Category Archives: Literacy

Organization dedicated to teaching family literacy

They’re a local non-profit who pride themselves on providing foundational support and educational programs for the people of Guam. One such program empowers the family through literacy.

The first classroom for any child is at home, but what if mom and dad weren’t equipped to be teachers? That’s what MotherRead is for.

According to Guam Humanities Council executive director Dr. Kimberlee Kihleng, “It’s basically an adult literacy program. the purpose of it is to obviously improve literacy skills for adults, but also it’s based on family empowerment. So adults who participate in our program then go back and read and work with their children to improve their literacy skills and once again empower the family.”

She adds that it’s a program that’s been ongoing for the last 13 years, and it shouldn’t be exclusive to women participants. For men out there, MotherRead is also known as FatherRead. “We work with disadvantaged community members. So those who are incarcerated. We work with single parents. We work with socioeconomic disadvantaged community members. We work with English language learners. So a whole range of community members we try to serve through the program,” said Kihleng.

But the Guam Humanities Council needs 20 facilitators to bring the program to life. Thanks to funding from the Guam Community College, Guam Humanities Council coordinator of public relations and programs Cathy Flores says they’re accepting applicants for project facilitators. She explained, “Who should apply? Those that enjoy working with adults. In that while you’re trained by two national trainers, you need to be able to take the curriculum. Everyone will receive a we call it the notebook. The lesson plan is there but you get to customize it to your participants. So that’s the beauty of this program. 0247 you reach all level learners. All levels.”

For more information on how to apply, call Flores at 472-4468.

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Literacy nonprofit kicks off CLiF Year of the Book in eight schools

Waterbury Center, VT: Eight elementary schools throughout New Hampshire and Vermont are celebrating, because each has been awarded a special literacy sponsorship valued at $25,000 for the 2015/2016 school year from the Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF), an independent nonprofit based in Waterbury Center, VT.

Each school given a special CLiF Year of the Book sponsorship will receive a wide range of inspiring literacy programs and events for the students and parents throughout the school year, and new children’s books for the school library, school classrooms, public library, and students. Kickoff events start this week and continue through September.

These schools are Central Elementary School in Bellows Falls, Lothrop Elementary School in Pittsford, Newport Town School, and South Royalton School in Vermont.

New Hampshire schools are Groveton Elementary School, Paul Smith School in Franklin, Richards School in Newport, and Wentworth Elementary School.

In these communities, the CLiF Year of the Book is introduced with a special literacy and storytelling presentation during the first weeks of school. Students and staff also learn about upcoming events that may include: writing workshops with poets, children’s authors, and cartoonists; presentations by well-known authors about how books and stories are created; theater performances; visits from naturalists with sled dogs or reptiles in projects related to writing about animals; seminars to help and encourage parents to read more with their children; and up to 10 free, brand new books that each child may select and keep.

Teachers will share in the excitement. A second grade teacher wrote in her school’s application to CLiF: “Our students need to be exposed to authors so that they can realize any dream is possible. They need to be reminded that they have a voice, that reading can bring you places, and that reading is fun.”

CLiF will begin accepting applications for 2016-2017 Year of the Book grants from New Hampshire and Vermont elementary schools in January, 2016.

For more information about the CLiF Year of the Book and to see a schedule of CLiF Year of the Book kickoff events, visit

Combating illiteracy in Nigeria

SIR: In the words of former United States of America President, Bill Clinton, during the celebration of International Literacy Day in 1994, “literacy is not a luxury; it is a right and a responsibility. If our world is to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century we must harness the energy and creativity of all our citizens.” Available data indicates that there are now close to four billion literate people in the world. Inasmuch as this represents a positive stride, literacy for all is still a yet-to-be-accomplished objective. Recent UNESCO statistics show that 774 million adults still cannot read or write – two-thirds of them (493 million) are women. Among youth, 123 million are illiterate of which 76 million are female.

In Nigeria, in-spite of efforts by all tiers of governments to address rising illiteracy level, there has not been a progressive increase in the literary level, especially among the adults. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, adult illiteracy rate in Nigeria stands at 56.9%. The implication of this is that about 70% of Nigerians are illiterates. Considering the fact that globally the illiteracy rate is approximately 20%, the Nigerian situation is rather disturbing.

