United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization  

  International Literacy Day - 8 September 2000  

  Director-General's Message
  Celebration 2000
  Literacy prizes 2000
  Sidelights on History
  Literacy with a Human Face
  Reflection on Literacy Day
  Picture Gallery
  World Bibliography

Sidelights on the History of International Literacy Day  

The International Literacy Prizes 1966-2000

Each year from 1966 UNESCO has celebrated INTERNATIONAL LITERACY DAY with the aim to sensitize and mobilize international public opinion and to elicit their interest and active support for literacy activities – one of UNESCO’s major preoccupations since its first General Conference in 1946. On this day, the Director-General of UNESCO addresses a message to the world, appealing to individuals, organizations and states to demonstrate their support and solidarity for literacy and to promote non-formal education for all, particularly for those who have been excluded from the school system.

This annual celebration started following a recommendation of the World Conference of Ministers of Education on the Eradication of Illiteracy which met in Tehran in September 1965. The Conference recommended that 8 September, the date of the inauguration of the Conference, be proclaimed International Literacy Day and be observed world-wide. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran proposed that UNESCO award an international literacy prize for meritorious work in the struggle against illiteracy, and created the Mohammed Reza Pahlavi Prize (1967-1978) which was, from 1967 to 1969, the only literacy award presented.

Two other prizes, the Nadezhda K. Krupskaya Prize (1970-1991) and the Iraq Literacy Prize (1989-1991) were awarded for 19 years and 11 years respectively.

At present five international literacy prizes are awarded each year:

  1. The International Reading Association Literacy Award, created in 1979 by the International Reading Association, a non-governmental organization
  2. The Noma Literacy Prize created in 1980 by the late Shoichi Noma, President of Kodansha Ltd., Publishers
  3. The two King Sejong Literacy Prizes created in 1989 by the Government of the Republic of Korea to commemorate a king who invented, more than 500 years ago, an alphabet consisting of 22 easy to learn letters
  4. The Malcolm Adiseshiah International Literacy Prize created in 1998 by the Government of India to commemorate the late Malcolm Adiseshiah, former Deputy Director-General of UNESCO and Chairman of the International Literacy Prize Jury.
The three categories of recognition awarded are:
  1. The five Prizes consisting of a cheque for US $15,000, a silver medal and a diploma
  2. Honourable Mentions consisting of a diploma and a bronze medal
  3. Recognitions by the Jury in the International Literacy Prize award list



"Literacy. Without it…words have no meaning.