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The findings > Thematic Studies> Literacy>Part 6
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At the Jomtien conference in 1990, Goal #6 was to reduce the illiteracy rate in each country by 50% in one decade. This has not happened in any country. And yet there is a widening recognition that low-literacy and poor basic learning competencies (by varying standards) are even more prevalent today than had been assumed a decade ago. Furthermore, with population growth the absolute number of illiterates has declined very little since Jomtien.

With national economies and civic participation more dependent than ever on an educated and literate citizenry, the world education community is faced with multiple and serious challenges. On the one hand, agencies which support or engage in literacy work need to be more realistic about what can be achieved within budget constraints. Such realism entails lowering expectations about major changes in individual, social, and economic outcomes, while at the same time holding literacy service providers to higher standards of accountability and professionalism. As in formal schooling, literacy and adult education do not provide a magic answer for any society, but they are part and parcel of all aspects of national development. On the other hand, agencies can enhance adult literacy programmes by:

Building a more solid knowledge base for field-based innovations,

improving professional development and human resources capacity,

providing better pathways from non-formal youth and adult literacy programmes into the formal school system,

combining non-formal programmes for adults and early childhood programmes,

taking advantage of new technologies, and

investing resources in assessment, evaluation and monitoring, surveys and applied research, and

creating new synergies and collaborations between governmental and non-governmental agencies.

This global thematic study has attempted to highlight some of the most important problems and prospects in improving the quality of literacy and adult education work, and efforts to meet the needs of people who are often excluded or marginalized from quality education. The importance of literacy and basic learning competencies in the lives of people the world over is difficult to overestimate. The simple fact that even today nearly one-quarter of humanity lacks such essential - and obtainable - competencies still shocks the world. It will be all the more striking in the year 2020, if we have been unable to substantially improve this situation. Yet the tools for making major gains are within reach if the best know-how can be put into service. Future literacy and adult education work will require a sustained, coherent, informed and increased effort.


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