The Country Comparison Index of Literacy Level by country in 2012 further testifies to the worrisome literacy situation in the country as it shows that Nigeria ranked 161 out of 184 countries with 66 per cent literacy rate. This implies that we belong to the mainstream of the world’s most illiterate countries. A recent USAID study also indicates that an estimated 10 million Nigerian children are not registered in school.  A disclosure by a former Minister of State for Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, equally indicates that the number of adults who cannot read and write in the country is estimated at 60 million, which is about 38% of the country’s population estimated at 170 million. The revelation was made by Wike at the flagging off of the 2014 International Literacy Day.

The declining fortune of literacy ratio among Nigerian children is, indeed, an embarrassment to the nation as we currently have over 10.5 million children out of school. The current Education for All, EFA, Global Monitoring report ranks Nigeria as one of the countries with the highest level of illiteracy. The EFA report on Nigeria affirmed that the number of illiterate adults has increased by 10 million over the past two decades, to reach 35 million.

The current literacy trend in Nigeria, if not speedily halted, could obstruct the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s). As it has been earlier asserted, literacy is vital to the achievement of every growth index. The way things stand, the objective of meeting the national mark of reducing illiteracy by 50% by 2015 seems largely unattainable.

To successfully confront poverty, disease, religious fanaticism, political chaos, ethnic bigotry, gender discrimination, economic depression among others, efforts must be made by all to enhance the literary level in the country. Importantly, governments at all levels need to make pragmatic legislation as well as improved funding for the relevant agencies of government saddled with the execution of the mass literacy programme. Equally, literacy inclined groups and other related NGOs ought to step up activities and campaigns to increase awareness of the importance of literacy.  The various States Universal Basic Education Boards, SUBEB, need to intensify efforts to ensure that no child is left out in the mass literacy drive. To this end, all the states need to strictly adhere to the spirit and principle of the Child Rights Law which criminalizes denial of access to any child to school.

The general perceptive of literacy is ability to read and write. But, literacy has bigger dimensions than mere ability to read and write. According to former United Nations Secretary General, Dr Kofi Anan, “Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a basic tool for daily life in modern society. It is a wall against poverty, and a building block of development. Literacy is a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity”.

September 8 is globally celebrated as International Literacy Day. It is a day set aside to draw attention to the importance and impact of literacy skills on individuals, communities, and societies.  Since the day was first celebrated in 1966, on every 8 September, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, requests governments, employers, trades unions and other key global organisations to get involved and appreciate the importance of being able to read and write.

In countries all over the world, the International Literacy Day raises people’s awareness of and concern for literacy issues within their own communities.  Several activities relating to concerns over low literacy levels have taken place as a result of this increased awareness. Some of these activities include literacy day projects, particularly with regard to technology and literature, which are promoted by various organisations, including reading associations.

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Turn the page for International Literacy Day

CORNWALL, Ontario – Switch off the television and crack open a book (or power up your eReader) for International Literacy Day this Tuesday.

© Adam Brazeau – The Cornwall Public Library.

The Cornwall Public Library encourages the community to drop by and visit during the annual literacy initiative to read, go online, or browse the used bookstore.

“Cornwall Public Library is celebrating 120 years this October, a testament to the importance this institution holds in our community,” said Pierre Dufour, the library’s communication and program director. “In an increasingly digital age, people have found a sense of community at the library.”

According to its website, International Literacy Day gives children and communities a chance to rediscover the joys of reading while raising awareness for those without access to education.

Dawn Kiddell, the library’s CEO and chief librarian, noted that the one-day event is a reminder of how fortunate many Canadians are to have access to education, literacy organizations, and a public library service.

With a library card, members are able to borrow books, CDs, DVDs, magazines, and video games; search research databases; read online magazine and newspaper articles; use computers; register in various programs; and can download eBooks and eAudiobooks.

The library also offers early childhood literacy-based programs – Baby Tales, Time for Twos, Kid’s Corner and the Summer Reading program (with over 300 children participating this year). In addition, there are adult book clubs, writer’s groups, writer’s workshops, author presentations, and tutoring space for literacy learners.

In 2014, the downtown facility had 208,390 in-person visitors (which averages 17,366 per month or 579 per day). Cardholders borrowed a total of 263,692 items (93% of which were print books, CDs or DVDs and 7% were eBooks or eAudiobooks).

In July, 17,983 people visited and another 15,746 used the website to search the library catalogue, renew or reserve their books, search the research databases or get information about library programs, while information staff answered a total of 3,127 questions, 2,315 computer reservations were made, and another 498 people accessed the free wireless.

