Basic education is an evolving programme of instruction intended to provide students with the opportunity to become responsible global citizens and contribute to the economic and social wellbeing of their communities. Rotary continues to promote the cause of basic education and the spread of literacy across the world.
Rotary believes that parents and teachers know what is best for students. Local clubs ensure their support to the students and teachers offer them the opportunity to achieve significantly higher levels of learning. Providing technology-based additional instructional aids gives more opportunities to students and helps those with cognitive difficulty to meet the essential academic learning requirements.
Let me highlight the funding aspects of the Literacy and Basic Education initiatives. In the Union Budget for the Financial Year 2018–19, allocation for school education has got a lion’s share of ₹50,000 crores and at the State level, recent analysis of six States — Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and West Bengal — by CRY and the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, a think tank, shows States allocate about 14–20 per cent of their budgets to school education. Clearly money is not a constraint to promote literacy. The Central and State governments take care of the financial support.
The future is Digital Literacy. According to the biggest survey on mobile reading, released by UNESCO in collaboration with World Reader and Nokia, mobile devices are playing a big role in promoting literacy and getting people to read in developing countries. Mobile phones are significantly boosting literacy skills in Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zimbabwe. “Mobile reading is not a future phenomenon but a right-here, right-now reality,” states the report. “Mobile reading can open educational opportunities to nearly seven billion people, ultimately reducing illiteracy rates forever. In places where physical books are scarce, mobile phones are plentiful. While mobile phones are still used primarily for basic communication, even the simplest of phones are a gateway to long-form text.”
Girls and women are getting the most benefit from a mobile device approach to reading, says a heartening UNESCO study. They are reading up to six times more than boys and men.
A United Nations data reveals that of the Earth’s estimated seven billion inhabitants, over six billion now have access to a mobile phone. Mobile technology can advance literacy and learning in underserved communities around the world. Rotary must be prepared to align with rapidly evolving technology and exploit opportunities to promote basic education and literacy. Why shouldn’t we think of partnering with UNESCO on a global mission to eradicate illiteracy just like we together eradicated polio!
This is food for thought!
Let me conclude with the words of Kofi Annan: “Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope.”
Be the Inspiration, ask Rotarians to inspire and bring change in the world and in each other.
Director, Rotary International