22.01.2013 -

PRESS RELEASE:UNESCO and EU join forces to tackle low literacy levels

In Europe one in five 15 year olds, as well as nearly 75 million adults lack basic reading and writing skills. This increases their risk of poverty and social exclusion and makes it hard for them to get a job. The end of the UN Literacy decade, which lasted from 2003 to 2012, is not the end of illiteracy, as the results presented in the EU High Level Group Report on Literacy show.

At a public event in the library of the European Parliament today, H.R.H. Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, Special Envoy for UNESCO on Literacy for Development and Chair of the EU High Level Group on Literacy, presented the group's report which calls on European Union countries to overhaul their approach to literacy. Together with UNESCO and the European Commission she discussed how best to reduce the number of young people and adults who are struggling with reading and writing, both in Europe and world-wide.

The High Level Group, set up by European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Androulla Vassiliou, has produced a report that covers all ages and is widely seen as the current reference work on the issue. Now the UN Literacy decade has come to an end, it is time to take stock of the situation and assess what steps can be taken to tackle the problem more effectively.

The 80-page report that was the starting point of the discussion today, was set up as part of the ‘Europe Loves Reading campaign’ launched by Commissioner Vassiliou. The report includes not only the latest numbers on literacy-rates in Europe, but also many recommendations and examples of successful literacy projects in European countries.

Commissioner Vassiliou underlined that follow-up action is not a matter for education alone but a task for a wide range of players in society. Mr. Kristian Schmidt, representative for Andris Piebalgs, the European Commissioner for Development Aid and Cooperation, emphasized the role of literacy in raising living standards in developing countries. Dr. Mmantsetsa Marope, Director for Basic Learning and Skills Development at UNESCO, presented UNESCO’s strategy to improve literacy-rates and how the organization works to realize the vision of a literate world for all, through formal and non-formal literacy programs worldwide. The event was hosted by Marietje Schaake, MEP of the ALDE group, a strong advocate of education and development as well as digital freedom in the EU and abroad. She organized the action-oriented meeting in collaboration with the UNESCO Liaison Office in Brussels.

Commissioner Vassiliou said: "Without good literacy skills, it is impossible to participate fully in the community. As the High Level Group points out, these skills are the foundation of all learning and are the prerequisite for any democratic society."

H.R.H. Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands stated: "The High Level Group report shows that there is a wealth of knowledge on literacy development. We know the size of the problem and we know what it takes to solve it, for children and adults across Europe. Now it's time to act. This report should be the catalytic force to create the action we need."

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