September 8 marks International Literacy Day every year. Here is what we know about the day.

What lead to the birth of Literacy Day

A report from the 1966 UNESCO’s General conference stated: “The need for the real emancipation of people and for the increasingly active and productive participation in the economic, social and political life of human society, of the hundreds of millions of illiterate adults still existing in the world, make it essential to change national education policies.”

The report further added that education systems across the world must provide the training required for children and working adults so that they can learn to read and write.

The report read, “National educational plans should include schooling for children and literacy training for adults as parallel elements.”

First International Literacy Day

The very first International Literacy Day was celebrated in 1967 and ever since, the tradition has been continuing every year. While the UNESCO has noted positive trends of growing literacy rates among children, the same cannot be said about the adult population.

“The wider adult population has not benefited to the same extent in some regions. It is a troubling fact that there are now more adults without literacy compared with 50 years ago, meaning that our efforts have not kept pace with population growth,” said Qian Tang, UNESCO education assistant director-general, in the 50th International Literacy Day Review.

Qian said that there are currently about 758 million youth and adults who have been “excluded from the network of written communication”.

The 50 year review that South Asia (which includes Bangladesh, India, Islamic Republic of Iran, Nepal and Pakistan) states that the large scale illiteracy is ever-present among adults.

The review notes that there were about 43.9 million illiterate young people in 2015 and this will presist “for decades” due to extreme poverty and political conflict. However, Southern Asia has made “considerable progress” since 1990 and the regional youth literacy rate has seen a rise from 60 per cent in 1990 to almost 90 per cent in 2015.

Where does India stand

In India, the adult literacy rate has increased only by 18.4 percent in 15 years. It was 61 per cent in 2000 and 72.2 per cent in 2015. The last census in 2011 mentioned that a total of 74.04 per cent are literate, an increase of 9.2 percent from the last decade 2001-11. The country will take another 50 years to achieve universal literacy, which is 2060, the report mentioned.

Nepal and Pakistan have seen the most growth among South Asian nations with 33 and 32.2 per cent increase in adult literacy during the same period, closely followed by Bangladesh at 29.5 per cent.