Literacy Milestones

2003: UNESCO takes the lead of the United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012) which envisions Literacy for All. Throughout the Decade UNESCO takes actions to increase the absolute numbers of those who are literate. The Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE) is the main mechanism for reaching this objective.

2000: The international community adopts the Dakar Framework for Action at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, convened by UNESCO. The Organization is mandated to coordinate global efforts in meeting six goals which recognize the fundamental role of literacy. The two principal goals are meeting the basic learning needs of youth and adults through the functional literacy approach and reducing adult illiteracy rates by 50%.

1990: Proclaimed International Literacy Year by the UN General Assembly based on a decision adopted in December 1987, this year gives impetus to UNESCO to highlight the critical role of literacy in the World Declaration on Education for All and the Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs adopted by the World Conference on Education for All (Jomtien, Thailand, 1990).

1975: UNESCO conducts the International Symposium for Literacy and adopts the Persepolis Declaration. Literacy is proclaimed to be not just “the process of learning the skills of reading, writing and arithmetic, but a contribution to the liberation of man and to his full development”.

1965: On the recommendation of the World Conference of Ministers on the Eradication of Illiteracy, the concept of functional literacy is introduced. This concept views literacy as a means for development that gains a functional role and becomes an integral part of the development process and not just an end in itself. This approach is integrated into several UNESCO programmes, notably the Experimental World Literacy Programme (1967-1973), jointly led with UNDP.

1958: UNESCO publishes an issue of the UNESCO Courier on literacy, featuring selected writings from well-known experts of the time who expose the scale of the problem and the challenges the world faces.

1957: UNESCO issues the ‘World Illiteracy at Mid-century’ report, the first attempt to present statistical evidence on the extent of illiteracy in every country and territory of the world.

1946: UNESCO establishes an Education Committee focusing on the promotion of ‘Fundamental Education’ which is later developed into an action programme. The notion of fundamental education introduces a broader concept of education, which recognizes that while not everyone can access formal schooling, each person should have the right to knowledge and skills as essential conditions for living better lives.

Milestones in Education

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