The European Union needs to overhaul its approach to improving literacy standards, according to a high-level group of experts set up by European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou to address the issue.
Their work resulted in a report that was presented on the eve of UNESCO´s International Day of Literacy 8 September.
One in five 15 year olds, as well as nearly 75 million adults, lack basic reading and writing skills, which makes it hard for them to get a job and increases their risk of poverty and social exclusion.
The 80-page report includes a raft of recommendations, ranging from advice for parents on creating a culture of reading for pleasure with their children, to siting libraries in unconventional settings like shopping centres and the need to attract more male teachers to act as role models for boys, who read much less than girls.
The expert group's chair, HRH Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, describes the report as a "wake-up call about the crisis that affects every country in Europe".
The Princess is UNESCO´s Special Envoy for Literacy and Development. This year is the final one in the UN Literacy Decade. In his message on the occasion of the International Day of Literacy, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said that although great strides had been made during the last ten years, with some 90 million young men and women and adults becoming literate, more needed to be done for the estimated 775 million people worldwide who cannot read or write.
"We must move faster to reach the most marginalized and uphold this basic human right. The global movement for education needs a big push. That is why, later this month, I will be launching a new Education First initiative," the Secretary-General said.
The initiative focuses on three priorities; putting every child in school; improving the quality of learning; .and fostering global citizenship. "I call on world leaders and all involved with education to join this initiative. The cost of leaving millions of children and young people on the margins of society is far greater than the funds required to reach the international goals for education," Mr. Ban said in his message.
See: In Focus http://www.unric.org/en/literacy
The Brussels based United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe - UNRIC provides information on UN activities to the countries of the region. It also provides liaison with institutions of the European Union in the field of information. Its outreach activities extend to all segments of society and joint campaigns, projects and events are organized with partners including the EU, governments, the media, NGOs, schools and local authorities.
United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC Brussels)
Residence Palace, Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 155, Block C2,7th and 8th floor, Brussels 1040, Belgium
Tel.: +32 2 788 8484 / Fax: 32 2 788 8485