Since 1967, International Literacy Day has been celebrated every year to remember the importance of literacy as a factor of dignity and human rights in individuals, communities and societies, as well as the need to intensify efforts to achieve it. The date was declared by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1966. Its antecedent is the First Meeting of the World Congress of Ministers of Education, held in Tehran, Iran, from September 8 to 19, 1965, where it was determined to unify actions to the eradication of illiteracy. Since then, much progress has been made in many countries in helping the population to learn how to read and write. However, challenges persist, as 773 million adults in the world today do not have basic literacy skills, two thirds of which are women.
The celebration of 2021 will take place under the theme “Literacy for a people-centered recovery: bridging the digital divide”. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the suspension of classes and education plans, which accentuated inequalities in education between countries. The need to rely on new technologies to continue with the education of children and young people revealed that there are obvious differences in accessibility to these technologies.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approved in 2015 promote universal access to quality education and learning opportunities throughout people’s lives. For the UN, this year’s commemoration of International Literacy Day should serve to examine “how literacy can contribute to building a solid foundation for a human-centered recovery, emphasizing the interactions between literacy and education, digital skills needed by non-literate youth and adults. It will also be favoured by the factors that make literacy based on inclusive and useful technology, so that no one is left behind. In this way, this Day represents an opportunity to rethink the future of education and literacy, in the context of the pandemic and beyond”.