Global literacy progress in focus at UNESCO round table

SIL’s UNESCO liaison Dave Pearson joins representatives of governments and other development agencies to discuss progress toward the Education for All goals.

(October 2012) “Reaching the 2015 Literacy Target: Delivering on the Promise” was the theme for two days of discussion at the High Level International Round Table for Literacy recently hosted by UNESCO at its headquarters in Paris. Attendees included representatives from more than forty countries: education ministers, representatives of civil society, private partners, various UN agencies and NGOs, including several SIL staff.

In 2000, an ambitious set of “Education for All” (EFA) goals was adopted by the international community. The end date for reaching those goals is 2015, now only a few years away, and 2012 marks the end of the UN Literacy Decade.

A variety of issues were discussed, including:

  • What are the obstacles to progress in literacy?
  • How can governments and development organizations quicken the pace of progress and address challenges?
  • What partnerships could be built to strengthen current efforts?
  • What strategies are being employed by international institutions, governments, private donors, NGOs and other partners? Which strategies are effective and which need improvement?

Participants discussed both ongoing challenges and promising results from successful initiatives. Technological advances were recognized as opportunities for spreading education and information. One representative pointed out that the potential of mobile learning is as widespread as cell phone usage and may be key to expanding learning opportunities beyond the walls of the traditional classroom.

SIL staff in attendanceThe SIL attendees included two staff currently in leadership positions—UNESCO liaison Dave Pearson and Africa Area Director of Research and Advocacy Dr. Barbara Trudell—and a multi-national group of staff who are being mentored in advocacy. These four staff have already worked extensively as advocates in their own national-level contexts and are now gaining experience at the international level. The SIL delegation was able to participate through funding from PRISMA, an association of faith-based development organizations in the Netherlands.

The event included the ceremony for the 2012 UNESCO Literacy Prize laureates. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova recognized the winners for their outstanding work of promoting learning in the most sustainable and relevant way. “There is no better investment than education,” she commented.

SIL contributes to the Education For All literacy goals through language development efforts such as multilingual education and mother tongue literacy for children and adults. SIL is an official NGO partner of UNESCO with consultative status.

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