“The numbers don’t tell the whole story however,” says Kiddell, “visiting genealogists this summer were happy to have the Cornwall Room staffed by knowledgeable volunteers and everyone loves browsing in the renovated used bookshop run by Friends of the Library volunteers. Library staff is always ready to suggest a good book to read!”

For more information, visit


Hong Kong’s early childhood education lacks a vital element – FUN!!!!

A long-waited advisory report on the gradual implementation of free kindergarten schooling has finally been tabled by a government-appointed committee, arousing much heated discussion about kindergarten subsidies and voucher systems, teacher training and salary range. However, we should not allow debate about financial benefits or government responsibility to overshadow what really matters: our vision for early childhood education, and whether it needs to change.

An excessively long and harsh learning schedule will stress out the children.

An excessively long and harsh learning schedule will stress out the children.

A long-waited advisory report on the gradual implementation of free kindergarten schooling has finally been tabled by a government-appointed committee, arousing much heated discussion about kindergarten subsidies and voucher systems, teacher training and salary range. However, we should not allow debate about financial benefits or government responsibility to overshadow what really matters: our vision for early childhood education, and whether it needs to change.

Sadly, this vital point seems to be missing in the debate.

Besides transferring knowledge, the most crucial element of education is empowering students to learn from their mistakes and failures in a safe environment, such as a kindergarten or school. So, when students encounter challenges, whether in the form of study setbacks, exam failures or emotional attacks, they can try to overcome the difficulties with the help of guidelines and assistance provided by devoted and qualified teachers.

During this process, they can figure out who they are, where their talents lie and what they most enjoy doing. They will learn to understand their own strengths and weaknesses. This will help them find a direction, take responsibility for their own life and ultimately serve society well.

Since preschool children have yet to fully develop their physical muscles and mental cognition, it can be torture if they have to write thousands of words or repeat the same things daily, never mind being fed with burdensome information far beyond their level of understanding. For preschool children, a meaningful education vision would revolve around healthy and creative play in a safe environment, assisted by teachers and parents, rather than being force-fed knowledge.

When children engage in spontaneous, pleasurable and flexible activities, such as a rhythm game, for enjoyment rather than a serious purpose, they can happily develop their creativity, physical strength, emotions, problem-solving skills, concentration and empathy. It is evident that children who learn good social skills and have healthy emotions are more likely to succeed academically.

Moreover, abundant research has demonstrated that creative play has a strong positive impact on a child’s cognitive, linguistic, physical and social development in early childhood.

Research from Germany in the 1970s showed preschool students who attended play-oriented kindergarten excelled in physical, social, emotional and cognitive development compared with those who studied at academic-oriented centres.The findings motivated Germany to switch all kindergartens to play-based programmes.

If parents treasure the value of play, their sons and daughters will have wonderful childhood memories, which can better equip them to handle frustration, take responsibility and deal with setbacks with maturity and endurance. However, it seems some Hong Kong kindergartens and parents don’t see the same benefits in a play-based childhood education. Business-oriented kindergartens offer tough syllabuses with a view to attracting driven parents of preschool children. In response, some parents who fear their children may be left behind are blindly chasing the wind, and send their toddlers to tuition classes and extra-curricular activities.

I remember a young child of friends once sharing with me in confidence that she sobbed at night because she felt so exhausted and stressed by being coerced to attend different language training classes after school, followed by piano or violin practice. When she got home after fulfilling all those parental demands, it was often 7pm or 8pm. How could the toddler get sufficient rest for her long-term development?

Young children need rest, not just for their physical health, but also their emotional well-being. Any excessively long and harsh learning schedule, or having parents who are focused only on their academic results, will stress out the children, which could hurt their emotional development.

If they grow up in a cold and materialistic environment, lacking valuable relaxation and the joy of play, is it possible that such children will suffer emotional problems or even sickness later on?

Take one case, several months ago, of a 31-year-old man who was convicted of murder after killing and dismembering his parents. He claimed they had put him under great pressure. He was educated, with some Chinese media reporting that his IQ exceeded 120, above the average for most people. Unfortunately, it would appear that his higher intelligence, plus parental pressure, equated to a tortured life.

Perhaps Martin Luther King’s statement applies here: “Education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.”

Knowing right from wrong is easy; holding on to our principles requires not just being smart, but also emotional and moral intelligence. The best period for children to develop such intelligence is between three and six years old.

A solid foundation of healthy emotional experiences constructed in early childhood can lead to success and happiness in adulthood. Parents, teachers and the government need to treasure the value of play and moral education, starting from kindergarten. Will these become the new vision for Hong Kong’s education policy?

