19 September, 2018

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International Literacy Day – Youth & Literacy

By Samya Senaratne –

Samya Senaratne

September 8th was declared as International Literacy Day (ILD) at the 14th session of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) General Conference on 26 October 1966. Since its inception in 1967, ILD celebrations have taken place annually around the world to remind the public of the importance of literacy; the ability to read and write, as a source of human dignity as well as a basic human right. Advocating increased literacy on this day is of critical importance, given that UNESCO has revealed in its 2017 Global Education Monitoring Report that around 264 million youngsters do not attend school.

This global celebration of the value of literacy therefore seeks to help advance the literacy agenda towards sustainable socio-economic development. Celebrations of International Literacy Day have since 1967, focused on specific themes, such as the ‘Education For All’ movement (2000-2015) and United Nations programme ‘Literacy Decade’ launched in 2003. The theme of ILD- 2018 is ‘Literacy and skills development’. The focus this year is therefore more on youth and their life-long experience of learning and acquisition of skills. It is pertinent that the impact of literacy on global and Sri Lankan youth be discussed.

Integrating Literacy and Youth Skill Development

The integration of literacy with skill development goes back to the late 1950s when the concept of ‘functional literacy’ gained currency and ‘farmer’s school models’ combined literacy with employability. In the same vein, UNESCO recognizes ‘skills’ as encompassing the knowledge and competencies required for employment, careers, and livelihoods, particularly technical and vocational skills, along with transferable skills and digital skills. Accordingly, from hairdressing, construction, 3D-modelling to communication skills, teamwork and leadership, these different skills can be enhanced through literacy, building an economically independent and confident young generation who will contribute to the creation of a sustainable future.

The Sri Lankan education system is highly academic and does not focus a lot on technical/vocational skills of students. In Sri Lanka, the Labour force Survey of 2015 indicate that men who studied only up to age 11-15 and women who studied up to age 19 comprise the majority of the unemployed population. These capable youth can be empowered through providing them with technical, transferable and digital skills. The National Vocational Qualifications Systems in Sri Lanka (NVQSL) managed by the Ministry of Vocational & Technical Training offers a structured seven-level vocational qualification towards this end.

Vocational education and training degrees are also offered at the Open University, the University of Vocational Technology, as well as Diplomas by 37 technical colleges and agriculture schools. Apart from these, the Ministry of Education has newly launched a non-formal vocational education program which allows ‘school drop-outs’ and ‘adults who did not complete their school education’, to earn a living, through self-employment in a vast range of fields such as dressmaking, beauty culture, hairdressing, stitching, carpentry, plumbing, painting etc.

As the 2002 World Bank Review Report on Skills and Literacy Training indicates, the possibility of concrete and immediate benefits in the form of income generation especially motivates learners to proactively participate in such trainings. Therefore, in the backdrop of UNESCO’s ‘Global Monitoring Report on Education for All’ (2006) identifying a clear connection between illiteracy and countries in severe poverty, such an integrated approach can be very effective in mobilizing the youth to combat poverty by increasing employability and entrepreneurial skills. This theme is of special relevance to a country like Sri Lanka situated in the South Asian Region which has the lowest regional adult literacy rate (58.6%), despite sustaining a 92% literacy rate nationally.

Globalization, Digitization and Upgrading the Skills

Even though the global adult literacy rate (15 years and above) has progressed from 81% in 2000 to 86% in 2016, UNESCO reports that six out of ten children and adolescents are not achieving minimum literacy requirements. And if the world continues in passive inaction, many of the estimated 264 million out-of-school children in 2017 will eventually grow up be part of the future illiterate adult population. Therefore, International Literacy Day which advocates the indispensable and inherent value of literacy and consequent personal development, addresses a key contemporary youth-related issue.

