Literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond
Role of educators and changing pedagogies
The UNESCO defines what literacy as: “ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed, and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.”
UNESCO data says, almost one-fourth of the youth (aged 15-24) could not read or write five decades back and the number stands 8% today. 773 million adults, two-thirds of them women – remain illiterate. One of the targets of Sustainable Development Goals is: “by 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy”. Concerted efforts are needed from all to achieve the goal.
Literacy is the most basic currency of the knowledge economyBarack Obama
International Literacy Day, on 8 September, founded by proclamation of UNESCO, in 1966 “to remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights”. The focus for the year 2020 is on “Literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond”and the role of educators and changing pedagogies. It is an opportunity to analyse the part of effective policies, governance and measures that can support educators and learning. In the times of COVID pandemic, it is a chance to reflect on how innovative and effective pedagogies and teaching methodologies can be used in youth and adult literacy programmes. During COVID-19, schools were closed disrupting the education of the students. In many countries, adult literacy programmes have come to a standstill.
International Literacy Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the role of innovative and effective pedagogies and teaching methodologies in youth and adult literacy programmes to face the pandemic and beyond. Several parents are worried about the disruption of their child’s education. Distance learning assisted by technology has been adopted as a temporary solution. it brought to the fore, the digital divide.
According to UNESCO, South Asia has the lowest regional adult literacy rate (58.6%), followed by sub-Saharan Africa (59.7%). Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali are the countries with the lowest literacy rates. The global literacy rate for all people aged 15 and above is 86.3%, and there is a wide gap between male and female literacy. The percentage varies throughout the world with developed nations having a rate of 99.2%.
In India, reflecting the efforts made by various government, the literacy rate has raised from 16.1% before Independence to 74% as per the 2011 census. Kerala has the highest literacy rate, with Bihar being the least literate state. However, Bihar has shown significant improvement as per the latest census. Higher population growth rate overshadowed the growth in literacy. Non-governmental agencies like People’s Science Movements, Rotary Club, Lions Club have contributed in improving the literacy rate in India.
How are our neighbours doing on the literacy front?
In the adult literacy rate, China, Sri Lanka, Myanmar are doing better than the world average, way down. When it comes to Youth Literacy rate (age 15-24), India is doing better than the world average.
There is a clear connection between illiteracy and poverty and prejudice against women.
If this reflects the struggle to make the world literate, giving purposeful education and making the youth employable is a challenge which the developing countries need to address on priority. The challenge is to have inclusive policies to address the needs of the tribal communities and adopt such measures which would preserve their nativity.
Education is the most powerful weapon for changing the worldNelson Mandela