Sounding the alarm on global learning poverty

NORTHAMPTON, MA /ACCESSWIRE/October 5, 2022/ As Executive Director and Co-Creator of NABU, a New York-based nonprofit publisher of multilingual books on a free digital app, I’m proud to be part of the global community dedicated to fighting the global crisis of literacy. Now more than ever, we need to reverse the worrying trends accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The reasons are not only humanitarian; they are also economical.

According to a June report by the World Bank, UNESCO, UNICEF, the UK government’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), USAID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 70% of 10-year-olds do not understand a simple written text. Even before the pandemic, the global learning poverty rate was 57%.

The economic impact is staggering, with $21 trillion lost in potential lifetime earnings by these students in present value, or 17% of current global GDP. This is an increase from the estimated $17 trillion in 2021.

The alarm was sounded, loud and clear. To meaningfully address escalating global learning poverty, there must be widespread engagement, from the highest levels down to ordinary members of society. Coalitions of families, educators, civil society, nonprofits, and businesses are crucial, and all work must have concrete implementation plans.

International Literacy Day: Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces

The theme for this year’s UNESCO International Literacy Day (celebrated on 8 September) was “Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces”, defined as “the physical environment, learning and activities necessary to facilitate the creation of the space, while the socio-cultural context, the political environment, the partnerships and the evaluation of literacy activities are crucial for the maintenance of these spaces.

In other words, literacy is not limited to classrooms and schools. Important learning can take place in workplaces, communities, families and libraries – and it can be digital, as the pandemic has so clearly demonstrated.

UNESCO emphasizes the “imperative need for countries in conflict, host countries hosting refugees from conflict regions, for countries facing the devastating impact of climate change, for countries accelerating post-COVID recovery- 19… to take advantage of existing innovations between countries, adapt to the ever-changing learning needs of youth and adults, and transform their learning spaces into literacy.”

Impact of COVID-19 on mother tongue teaching

At NABU, we are firmly committed to teaching the mother tongue. We break the cycle of poverty by leveraging technology to publish free children’s books on digital platforms in native languages.

Research shows that mother-tongue books increase a child’s motivation to read, result in stronger parental engagement in child-rearing, and provide an essential gateway to reading in English and other national languages. .

UNESCO has long advocated for education in the mother tongue, citing research that shows it is key to improving learning outcomes and academic performance. Learners are engaged and empowered to participate in society, and language-related legacies that could easily be lost are preserved. As part of its commitment, UNESCO annually sponsors International Mother Language Day.

During the pandemic, learning tools have tended to be offered in the dominant national or international languages. A notable exception is the work we have done to provide children’s books in Pashto and Dari to newly displaced Afghan children around the world. We worked with our office in Rwanda to translate and publish on our app 40 original titles from Kinyarwanda to Pashto and Dari for these children, as well as to create printed books for distribution with mEducation Alliance and HP Inc. While immediately responding to the need mother-tongue educational materials for these shelters, the impact will extend to benefit the wider global community of 60 million people around the world who speak these languages.

A window of opportunity

The pandemic, as shattering and catastrophic as it has been, may in fact present a unique opportunity to invest in education to reverse the worrying rise in education poverty. Global inequalities in child rearing have been revealed and they are shocking.

We view this enormous challenge as a tremendous opportunity and are collaborating with strategic partners to accelerate our impact. For example, NABU partners with HP to create and print culturally relevant books in native languages, including titles Go Stella Go! and I like being me!. Together, we created the NABU HP Creative Labs to train hundreds of creators to write and illustrate children’s books in native languages ​​using the latest HP computing technology. The first NABU HP Creative Lab opened in Kigali, Rwanda in May, and two additional labs opened this year in the United States and the Philippines. Through partnerships like this, we’ve been able to grow the NABU app from 100,000 readers to 1.1 million readers in just one year, as we support HP’s goal of accelerating digital equity for 150 million people by 2030.

A study by the World Economic Forum highlights the enormous potential economic benefits of investing in children’s education: an extra year of education translates into up to 15% higher earnings for a person. Additionally, investing in critical skills such as collaborative problem solving could bring an additional $2.54 trillion in increased productivity to the global economy.

Investing in solving the global literacy crisis is not only essential for the betterment of humanity, it is also vital for economic progress. Children who have access to these resources provided by NABU have the opportunity to read and develop to their full potential.

This series of articles is sponsored by HP and produced by the TriplePundit editorial team.

Image courtesy of NABU

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