Globalization and fast-advancing digital technology are transforming ways in which people work, live and learn, and are generating new skill demands. In Sri Lanka overall digital literacy rate is at a low 38.7%, an unnerving 16% in the estate sector and 9% among the elderly population of 60 and above. The inability to keep up with rapid technology changes and dissemination of ICT knowledge and infrastructure is resulting in unemployment and livelihood challenges that particularly affect young people, women and other disadvantaged groups. This is substantiated by the ILO (2018), reporting that while the global unemployment rate reached 5.6 % in 2017, the rate among youth was at a higher 13 %. Sri Lankan statistics reflect a similar trend where in 2014, the highest age-group based unemployment rates  was among the youth aged 15-24 (24%), which is around 6 times the unemployment rates among adults above 30 (3%). Thus, education systems in the poorer regions must rethink their capacity and skill development programmes, take youth’s interests in to account, offer more learning pathways and incorporate multi-stakeholder involvement such as Google initiative ‘Digital Skills for Africa’ which committed to train 1 million Africans on digital skills within a year.

Need for Useful and Streamlined Skill Sets 

As well as the issue of out-of-school children, which the Sri Lankan government seek to tackle with regulations under the Education Ordinance of 1939 by raising the age of compulsory school attendance in Sri Lanka from 14 to 16 years, UNESCO also identifies that youth entering apprenticeships lack the literacy skills needed to succeed in the increasingly globalizing world. And even the acquired skills often do not match the employment engaged in. 

An apprenticeship is a contract of learning where the main motive for employment is not remuneration but gaining knowledge and skills of the trade. National Apprenticeship and Industrial Training Authority (NAITA) which is established by the Tertiary and Vocational Education Act 1990 regulates apprenticeship/trainee contracts in the public sector. However, in the private sector, apprenticeships are not regulated by an overseeing authority like NAITA, but are employed under the Employment of Trainees (Private Sector) Law of 1978 and under respective Wages Boards established for particular trades. Due to this lacuna, apprentices in the private sector are not protected from inadequate and unsatisfactory training which might not tally with the required skill set. The lack of information in most developing states regarding the labour market demand for skills and on actual skill levels of the population is a hurdle for youth skill development that has to be overcome though policy changes.

2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and Youth

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have generated a new incentive for collective efforts to address skills challenges. The conjoined nature of SDGs urges integrated approaches and multi-sectoral collaboration as elaborated above. This helps improve not only skill/literacy of youth but also improve conditions and environments required for learners to acquire and advance, to lead to better social and development. In this respect, two SDGs are particularly relevant, namely SDG 4 to ‘Ensure equitable and quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’ and SDG 8 to ‘Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’. The Targets and Indicative Strategies for SDG 4 which are included in Education 2030 strategy and SDG 8 emphasize the importance of labour market outcomes of literacy and skills development programmes such as, youth Not in Education, Employment and Training (NEET).

It is evident that youth of a country need to be equipped with new skill- related literacy to progress and compete with the vicissitudes of contemporary globalized world. In keeping with this concern, the 2018 International Literacy day, themed ‘Literacy and skills development’ focuses on the enabling the global youth to achieve sustainable social outcomes- for themselves as individuals, and for their communities as the drivers of sustainable development of a country.

References

  1. UNESCO, International Literacy Day 2018-Literacy and Skills Development, Concept Note.
  2. Department of Census and Statistics, Unemployed Population by age group, Sri Lanka Labour force Survey, 2015.
  3. Department of Census and Statistics, Unemployed Population by level of Education, Sri Lanka Labour force Survey, 2015.
  4. Ian Redahunsi, Opportunities For Africans (OFA), ‘Google launches Digital Skills for Africa Online Portal for Young Africans’ (October 27, 2017).
  5. White Paper, Skillsoft, ‘What are digital skills? A comprehensive definition for modern organizations’.
  6. United Nations-Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, SDG 4 and 8- Progress and information (2017).
  7. Daily Mirror, ‘Literacy and Sri Lanka’ (September 11, 2017).
  8. Oxenham, J. et al., (2002) Skills and Literacy Training for Better Livelihoods: A Review of Approaches and Experiences. The World Bank.
  9. International Labour Organization (2018) World Employment Social Outlook: Trends 2018.
  10. UNESCO (2018) Global Education Monitoring Report 2017/2018. Paris: UNESCO.
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Latest comments

  • 3
    0

    Samya Senaratne,

    RE: International Literacy Day – Youth & Literacy

    “The Sri Lankan education system is highly academic and does not focus a lot on technical/vocational skills of students. In Sri Lanka, the Labour force Survey of 2015 indicate that men who studied only up to age 11-15 and women who studied up to age 19 comprise the majority of the unemployed population. These capable youth can be empowered through providing them with technical, transferable and digital skills. The National Vocational Qualifications Systems in Sri Lanka (NVQSL) managed by the Ministry of Vocational & Technical Training offers a structured seven-level vocational qualification towards this end.”

