UNESCO International Literacy Prizes and Literacy Day celebrations focus on multilingualism

Paris: UNESCO will celebrate International Literacy Day on Monday 9 September at its Headquarters in Paris with a conference and award-giving ceremony for its International Literacy Prizes, which this year recognize projects from Algeria, Colombia, Indonesia, Italy and Senegal. The 2019 prizes honour outstanding work relating to this year’s theme: literacy and multilingualism.

As linguistic diversity faces the challenges of globalization and digitization, almost 40 per cent of the world’s population lacks access to learning in the language they speak or understand, a serious problem as UNESCO advocates literacy education in learners’ mother-language as the optimal way of acquiring literacy skills, and improving quality of learning.

“Literacy is the starting point for any form of quality inclusive education and we need to support and scale up the many initiatives across the globe seeking to make literacy a reality for all,” says the Director General Audrey Azoulay.

As UNESCO leads the celebration of the International Year of Indigenous Languages, the need to rethink literacy education is all the more pressing considering that in 2016 only 5% of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages were present on the Internet and 50 per cent of spoken languages were considered to be in danger of disappearing.

The two UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize awards for mother-tongue literacy education and training, sponsored by the Republic of Korea, will be awarded in a ceremony at 5pm to:

National Strategy for Multilingual Literacy programme of Algeria’s National Adult Literacy and Education Office for its support for mother tongue-based literacy for adults in two national languages, Tamazight and Arabic.
Senegal’s Textile Fibres and Development Company (SODEFITEX) for its functional literacy and follow-up vocational training for farmers in southern Senegal, a community-driven project that provides literacy classes in three national languages alongside agriculture-related skills development courses.

The three awards of the UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy, supported by the Government of the People’s Republic of China, rewarding programmes that benefits rural populations and out-of-school youth, particularly girls and women, will be given to:

The Obras Escuela programme of Camacol Antioquia, the Colombian construction industry’s professional organization in the department of Antioquia, which provides flexible literacy learning in Spanish and English for building industry workers with limited, or no, previous schooling in the workplace.
BASAbali Wiki programme of Indonesia’s BASAbali group, a multimedia wiki dictionary initiative to preserve and value local languages alongside national and international tongues, through the engagement of people in Bali and abroad.
TELL ME – Theatre for Education and Literacy Learning of Migrants in Europe programme, managed by the Italian not-for-profit organization, Nuovo Comitato il Nobel per i Disabili from Italy. The initiative improves migrants’ literacy skills through a theatre-based teaching approach that uses storytelling in the learners’ mother language before moving gradually to learning the host countries language.

Also on 9 September, from 9am to 6pm, UNESCO will host an International Conference on Literacy and multilingualism at its Headquarters in Paris. The event will bring together stakeholders and decision-makers from all over the world to rethink literacy in information rich and increasingly multilingual societies.

The award ceremony of UNESCO’s International Literacy Prizes will conclude the Organization’s global celebration of International Literacy Day.