The 51st International Literacy Day was celebrated across the world on 8 September 2017 with the theme ‘Literacy in a Digital World’.
The day was commemorated by a two-day special event at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris on 7 and 8 September 2017. It also saw the hosting of the 2017 UNESCO International Literacy Prize awards ceremony, which recognized and rewarded excellent literacy practices from around the world in connection with this year’s theme.
In India, the day was celebrated at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi with the same theme. The event comprised several programmes including felicitation of the dignitaries and distribution of Saakshar Bharat Awards to the best performing states, districts, gram panchayats and NGOs.
The annual day is an opportunity for Governments, civil society and stakeholders to highlight improvements in world literacy rates, and reflect on the existing literacy challenges.
The main aim is to look at what kind of literacy skills are required for people to navigate smoothly through digitally-mediated societies and to explore effective literacy policies and programmes that can leverage the opportunities that the digital world provides.
The issue of literacy is a key component of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals and the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
• On this day, in 1965, the World Congress of Ministers of Education met in Tehran, capital of Iran, for the first time to discuss the programme of education at the international level.
• The day was given its status by UNESCO in its 14th session in November 1966.
• Ever since then, the day is celebrated annually on 8 September by most of the member countries.
• The main objective behind the day’s observance was to mobilize public opinion in favour of struggle against illiteracy.
• The day is a forum to disseminate information on literacy and raise public awareness and the significance of literacy for individual and national development.
The eradication of illiteracy has been one of the major national concerns of the government of India. Hence, the day is used as a medium to raise public awareness to eradicate illiteracy and create an environment in favour of adult education programmes.
From 1996 onwards, some new elements were introduced to make the programme more attractive. In 1996, a ‘Mashal March’ was organized involving school students and literacy functionaries.
In subsequent years, a variety of activities were included as a part of the day’s celebration such as Rangoli and drawing competitions, cultural programmes as well as international conferences, and seminars.