    Thanks for the write-up.

    National IQ Scores – Country Rankings

    https://photius.com/rankings/national_iq_scores_country_ranks.html

    Countries are ranked highest to lowest national IQ score.

    Sri Lanka , with a mean national IQ of 79, certainly needs to optimize the limited intellectual and other resources. Unfortunately, the Para-Sinhala “Buddhist” monks and their opportunistic cohorts have diverted these limited sources towards their self-interest, and not delivering Nibbana or Nirvanna to any follower, just promises-caveat emptor-the principle that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made.

    The story is the same for the Para-Priests and Para-Ulama., towards their self-interest. All they have done is national disunity, in order to maintain their hegemony, and made empty promises of heaven, and again, caveat emptor-the principle that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made.

  • 3
    0

    When are we going to get rid of memory based learning? SL education makes a lots of “A students” as per Kiyosaki’s theory, which also supports parental wish for their children’s future – A degree, a job, a house and a car. Even worse when students with degrees putting pressure on the government to provide them with state sector jobs increasing tax burden on common man by growing the cost center, the state sectors, yet SL govt comes out proudly to say tackling the unemployment issue.

    We need a system that makes people hate doing jobs for others, importantly hate working for state sectors and encourage entrepreneurship and create entrepreneurs. Not everyone can be entrepreneurs, but every human being has a unique talent not to depend working for others

    • 1
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      Isharath ,

      “When are we going to get rid of memory based learning?”

      Memory learning pays by passing exams for the student in the short-term, but not for the student and the society in the long-term.

      Students who do not understand Math, physics, physical chemistry etc equation, fully memorize the equation. just like the religions students do with ancient texts, remembering Pali, Greek, Latin and Arabic Scriptures.

      So, the education should include a critical component of critical thinking, as opposed to root memorization. See what has happened top the Wahhali-Saudi Graduates who took the GMAT Exam? They are at the bottom of the World.

      Why? Lack of critical thinking, logic , science and philosophy.

      Quick Post: L&V’s National IQs predict GMAT scores across 173 nations

      https://humanvarieties.org/2014/02/02/quick-post-lvs-national-iqs-predicts-gmat-scores-across-173-nations/

      Regression Plot: The regression plot for GMAT scores and L&V’s (2012) Estimated National IQs is shown below.

      https://humanvarietiesdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/gmatregressionplot.png

      Yes, the GMAT test is administered in English and is designed for programs that teach in English. But the required English skill level is much less than what students will need in the classroom. The exam requires just enough English to allow us to adequately and comprehensively assess Verbal reasoning, Quantitative reasoning and Integrated Reasoning skills….

  • 1
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    The biggest problem today is that young people don’t read books. They just watch TV, videos and listen to music. Even the teachers don’t read books! The Teenagers play around with smartphones all the time and devote a lot of time to social networking. Most of them who use computers focus on entertainment and film gossip etc. and are averse to doing anything constructive or productive with their time. It is very sad!

  • 0
    0

    Labour market demand for skills and on actual skill levels of the population

    Life-changing decisions next decade The need of literacy for the eminent Robotic process automation’s workflow efficiency benefits have been of great value to financial services organizations. Teachers engage students in activities and facilitate activities so that learning opportunities are maximized, help themselves as much as possible for making learning Interesting to them will engage them and make to stick better. Emerging technology practice robotic process

  • 1
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    A very interesting and an insightful read on youth and literacy 😊👍🏻

  • 0
    0

    We must teach our next generation that memorising and regurgitating chosen items in a language not understood will not take us far. Example are the Poyaday incantations, the Arabic incantations to Muslim and the incantations in Sanskrit by Hindu priests.
    The peak of literary achievement is the realisation that the culture of corruption/nepotism/impunity is a bane.

  • 0
    0

    This is how a Sinhala mother asks her children to study at home, “Puthe Padang Koranna”. Is that because SL education system is memory based?

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