of Cameroon, “Laying a solid foundation: Teaching Kom children in their own language.” The children in the study’s mother-tongue schools consistently outperformed their English-medium school peers in reading, math and English.

SIL Philippines is one of a number of organizations* that have come together to arrange a multilingual education conference in conjunction with International Literacy Day. The event will be held at Ateneo de Davao University in the Philippines on 15 September. A Keynote address will be given by Hon. Magtanggol T. Gunigundo of the Phillipines House of Representatives, 15th Congress. Conference goals include:

  • an assessment of the nation’s progress in achieving the goals of Education for All in 2012, the end of the United Nations Literacy Decade;
  • increased awareness of mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTB-MLE) as a key strategy for promoting greater access to education and quality instruction;
  • initiating the organization of a formal alliance between education stakeholders—tertiary institutions, public and private school educators, local government units and ethnolinguistic communities; and
  • collaboration on continued initiatives to address challenges in literacy empowerment, especially for non-dominant language communities.

Among the many presentations at this event will be two by SIL Philippines staff. Ms. Ma Cecilia O. Van Zante’s presentation is entitled “The Cotabato City MTB-MLE Experience.” Dr. Catherine Young will present “Functional literacy and the promise of MTB-MLE.”

SIL's vision is to see literacy become a sustainable community value with the ownership of literacy goals and activities in the hands of community members.

*Partnering organizations include Save the Children, Translators Association of the Philippines, the University of Southern Mindanao, Ateneo de Davao University, The Eggie Apostol Foundation and the Davao City Government.

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