UNESCO-Pearson Initiative for Literacy

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© PEARSON/Sudipto Das

About the Initiative

In the digital age, more than ever, literacy is the critical first step in the lifelong learning journey to improved quality of life, livelihood and work.  Information and communication technology (ICT) is fundamentally changing the way people live and work, learn and socialise. For many it enables a host of services – including administrative, health and agricultural – to be delivered in a more accessible and efficient way. But what about those who do not possess the skills necessary to access these services and fully participate in society?  

There are 758 million illiterate adults in the world, including 115 million youth. But lack of skills needed to benefit from digital technologies – from basic literacy and numeracy, to digital literacies and higher-order skills – is not confined to this group. In Europe, for example, an estimated 20 per cent of adults lack the literacy skills they need to function fully in a modern society. ICTs linked with livelihoods, work and social participation are enabling millions of users, but equally exclude hundreds of millions because they are low-skilled.

How can technology solutions – outside of education – be improved to be more inclusive, accessible and usable for low-skilled, low-literate youth and adults, and those who cannot read or write? How can digital solutions better provide an entry point for this group of people into digital economies, and, in the process, help them further develop their skills? What barriers need to be lowered to best acquire literacy?

UNESCO and Pearson have partnered to investigate, document, and share a number of innovative cases that have begun to answer these questions. Based on this study, UNESCO will develop specific guidelines to inform the work of digital solution providers, implementation and donor agencies, development partners, and governments who create policy conditions for greater inclusive use of technology.

This partnership seeks to show how, by taking a more inclusive approach, technology can contribute to helping all youth and a substantial proportion of adults achieve literacy and numeracy by 2030 – a target of the new Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The partnership is a key programme of the global Project Literacy campaign.

Pearson’s Project Literacy

Founded and convened by Pearson, an international education company, Project Literacy is a global movement that aims to make significant and sustainable advances in the fight against illiteracy so that all people – regardless of geography, language, race, class, or gender – have the opportunity to fulfill their potential through the power of words.

Project Literacy brings together a diverse and global cross-section of people and organizations to help unlock the potential of individuals, families and communities everywhere so that by 2030, no child will be born at risk of poor literacy.

You can follow Project Literacy on the project website.