Jury meets for 2018 UNESCO International Literacy Prizes


The International Jury met on 2 to 4 July 2018 at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France, to choose five outstanding programmes that are promoting literacy and skills development, for this year’s prestigious UNESCO International Literacy Prizes.

Ms Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education at UNESCO, opened the International Jury meeting, which includes five members who are responsible for the evaluations of the applications as well as for proposing the final recommendation of five outstanding programmes to the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Audrey Azoulay.

At the opening, Ms Giannini said that literacy is part of the broad skills needed for the 21st century, especially in order to participate and navigate in the digital era.

To advance literacy as an integral part of lifelong learning and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, UNESCO promotes literacy worldwide with an emphasis on youth and adults. The Prizes are supporting the advocacy work and mapping global trends and promising practices.

2018 theme for Prizes: Literacy and skills development

This year’s Prizes theme is ‘Literacy and Skills Development’, which is also the theme of International Literacy Day (8 September). It examines programmes and approaches that combine literacy and skills development, such as vocational, digital and entrepreneurship skills needed in the labour market.  

This is especially relevant and urgent for those that are marginalised by poverty, unemployment, low skills, illiteracy and gender discrimination, such as out-of-school youth and adults.

Seventy-two applications submitted

In response to the call for nominations launched on the 24 of April 2018, 72 applications were received from all over the world from NGOs, governmental programmes and from other institutions and individuals.  

Geographically, the applications represented all regions:

  • 14 from Africa;
  • 24 from Asia and the Pacific Region;
  • 7 from the Arab States;
  • 16 from Europe and North America, and;
  • 11 from Latin America and the Caribbean.

About the Jury and the Prizes

In parallel with this year’s theme, the International Jury reviewed the programmes through the lens of the specific themes of the Prizes: the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prizes, supported by the Republic of Korea, reward programmes where the focus area is the use and development of mother tongue in learning, education and training. The focus of the UNESCO Confucius Prizes for Literacy, supported by the Peoples‘ Republic of China, promote literacy for adults in rural areas and out-of-school youth, especially girls and women.

The International Jury is composed of prominent experts from all regions of the world: Dr. Raafat A. Radwan, a senior consultant to the Arab Labour Organization for Human Development (Egypt); Ms. Helen Abadzi (Greece), an education specialist who served at the World Bank for over 27 years; Ms. Maria Aurora Carrillo Gullo (Colombia), a CEO and educational director of the Transformemos Foundation; Mr. Willy Ngaka (Uganda), a founding and sitting National Coordinator for the Centre for Lifelong Learning at Makerere University; and Mr. Yimin Yuan (China), the Vice President and Research Fellow of Jiangsu Agency for Educational Evaluation.

The Prizes are awarded each year to individuals, governments and non-governmental organizations in recognition of their distinguished contribution to the promotion of literate societies.  Each prize-winner will receive a monetary award of US $20,000, a silver medal and a certificate at the Award Ceremony, which will take place at UNESCO Headquarters on 7 September 2017, in commemoration of the International Literacy Day.

Promoting literacy is a core element and mission of UNESCO’s Education Sector. UNESCO is also actively implementing its Strategy for Technical, Vocational Education, and Training (TVET) (2016-2021). Data from UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2017) show that 750 million adults – two-thirds of whom are women – still lack basic reading and writing skills. 102 million of the illiterate population are between 15 and 24 years old. The ILO report indicates that around the world the total number of unemployed people is above 192 million, while 1.4 billion people worldwide are estimated to be in vulnerable forms of employment.