On International Literacy Day, 2017, Remember that Literacy is the first priority


Maung Mye Moe

Every year on September 8, nations of the world join together to express their determination that literacy is the first priority for all people since 1966. In Myanmar, International Literacy Day celebration is held on every day of the year, as we have been devoted as we recognize the literacy practices from around the world in connection with this year’s theme: Literacy in a digital world and as a key target in Sustainable Development Goal 4. The SDG target we all have already set up is, by 2030, to ensure that all youth and a sustainable proportion of adults, both men and women achieve literacy and numeracy.
We all fully accept that literacy not only assists individuals to improve themselves socially and economically and allow them to realize their full potential, but it also helps whole communities to achieve multi-dimensional development goals. Literacy alone can provide access to much of the accumulated knowledge of mankind and eradicate ignorance, mistrust, prejudice, misunderstanding, egotism and lack of interaction which together are causing a lot of tensions, unhappiness and conflict in many regions of the world. Only literacy can help develop critical thinking skills which is the one of 21st century education goals. Literacy can also have much impact on our daily lives as it creates access to knowledge and information on life skills and social and economic development such as, healthy living, social skills, principles of democracy, human right and conservation of environment, etc. Moreover, a literate person is more likely to value education and it can accelerate the learning generations to grow up.
Literacy is the ability to read, view, write, design, speak and listen in a way that allows you to communicate effectively. The power of literacy lies not just in the ability to read and write, but rather in a person’s capacity to apply these skills to effectively connect, interpret and discern the intricacies of the world in which they have.
Literacy data published by UNESCO displays that since 1950, the adult literacy rate at the world level has increased by 5 percentage points every decade on average, from 55.7 per cent in 1950 to 86.2 per cent in 2015. However, for four decades, the population growth was so rapid that the number of illiterate adults kept increasing, rising from 700 million in 1950 to 878 million in 1990. Since then, the number has fallen markedly to 745 million in 2015, although it remains higher than 1950 despite decades of universal education policies, literacy interventions and spread of print material and information and communications technology (ICT). However, these trends have been far from uniform across regions. In Myanmar, according to 2014 Census, 2.7 million learners (aged five to sixteen years) have either never enrolled in school or have dropped out of the formal education system, and an estimated 3.5 million adults (over the age of 15) are illiterate. In order to meet the needs of all learners, the Department of Alternative Education (DAE) has been formed under the Ministry of Education since September, 2016. From the establishment of the new department of Alternative Education (DAE) basic literacy programmes are implemented at Kayah, Shan and Rakhine States. The DAE department is also providing non-formal education to the learners (over the age of 10) in 81townships.
Alternative education system in its flexibility can accommodate the needs of different groups of learners with restricted access to formal schooling which relevant to their situations. Alternative education system has multiple path ways of learning and each has their own objectives. Alternative education include a range of non-formal learning opportunities, including equivalency programmes which provide condensed version of what is learning in the formal education system, basic and functional literacy programmes which aim at children and youth, basic vocational skills for learner to have more earning quality and life-long learning opportunity programmes. During the last two decades, the learner’s literacy repertoires extend beyond the traditional pillars of reading, comprehension, grammar and writing to include digital and interactive applications. Today’s learners are facing with a myriad of traditional and digital literacies so it is so important that they can develop the skills to effectively navigate and decipher the constant information streams that surrounds them.
Today, many children are being classed as ‘digital natives’ – just as comfortable online as they are offline. The effective use of ICT enables endless educational possibilities, with constantly evolving information streams. However, the vastness of the internet can be a hindrance to those children who cannot effectively assess very carefully in order to decide what is important. Strong Literacy skills are a key tool used when children know, understand and interpret information.
Let’s find the ways to support the literacy development of our children studies have shown that children’s motivation and achievement improve when their parents are involved in their education. There are many everyday things the parents and teachers can do to encourage literacy learning. These include –
– Sharing your knowledge and explaining how you use literacy in your everyday life.
– Encouraging the children to read and view a variety of texts such as newspapers, novels, magazines, websites, etc.
– Talking about things you have read or viewed which are amusing, interesting or knowledgeable.
– Discussing favorite authors, directors or illustrators and what you like about them.
– Playing games that develop knowledge and enjoyments of words
– Making use of school libraries, communities learning centres and resource centres.
It is remarkable that illiteracy is declining in Myanmar, just as in many parts of the world. Not only schools, universities, and education institutions, but also non-formal, and adult literacy centres are vital providers of literacy and these will sustain literacy skills as well as other community development activities. With greater participation, enthusiasm and commitment from the community, it is hoped that Myanmar will definitely gain the further progress in its efforts to bring universal literacy to its citizens.

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