According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), it is estimated that some 775 million adults around the world lack minimum literacy skills. This means that worldwide one in five adults is still not literate. In addition to this, about 60.7 million children do not attend school and many more attend occasionally or drop out. This does not make for a good case of ending the cycle of poor literacy skills.
Globally, while the literacy rate among youth has increased over the past two decades, gender and regional disparities are still very evident. The level of literacy in developed countries is still quite low and literacy rates are higher among males than females.
In Trinidad and Tobago, 22-23% of our people aged 15 and over is unable to cope with everyday reading and writing. That’s almost 1 in 4 ‘Trinbagonians’ who are not literate. These statistics were the results of a 1994 Adult Literacy Tutors Association (ALTA) and 1995 University of the West Indies National Literacy Survey. Although these surveys were done over a decade ago, it is highly unlikely that a survey today would reveal any positive change.
ALTA’s survey found that 8% of people over 15 years of age (which would have equated to 62,000 adults) could not read even 3 of these words: to, at, love, sun, bet. A further 15% could only read a little, adding another 118,000 adults. According to these two surveys, at best, our literacy rate stood at 78% in 1995 with some 180,000 adults unable to cope with everyday basic reading and writing.
Fifty one years ago, UNESCO officially proclaimed September 8 as International Literacy Day. This was done to actively encourage communities worldwide to promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities and societies.
The theme this year was ‘Literacy in a digital world’ which is quite fitting as our world is becoming more and more digital. The aim is to take a close look at the level of literacy skills which people need to navigate our digital world and to look for effective ways to help non-readers maximize opportunities provided in this digital world.
International Literacy Day is celebrated by governments, private sectors, communities and non-governmental organizations around the world. In celebration of International Literacy Day locally, ALTA has registration for new students at libraries nationwide.