Closing The ‘Word Gap’ Between Rich And Poor

In Virginia this summer, Arlington Public Schools transported students in poor neighborhoods to community libraries for group readings. Studies say children from low-income families may hear roughly 30 million fewer words by age 3 than their more affluent peers. Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post/Getty Images hide caption

In Virginia this summer, Arlington Public Schools transported students in poor neighborhoods to community libraries for group readings. Studies say children from low-income families may hear roughly 30 million fewer words by age 3 than their more affluent peers. Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post/Getty Images hide caption



In the early 1990s, a team of researchers decided to follow about 40 volunteer families — some poor, some middle class, some rich — during the first three years of their new children’s lives. Every month, the researchers recorded an hour of sound from the families’ homes. Later in the lab, the team listened back and painstakingly tallied up the total number of words spoken in each household.

What they found came to be known as the “word gap.”

It turned out, by the age of 3, children born into low-income families heard roughly 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers.

Research since then has revealed that the “word gap” factors into a compounding achievement gap between the poor and the better-off in school and life. The “word gap” remains as wide today, and new research from Stanford University found an intellectual processing gap appearing as early as 18 months.

That study led to some increased calls for universal preschool, but some say that’s not early enough.

“I recognized that we need to really start in the cradle,” says Angel Taveras, mayor of Providence, R.I.

He says two-thirds of kindergarteners in the city show up on their first day already behind national literacy benchmarks.

Next month, with funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, Taveras’ city will launch “Providence Talks,” a new effort to take on the “word gap.” Providence will distribute small recording devices — essentially word pedometers — that tuck into the vest of a child’s clothing. These will automatically record and calculate the number of words spoken and the number of times a parent and child quickly ask and answer each other’s questions.


“We are very hopeful that we can be the laboratory here in Providence, and as we have success we can share it with the rest of the country,” Taveras says.

The idea was inspired in part by a research program called 30 Million Words in Chicago.

Aneisha Newell says that program taught her to talk to her young daughter in new ways. She says she never realized bath time — with colors and shapes of bubbles and toys to describe — could be a teachable moment. She ended up breaking the program’s record for the most words spoken.

And then there was the moment her daughter — not yet 3 years old — used the word ‘ridiculous’ correctly. Newell was amazed.

“It was just something that made me feel good as a parent,” she says.

Progress like Newell’s stems from a special kind of parent-child interaction, says Dana Suskind, a professor of surgery and pediatrics at the University of Chicago, who started the 30 Million Words program.

“We can’t just have people saying 30 million times ‘stop it!’ It’s got to be much more,” she says.

The parent should “tune in” to what the child is looking at, talk about it and ask questions that can create a sort of “serve and return” between parent and child.

Suskind says that research shows overhearing a cell phone conversation or sitting in front of a television program doesn’t cut it when it comes to building a child’s brain.

She and others hope to expand their style of training to day care centers and beyond. She says she hopes to eventually have it be routine for parents to learn about this at their newborn’s first hearing screening. She wants them to understand that their talk matters well before their baby starts talking back.

Rise in number of children reading for pleasure



Dystopian teen novels such as the Hunger Games trilogy are likely to be one reason for children being increasingly likely to say they enjoy reading, say literacy experts.

A new survey from the National Literacy Trust reveals that 41 per cent of children aged 8 to 18 said they read daily outside class in 2014, up from 32 per cent in the previous year.

And the proportion of teenagers aged 14 to 16 who say they enjoy reading has jumped from 37 per cent last year to 43 per cent this year – although overall levels of enjoyment remain lower than for younger children.

National Literacy Trust Director Jonathan Douglas said there could be a number of reasons for the rise in the number of older teenagers who enjoy reading. “A new wave of hugely popular fiction such as the Twilight and the Hunger Games series has played its part in engaging readers,” he said. “A series of major campaigns and initiatives including Bookstart, the Summer Reading Challenge, and the Young Readers Programme have combined with the attraction and ease of digital reading.”

While the most popular form of reading for all children was text messages – which are read at least once a month by 73 per cent of pupils, the survey also found that 47 per cent of children read fiction, 31 per cent read newspapers and 60 per cent read websites. Magazines were the only format that had seen a decline in popularity, from 58 per cent picking them up once a month in 2010 to 49 per cent last year.

Those who read each day outside lessons are five times more likely to be above the expected level in the subject for their age group, compared to youngsters who never read outside school.

