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International Literacy Day turns 50!

World Vision
8 September 2016 by Craig Geddes
International Literacy Day turns 50!

This year marks the 50th anniversary of International Literacy Day and at World Vision we are taking a moment to reflect on what has been achieved in education for children across the globe.

Like a wedding anniversary, where a couple can look back on the years that have passed and see how they, as partners, have changed and grown, so we can pause and reflect on what has changed in the past 50 years in the education landscape. We can take a snapshot in time and peer into that moment to see how far children, classrooms and communities have come. Are they learning, despite their circumstances? Are the programs we operate helping them understand and engage in education? Are we changing the lives of the next generation?

As Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” We, at World Vision, agree with Mr. Mandela and believe that empowering children to read, in their youngest years, opens their eyes, ears, minds and hearts to the world around them, and increases their likelihood of success in school and the workplace.

As part of this reflection on International Literacy Day, World Vision is analysing the success of our largest literacy program, the World Vision and Save the Children Partnership for Literacy. World Vision partnered with Save the Children in 2011 to operate the Literacy Boost program in 17 countries across the world; working directly with teachers, governments, parents and community volunteers in some of the poorest and most under served areas to help improve children’s literacy.


Most recently, in Ghana and Senegal, communities have reported incredible results in improving children’s literacy in our program areas, giving us a continued foundation of strong learnings as we grow. For example, in our Literacy Boost programming in Ghana, World Vision saw a 34 per cent increase in students reporting the presence of a textbook at home – 50 per cent greater than in homes of children who aren’t yet participating.

In terms of reading skills, we can report statistically significant gains in almost all reading sub-tests for children in Literacy Boost. On average, students out-performed their peers who are not in this literacy program. Literacy Boost students were able to correctly identify 78 per cent of their letters while comparison students could identify 55 per cent.

Literacy Boost students were also able to correctly identify 61 per cent of their Twi (first language or mother tongue) most used words while the comparison group could, on average, only identify 25 per cent. Lastly, 60 per cent of the Literacy Boost students were readers with comprehension by completion, compared to only 19 per cent of those not in the program. These results show a direct correlation between the program and an increase in children’s literacy skills and their ability to successfully participate in their education.

In Senegal, results are similarly encouraging. A recent endline study showed that students benefiting from the Literacy Boost program could correctly identify 64 per cent of the decodable words while their peers not in Literacy Boost could only identify 45 per cent of the decodable words. At the beginning of the program, less than 1 per cent of students could read a grade 3 passage, showing a huge need for the intervention within these areas. After one year of programming, almost 58 per cent were able to read the passage, while only about 40 per cent of the comparison group could read the passage, illustrating the impact this program has on the lives of the children we are serving.

These results show us that literacy programming is working, that partnering with parents, teachers, community members and children can transform the trajectory of their education and can improve their likelihood for success. Building upon these results, World Vision is now looking at expanding its literacy programming to 27 countries in 2017.

As NGO’s, academics, government bodies and partners, we must continue to realise the vital importance literacy plays in a child’s life, and the dramatic change it can have on the path a child takes on the road to success. Education and literacy should never be after-thoughts in a long list of needs, but should be the foundation on which we build to ensure all children live life in all its fullness.

As the Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Malala Yousafzai once said, “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” Education is a powerful force in a child’s life. As we celebrate International Literacy Day, we at World Vision, promise to the Malala’s and the Thabani’s and the Meliza’s and the Sipho’s of the world, that we are committed to their educations, and that in another 50 years we will look back and see that the world for children has been changed forever because of the investments in education we’re making today.

*Literacy Boost is a copyrighted tool designed, developed, and owned by Save the Children.

Craig Geddes

Craig Geddes is World Vision International's Global Literacy Program Manager responsible for overseeing the roll-out of literacy programming in over 20 countries across World Vision's partnership. Craig has lived in Africa for over 12 years, has worked in and traveled across Africa, Asia, South America, Europe and the Middle East, and has extensive experience in grant management, program development and technical planning in education, gender equitable programming, nutrition and health. Craig is a graduate of The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia and the Spanish American Institute in Seville, Spain.


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