The World Literacy Foundation has announced that Oxford will host the World Literacy Summit from 1st-4th of April. The event will bring together 300 experts from up to 50 countries to discuss the problem of illiteracy and address the summit’s key theme: ‘From Poverty, to Literacy, to a Future’.
WLF CEO Andrew Kay has stated that “This is the first time that a global think tank of literacy experts has been dedicated to collectively addressing the problem of world literacy and its link poverty.” The experts have been drawn from government, education and international development sectors to work together on improving international collaboration within the global literary sector. The summit will take place across several of Oxford’s most significant venues and colleges; including the Sheldonian Theatre, the Bodleian Library, Balliol and Trinity.
Worldwide, 770 million people are thought to be illiterate and the WLF was founded in Australia in 2003 to help break cycles of low literacy. It is committed to providing projects and programmes to help break the cycle of low levels of literacy in both the developing and the developed world. The idea of the world summit was originally conceived in 2008 but has taken four years to be fully realised. The WLF’s website describes the summit as “a unique and important opportunity for all of us to come together and devise a strategy to help some of the world’s most disadvantaged individuals.”
The discussions taking place are undeniably relevant in the UK: a recent report has revealed that six million adults in the UK are functionally illiterate, meaning they are unable to read the labels on medicine or food packaging and are unable to fill out a job application form. It is estimated that illiteracy may be costing the economy up to £81 billion a year, with illiterate adults earning at least 30 per cent less than someone who can read.
Moreover, Oxford seems a pertinent place to hold the summit as last year the city’s seven year olds achieved the lowest marks in the country for reading and writing and it was recently revealed that nearly one in three children starting secondary school without mastering basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills. Oxfordshire County Council has recently launched a drive to improve children’s performance in primary schools and the city’s bid to become 2014 UNESCO World Book Capital will also focus on boosting literacy across the city.