In celebrating this year’s International Literacy Day, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in a position statement, communicated that collective efforts to counter the challenges of illiteracy will require the consideration of not only the undividable relations with social, economic, political and linguistic contexts; which we can link to the conventional interventions that have long been employed, but also the capacity to harness digital opportunity and divide.
As part of our commemoration of the 2017 International Literacy Day, below are the perspectives of Lafarge Africa, a key stakeholder working to curb illiteracy in Nigeria, on the global consensus on digitizing literacy:
- What are the different dimensions of literacy in digital societies, for which increased attention is required?
In digital societies, literacy is multi-dimensional and requires a broader and more comprehensive set of skills. As all aspects of society become influenced by technology, literacy in all its dimensions (cognitive, linguistic, social, cultural, developmental and educational) continues to evolve. With the diverse channels and platforms that exist today, individuals are empowered to do more than assimilate scheduled media messages; now, they can be more involved in influencing by creating and communicating messages. More attention must be paid to increasing access to digital tools, and expanding the curriculum – inside and outside schools to expose learners to a variety of experiences. We must prioritize empowering young people to be critical thinkers who are able to form their own opinion and be respectful of others’ perspectives as well.
- What are the implications of digital technologies for policies, governance and financing for literacy?
Books are being replaced by screens, pens by computers, and traditional classrooms by unconventional, informal gatherings. Immeasurably, technology has led to disruption and leapfrogging across the world. What this means for policy making and governance, particularly in developing countries like Nigeria is an urgent need for flexibility and innovation. Educators and regulators must be regularly trained and updated on best practices while investors/donors/financiers must be encouraged to be proactive in lobbying for open-mindedness and innovation regarding the adoption of digital technologies.
- How do literacy programmes need to adapt in a digital world, in terms of delivery modes, curriculum, teaching-learning methodologies, materials, teachers and facilitators, language used, as well as monitoring and evaluation?
Governments, education policy makers, and industries must first define their expectations of education/literacy. Articulating their expectations and needs will determine how they can adapt literacy programs to the dynamism of the digital world. As the world becomes a global village and in light of the megatrends (e.g. population explosion, social media impact, etc.), literacy programs must be designed to be more flexible for students and facilitators alike.
- What are the opportunities and challenges to make literacy programmes available, accessible, acceptable and adaptable to all?
With technology such as mobile schools, mobile learning devices, language learning apps and more, information is more accessible to those who previously encountered barriers such as limited funds, inability to travel, poor internet, etc. Organizations all over the world are exploring opportunities to customize literacy programs that enable learning at an appropriate pace for learners, where they learn, and how they learn. While there are still challenges such as delays in putting structure into effective learning outcomes, and low levels of investment into digital literacy infrastructure, the opportunities to adapt programs and make them accessible are boundless.
- How can digital technologies change the ways literacy skills are assessed?
Digital technologies have already greatly changed how we view literacy. Traditional assessment methods measure learners’ ability to read, write and understand. With differing standards across states, provinces, countries, etc., gauging true abilities can be difficult. Technologies such as online testing have made it easier to assess literacy skills, but they remain relatively expensive. Targeted interventions with an aim to improve assessment tools and/or reduce the cost of standardized tests would help to promote better assessment of literacy skills.
- How is your organization contributing to the promotion of Literacy in a digital era?
Since 2014, Lafarge Africa has supported literacy development in Nigeria through the Lafarge Africa National Literacy Competition. The competition is a nationwide capacity-building initiative aimed at contributing to literacy development in public primary schools (pupils between the ages of 9 and 13) in Nigeria.
Through our volunteer initiative ‘Friends of Communities’, our employees across the country visit adopted schools to read with the children under the ‘Reading Project.’ Lafarge Africa also supports education and literacy measures such as provision of scholarships to students, provision of teaching staff support to members of the National Youth Service Corps, and upgrading of classrooms. Lafarge Africa is proud of its contribution to education, and remains committed to improving literacy and developing talent across Nigeria.