On the eve of International Literacy Day, 6 September 2012, the EU High Level Group of Experts on Literacy presented its final report at the Cyprus EU Presidency Conference on Literacy, which took place from 5 to 6 September in Nicosia, Cyprus.
The High Level Group’s chair, H.R.H. Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, UNESCO Special Envoy on Literacy for Development, describes the report as a “wake-up call about the crisis that affects every country in Europe”.
According to the report, good literacy skills are essential for improving people’s lives, and for promoting knowledge, innovation and growth. However, statistics show that one in five 15 year olds, as well as nearly 75 million adults, lack basic reading and writing skills. This means that EU Member States need to step up their efforts significantly to tackle low literacy levels in Europe and reduce the ratio of 15 year olds with poor reading skills from the current 20% to 15% by 2020 (European Commission’s Press Release).
The report includes a series of recommendations and examples of successful literacy projects that already exist in European countries. It stresses the need for people to realise that reading and writing are much more than a technique or a skill. Literacy is about people’s self-esteem and ability to function and flourish in society as private individuals, active citizens, employees or parents (Executive summary of the report).
The EU High Level Group of Experts on Literacy was launched by the European Commission in February 2011 to give visibility and political importance to the issue of raising literacy levels in Europe. Chaired by H.R.H. Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, UNESCO Special Envoy on Literacy for Development, the Group brings together literacy experts from academia, politics and business.
On the occasion of International Literacy Day, observed on 8 September, the United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC) has recorded a short video message and conducted a written interview with Princess Laurentien. In cooperation with UNESCO, UNRIC has also produced an infographic about literacy and peace, which is available here.
Other useful links:
• European Commission’s website on literacy in Europe
• Commissioner Vassiliou’s reading campaign
• FAQs on the European Commission’s literacy policy and report by the High Level Group of Experts on Literacy