At a public event in the library of the European Parliament on 22 January, H.R.H. Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, Special Envoy for UNESCO on Literacy for Development and Chair of the EU High Level Group on Literacy, presented the group’s report which calls on European Union countries to overhaul their approach to literacy. Together with UNESCO and the European Commission she discussed how best to reduce the number of young people and adults who are struggling with reading and writing, both in Europe and world-wide.
The High Level Group, set up by European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Androulla Vassiliou, has produced a report that covers all ages and is widely seen as the current reference work on the issue. Now the UN Literacy decade (2003 – 2012) has come to an end, it is time to take stock of the situation and assess what steps can be taken to tackle the problem more effectively.
The 80-page report, which was the starting point of the discussion , was set up as part of the ‘Europe Loves Reading campaign’ launched by Commissioner Vassiliou. The report includes not only the latest numbers on literacy-rates in Europe, but also many recommendations and examples of successful literacy projects in European countries.
Commissioner Vassiliou underlined that follow-up action is not a matter for education alone but a task for a wide range of players in society. Mr. Kristian Schmidt, representative for Andris Piebalgs, the European Commissioner for Development Aid and Cooperation, emphasized the role of literacy in raising living standards in developing countries. Dr. Mmantsetsa Marope, Director for Basic Learning and Skills Development at UNESCO, presented UNESCO’s strategy to improve literacy-rates and how the organization works to realize the vision of a literate world for all, through formal and non-formal literacy programs worldwide.
The event was hosted by Marietje Schaake, MEP of the ALDE group, a strong advocate of education and development as well as digital freedom in the EU and abroad. She organized the action-oriented meeting in collaboration with the UNESCO Liaison Office in Brussels.