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Literacy for a world in transition


The development of a literate society forms the basis of a knowledge economy. Literacy enables people to acquire knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values. After all, a literate society that talks and shares ideas is more creative and effective. It finally helps guide the nation towards development and peace.

Although the definitions of literacy vary across different cultures and contexts and limit the ability to read and write, or spell, listen and speak, they are constantly shifting as reading currently “incorporates complex visual and digital media as well as printed material”.

Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines literacy as “the quality or state of being literate: educated... able to read and write.” Unesco, however, defines it as the “ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts”.

Unesco celebrates September 8 every year as International Day of Literacy “... to remind the international community of the importance of literacy for individuals, communities and societies, and the need for intensified efforts towards more literate societies.” In other words, International Literacy Day refers to the eradication of illiteracy in every local community around the world.

Although progress has been made in improving literacy rates in the more than fifty years since the first International Literacy Day, illiteracy remains a global problem. Data from Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys show that many children around the world today are not equipped with foundational reading and numeracy skills that prepare them for the world beyond school.

There is a gender gap in the global literacy rate. Although literacy rates have generally increased worldwide for both men and women, males are on average more literate than females. As of 2020, about 90 per cent of men and a little over 83 per cent of women in the world were literate.

According to data from the Unesco Institute for Statistics, more than 86 per cent of the world’s population know how to read and write compared to 68 per cent in 1979. Despite this, worldwide at least 763 million adults still cannot read and write, two-thirds of them women, and 250 million children are failing to acquire basic literacy skills.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused the worst disruption to education in a century, 617 million children and teenagers had not reached minimum reading levels.

Literacy, whether it is through formal school education, is the first step of education. For preparing a new society education becomes an essential part and source. It imbibes confidence in a person not only for further learning but for entire life. It sows seeds of an "analytical viewpoint." It leads to self-learning.

The Sultanate of Oman has long considered education as among the most essential pillars of sustainable development. The country’s leadership believes that quality education leads to greater prosperity and abundance, improved health, and promotion of equality in society.

Reports indicate that education will become an important driver of Oman’s GDP growth with its current share of 4.9 per cent projected to climb to 6.2 per cent by the end of the 10th Five-Year Plan which will end in 2025.

The Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation ensures the promotion of the higher education system, such that it meets the requirements of sustainable development and achieves the goals of its Vision 2040.

The New School Education Law, promulgated by His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik in the second quarter of the current year not only ensures the right to primary education to all children in, but it also guarantees the highest quality of education at all times. It values the role of the upbringing of generations and underlines the need for developing the education line with the goals of the future.

Oman was listed by Unesco as one of the significant partners engaged in the Global Program of Action on Education for Sustainable Development.

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