India, Pakistan, Bangladesh lagging behind in literacy goalsNovember 29th, 2007 - 7:29 pm ICT by admin
New Delhi, Nov.29 (ANI): India, Pakistan and Bangladesh may find it difficult to achieve the education for all goal set by the UN for 2015, burdened by high number of illiterates and deep disparities that exist between urban and rural areas.
It is in this backdrop that the UNESCO’s Regional Conference in Support of Global Literacy kicked off in New Delhi on Thursday to discuss the theme Literacy Challenges in South, South-West and Central Asia: Building Partnerships and Promoting Innovative Approaches.
Inaugurating the conference, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi said there were countries that were small in size but have literacy rates of more than 90 percent, while there were also nations that were contributing heavily to world illiteracy.
“The three countries of South Asia — India, Pakistan and Bangladesh — have to redouble their efforts to reduce illiteracy,” she said.
Gandhi stressed on the need to achieve the global goals set for ensuring education for all by 2015.
“These are ambitious goals. But they must be achieved within the timeframe set for them,” she said.
Terming literacy a basic human right, she said it was a pre-requisite for social transformation.
“It enables people to be aware and assert their rights. It is a force against superstition and bigotry,” she said.
Referring to the National Literacy Mission launched by late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1986, she said the mission has not been given a new direction.
Recalling that vision of her late husband, she said that with the effort of the National Literacy Mission the literacy has jumped from 44 percent to 52 percent during the decade 1981-1991, and further climbed up from 52 percent to 65 percent in the following decade.
But she reiterated that regional variations exist.
The objective of the National Literacy Mission, she said is to “bring a sharper emphasis on female literacy in poorer areas and amongst disadvantaged communities, to effect convergence of existing schemes and programmes, to link literacy to improved livelihood and career opportunities, particularly in the knowledge economy.”
The Mission will be implemented by institutions of local self governments, to ensure greater accountability and responsiveness.
She also reiterated Indias commitment to universalize elementary education by 2010.
“Our challenge is to ensure full enrollment, reduction in the drop out rates and to impart quality education. A cooked mid day meal programme is an integral part of this strategy. Today, some 120 million children are being fed daily in schools,” she said.
She also said that India, Bangladesh and Pakistan should redouble their efforts to eradicate illiteracy. This will include greater focus on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and linking education with job opportunities (vocational education).
“We are at a moment of convergence between technological development and educational need, as well as between educational need and political will. Let us grasp this moment,” she said.
Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh said that in a rapidly globalizing age, nothing is immune to change.
“It has been our experience that large numbers of our people have been able to take advantage of these changes. Indian professionals, whether in software, IT, medicine or management, are leading the movement for change around the world. This is true of other countries in Asia. We are proud of their achievements and wish them well. However, as responsible governments our attention needs to focus on the larger numbers who have not been able to ride the crest of the wave; the people who, if I may extend the metaphor, run the risk of being swept away. It is here that we need to concentrate, and here that there is most at risk,” he said.
Singh also said that the challenge of literacy is not just of finding the means. It is one of commitment and perseverance. Literacy has to be brought to the centre stage not just in our respective countries but also amongst the comity of nations.
“Our goal is that every child at primary level is enrolled and retained in school. Taken along with our efforts under the National Literacy Mission, we hope to achieve 85 percent literacy by the end of this Plan period,” he said.
The Director General of UNESCO, Koichiro Matsuura, said that India is among the countries that have made remarkable strides since 2000 towards EFA, with a range of targeted initiatives that reach disadvantaged children, youth and adults across the country.
“Quality is also a concern. Rates of grade repetition and drop-out are high across South and West Asia and learning assessments systematically show that too many children leave school without acquiring basic literacy and numeracy skills,” he said.
Dr. Shantha Sinha delivered the keynote address. In her address she said that India has been witness to some of the large-scale movements for literacy involving millions of volunteers.
“Volunteers are at the core of such endeavors to reach out to the illiterate, which recognise the potential of literacy for individuals as well as for societal transformation,” she said, adding “we are together today in this conference, transcending boundaries of language, culture, nation to meet, empathize with and act in solidarity for all those who have been left behind.”
During the Conference an exhibition on the theme of creating literate environments has also been displayed at Vigyan Bhawan. Part of the exhibition will focus on how ICTs can be utilized in literacy and non-formal education: increasing access, localizing content and creating an environment conducive to literacy. Literacy materials are also on display in the Fair of Best Practices.
The welcome address was given by M.A.A. Fatmi, Minister of State for HRD.
There was also a video message from U.S.First Lady Laura Bush. The first lady of Sri Lanka, Madam Shiranthi Rajapakse, was the guest of honour at the function. (ANI)
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