A new report released on Thursday shows the social and economic impact of literacy to Japan is $87.78 billion.
The report, from the World Literacy Foundation, shows that more than 800 million people across the world lack the basic reading and writing skills needed to accomplish simple tasks such as reading a medicine label or filling out a job application, costing the global economy more than $1.19 trillion a year.
“The Economic and Social Cost of Illiteracy” looks at the cost of illiteracy in emerging and developing countries, as well as the cost of functional illiteracy in the developed world. It shows more than one in five people across the globe can’t read or write, and more than 100 million children don’t go to school each day.
The report’s co-author Andrew Kay says Japan needs to do more to make serious in-roads to addressing the level of illiteracy in the country.
Often, the end result of low literacy levels is trapping people in a cycle of poverty, poor health, limited employment opportunities, reduced income potential and low productivity in businesses.
Next week, a collection of 300 of the world’s top literacy experts will meet in Oxford, England, at the inaugural World Literacy Summit to develop an action plan to design to help wipe out illiteracy.
Kay, who is also the CEO of the World Literacy Foundation, said: “We need to treat illiteracy as a disease that we are aiming to eradicate. We need to understand that early intervention can avert a lifetime of hardship, poverty and pain for a child, young person or adult who is struggling to read or write,” he said. “The key message of the report is the eradication of illiteracy should be considered an investment rather than a cost.”
“The fact that over 6 million people in the UK are illiterate and many more people struggle to read and write is shocking in 2012. Even worse is the fact that globally, almost 800 million people are illiterate and 100 children don’t attend school each day.
“No matter whether you live in the developed or developing world, poor illiteracy is ruining lives and is linked with an array of poor life outcomes, such as poverty, unemployment, social exclusion, crime and long term illness.”
Dr Tony Cree, chairman of the World Literacy Summit, said: “It’s clear that improved literacy can benefit individuals and transform communities, making a difference to people and giving them a brighter future but we need to work collectively to ensure this happens. Our hope through the World Literacy Summit is to create long-term, sustainable solutions to increase literacy rates, and subsequently facilitate growth and development. Our aim is to create a road map to eradicate illiteracy by 2020.
“Next week, we will be seeking approval from literacy and development leaders across the world to improve teacher training and monitoring, support effective assessment systems for literacy and increase the gender and socio-economic equity in literacy levels to help end the human tragedy once and for all.”
The summit, which takes places in Oxford April 1-4, will see leaders from government, education and international development meet to address the key theme: “From Poverty, to Literacy, to a future.” On the last day, attendees will map out a plan for making inroads in to wiping out illiteracy, culminating in the “Oxford Declaration.”
The declaration will focus on three key areas including:
Improving teacher quality, training and monitoring - In order to systematically improve literacy there needs to be a commitment to foster strong, well trained, committed teaching forces. High quality teaching is the most powerful determinant of a student’s overall education success and literacy skills.
Supporting effective assessment systems for literacy - Assessment systems at the classroom, local and regional levels allow for student outcomes to be tracked over time and for literacy rates to be compared allowing for targeted interventions to ensure that quality education is reaching all students, including those most marginalized.
Increasing gender and socio-economic equity in literacy levels - Increases in access to education over the last decade mask large disparities across gender, socio-economic status, disability and ethnicity. In particular, girls and children from low-income families are still marginalized and face challenges to accessing and succeeding in school.
A full copy of the World Literacy Foundation’s report “The Economic and Social Cost of Illiteracy” can be downloaded here.