But the annual study of 32,000 students also shows a continuing gender gap, with boys less likely to enjoy reading than girls, and suggests that many youngsters would still rather watch TV than have their nose in a book.

More than half (55 per cent) of those polled still prefer watching TV to reading, although this is down slightly on the year before, and three in 10 say they cannot find things to read that interest them.

Just over one in four say they only read when they have to and 24 per cent say their parents do not care if they spend any time reading.

Malorie Blackman, children’s laureate, said: “We must continue to work to ensure that all our children develop the reading for pleasure habit to improve their life chances.  To this end we must ensure that each child has access to the literacy tools they require – including school libraries and public libraries – to fulfil their true potential.”

Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse, said: “The government should remember that literacy must first and foremost be enjoyed, if we are to engage our most reluctant readers. And remember too that libraries and librarians, both in schools and in our communities, must be a priority.”


Literacy in China


Trying to find a consensus on the growth of literacy in China is like trying to find a grey rock in a quarry of gravel. The one agreement is that literacy is growing, but sorting through the data for the most reliable information proves challenging. For the first fifty years of the 20th century, illiteracy (不识字或识字很少) in China remained at a steady 85-80% of the population. Thereafter, the figures start to vary. Below is a broad view of literacy rates:

By 1959 rates among youths and adults (aged 12-40) fell from 80% to 43%.  By 1979 this figure had dropped to 30%, by 1982 to 25%, and by 1988 to 20%. China’s national censuses of 1964, 1982, 1990, and 2000 reported slightly different declines of illiterates as a percentage of the total population (which increased during those years from approximately 694,580,000 to 1,265,830,000) from 33.58%, to 22.81%, to 15.88% to 6.72%.


According to 2000 census data, 86.992 million adults in China were illiterate, 20.55 million of whom were between the ages of 15 and 50.  Three quarters of these illiterates lived in rural areas. Seven provinces and regions had the highest illiteracy rates, including Tibet, Yunnan, Guizhou, Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia and Inner Mongolia. Tibet’s illiteracy rate was 37%-38%, the illiteracy rate of Yunnan, Guizhou, Gansu and Qinghai varied from 10%-15%, and the illiteracy rate of Inner Mongolia was 7%-8%.


History’s role
History shows that Chinese have long held literacy as an important “moral template for cultural identity and modernity.” Wisdom and education have been highly regarded in China, and literacy campaigns appeared throughout the 20th century and continue today. Despite the importance of education, literacy has not been easy to achieve. During the Cultural Revolution when secondary schools were closed between 1966 and 1968, the number of illiterate citizens rose, and the population boom further destabilized learning.

Prior to 1978, adult education had always taken precedence over children. The report says, “Adult literacy was given first priority in literacy campaigns designed to ‘sweep away illiteracy’ (saochu wenmang). Because 80% of adults were illiterate they were targeted as crucial for securing new China’s economic security.” It may sound cliché, but reading was (and continues to be) power, and leaders knew that the literate could have considerable influence.

In 1950 the government set recognition of 1000 characters as the standard for literacy and 300 for illiteracy. A reading primer for peasants was distributed in 1951 to rural people. Pinyin was developed (there was even talk of doing away with characters), Putonghua became the standard for the Chinese language, and characters were simplified in an effort to make the written language more accessible to the public and to unify the country under a singular language system.

When the primary school curriculum was standardized in 1978, the focus shifted to a more consistent national education program for the younger members of society, and adult education began to decline (of course, it was no longer as necessary since the newest generations picked up the language quicker). Literacy among children increased; however, the years before had seen a decline in literacy despite the campaigns to eradicate it. The trend changed however during the ‘80s and ‘90s when the literacy rate rose considerably and China reported a 15.9% illiteracy rate (1990). UNESCO reports that the majority of those who remained illiterate were (unsurprisingly) women.

Gansu China. Classroom. 2005

Gansu China. Classroom.

What is the standard of literacy?
In China, literacy is measured by the number of characters recognized. For urban dwellers, the current literacy standard is 2000 characters while rural dwellers need know only 1500. Minority languages and dialects do not generally factor in. Over the years other criteria has factored into what counts as literacy including ability to write reports, read popular publications, etc.

The actual statistics published by China have made critics outside of the country skeptical. With the size of the population, condition of rural education, and other factors to consider, it does not seem possible that the literacy rate in 1990 could be as low as 15.9%. The age range represented in literacy censuses has not been consistent or clear over time, which makes statistics hard to reconcile when combined with the shifting literacy standard.

What are the barriers to literacy?

  1. Rural education. China has made great inroads to better rural education—lessening the cost of primary and secondary education, sending or subsidizing books, etc; however, there is still a significant gap between the rural and urban education systems.
  2. Gender disparity: male children are still chosen to receive more education than female children, especially in rural settings.
  3. Population: with over one billion citizens, educating the huge population is decidedly challenging. Factor in the minority culture and tradition of minority peoples, the difficult to monitor rural populations, and the millions of migrant children living in cities with barebones education and you can understand how difficult educating the country is.
  4. Disabled students: “China’s reported disabled population of 60-70 million represents approximately 5% of the overall population, 1/3 of which resides in rural areas.” Disabled students are not given the same educational rights as other children, and schools that do specialize in caring for the disabled and those with learning disabilities are expensive and are almost nonexistent outside urban areas.

Happy World Book Day from OMW

world book day

World Book Day or World Book and Copyright Day (also known as International Day of the Book or World Book Days) is a yearly event on 23 April, organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), to promote reading, publishing and copyright. In the United Kingdom, the day is recognised on the first Thursday in March. World Book Day was celebrated for the first time on 23 April 1995.

Why can’t the world keep its promises?

In April 2000, in a wave of new millennium optimism, world leaders promised to deliver something at the beginning of the 21st Century that in many developed countries had been taken for granted by the end of the 19th Century:   Primary education for all children.



There are still 58 million missing primary school, 100 million who do not complete primary school and 250 million children have schools of such poor quality that they leave unable to read a single sentence

This basic gap was going to be fixed within 15 years, so that by April 2015, the unacceptable position of millions of children never even beginning school would be consigned to history.

This was one of six Education for All pledges, which included targets such as girls having equal access to learning, and a halving of adult illiteracy.

Kofi Annan, UN secretary-general at the time, said that getting this completed by 2015 would be the “test of all of us who call ourselves the international community”.

Well, here were are in their future.

How many of the pledges were fulfilled? None of them.

Initial optimism

Unesco’s Global Monitoring Report, which painstakingly tracked the progress, saw an initial surge of improvement.

But the optimism of the window that opened at the end of the Cold War gave way to the anxiety of 9/11 and then the austerity of the financial crash.

The final evaluation shows substantial progress, particularly in parts of Asia, but there are still 58 million children missing primary school, 100 million who do not complete primary school and 250 million who have schools of such poor quality that they leave unable to read a single sentence.

The obstacles that have confounded countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, have been lack of funding, lack of political will, a willingness to tolerate extreme poverty alongside extreme wealth, a rising population and the relentless destabilisation of conflict and war.

The six Education for All targets were:

  • Expand early childhood care and education Achieved by 47% of countries, two thirds more children in early-years education compared with 1999
  • Universal primary education Achieved by 52% of countries
  • Equal access to learning There is universal enrolment in lower secondary school in 46% of countries. But in low-income countries, one in three youngsters will not complete lower secondary school.
  • Adult illiteracy cut by 50% Only one in four countries achieved this goal. In sub-Saharan Africa, half of women remain illiterate.
  • Gender parity In 69% of countries there is gender parity in access to primary school; at secondary level, 48% of countries.
  • Improve the quality of education The pupil-teacher ratio has improved in more than three in four countries. But to achieve universal primary education would require an extra four million teachers.

On a more practical level, it’s hard to run a school system without a reliable way of training and paying teachers, and when schools lack basic services such as electricity and sanitation.

The lack of access to education is not evenly spread. Poor girls, rural families and children from groups who are discriminated against, all end up more likely to miss out on school.

A lack of fairness within countries has been a barrier, as well as the differences between high and low-income countries.

All the evidence shows that for individuals, as for entire countries, the quality of education is often the key factor deciding the places in the global economic food chain.

And millions of youngsters never get a chance to get off the bottom.

What’s possible

There is going to be another milestone world gathering next month to decide another set of targets for 2030.

And the choice of location in South Korea is a signpost to how much a country can improve its education system in a short space of time.

It shows what can be possible. And it’s perhaps worth thinking about what else has arrived since the education pledges were made in April 2000.

YouTube, the iPhone, Facebook, hybrid cars, 3D printing, Twitter, the Mars rover, Wikipedia, China’s and India’s space programmes, mobile broadband, Skype and mapping the human genome.

Unlike building primary schools, somehow these all proved possible.