Rotary Focus Area 05 : Basic Education and Literacy

“Education is not a luxury; it is a basic human right.”         

– Madonna

For every human being, Education is a basic need and a fundamental right. The quality of a person’s life is solely determined by his or her educational attainment. 

What is the reason for that? 

This is due to the fact that education is the most effective answer to the world’s numerous challenges. We all know that education and literacy are essential for eradicating poverty, enhancing health, supporting community and economic growth, and promoting peace. 

UNESCO defines Basic Education as, “A whole range of educational activities, taking place in various settings that aim to meet basic learning needs as defined in the World Declaration on Education for All (Jomtien, Thailand, 1990). According to the ISCED standard, basic education comprises primary education (first stage of basic education) and lower secondary education (second stage). It also covers a wide variety of non-formal and informal public and private activities intended to meet the basic learning needs of people of all ages.” 

Learning, or the development of knowledge, skills, values, morals, beliefs, and habits, is facilitated by education. Teaching, training, storytelling, conversation, and focused study are all examples of educational practices. There are different ways to categorize education, for example by age or subject. One way is to divide it into formal education, non-formal education, and informal education. Formal education generally takes place in a school setting, where students might gain fundamental, academic, or trade skills. Adult basic education, adult literacy education, and school equivalency preparation are examples of non-formal education. Informal education is less organized. It might be a parent teaching a youngster how to cook or ride a bike. People can also obtain an informal education by reading a large number of books from the library or visiting educational websites. Informal education may also be called self-education. 

What is Basic Education and Literacy? 

Basic education is the range of educational activities taking place in formal and informal settings to meet basic learning needs until completion of secondary school or its equivalent.  

Literacy is the ability to read, write, engage in critical thought, understand spoken and nonverbal communication, and use dominant symbols appropriately.  Basic Education and Literacy is one of Rotary’s Seven Areas of Focus. All the clubs under the Rotary International Organization are taking action to improve basic education and literacy in their communities. Every community has its own set of needs and different possibilities for service. These clubs all over the world are trying hard to identify actual needs and make the most possible impact with the time, energy, and resources available. 

Consider the following facts:  
  • If all women completed primary education, there would be 66% fewer maternal deaths. 
  • A child born to a mother who can read is 50% more likely to survive past the age of five 
  • If all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty, which would be equivalent to a 12% cut in world poverty. 

The world is making good progress in this area. According to a 2014 United Nations Millennium Development Goals progress report, literacy rates among adults and youths are on the rise and the gender gap in literacy is narrowing.  However, many critical global needs are remaining yet to be addressed as the progress in this area has slowed in recent years due to many reasons. 

If we consider the basic education and literacy needs, they likely fall into one or more of the following categories: 

• Low adult literacy 

    Reading and writing are as natural to most of us as breathing. Consider what it would be like if you couldn’t fill out a job application, sign a check, comprehend a child’s report card, or read a prescription because you lacked functional reading abilities. 781 million adults — 15 percent of the world’s adult population — still lack basic reading and writing skills. Women account for nearly two-thirds of illiterate adults. While the overall number of illiterate persons has fallen since 2000, the number of children not attending school dropped from 102 million to 58 million since 1990. 

• Youth not in school 

While the gender gap in school enrolment is narrowing globally, major disparities remain in regions such as the Middle East, South and West Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. Cultural attitude toward girls and women’s place in society is one of the many causes preventing girls in these regions from attending school. Working to remove these barriers to girl children’s education can pay huge dividends in the overall development of a community. More educated women tend to be healthier, work and earn more income, have fewer children, and provide better health care and education to their children. It is estimated that some countries lose more than $1 billion per year in missed economic production by failing to educate girls to the same standard as boys. Among the 137 million children who entered the first grade of primary school in 2011, 34 million — roughly 25 percent — are likely to leave their schools before the last grade. 

• Youth underperforming in school 

Reading skills build the foundation for all future learning. Even after four years of primary schooling, as many as 250 million children cannot read and write. As we can see poverty, gender, and where a kid lives are key factors in youth underperforming in school and keeping children out of school.

• Lack of resources in schools 

Many schools do not have enough materials or the proper kinds of materials to facilitate teaching and learning. A study in Ethiopia found that having a textbook increased children’s oral reading fluency by 9.6 words per minute. While materials alone cannot produce quality education, materials can play a significant role in enhancing the classroom environment.

The proposed Sustainable Development Goal for education set by the United Nations aims for children everywhere to be able to complete free, equitable, and high-quality primary and secondary education by 2030. Early childhood education is a necessity, not a luxury. Children who are better equipped to study are more likely to gain the information, skills, and talents that will enable them to excel in school and ultimately succeed in life. 

To achieve universal education goals, We, the future leaders of our very own communities should also contribute to our fullest in overcoming basic education and literacy needs, by joining hand in hand. As Rotarians, our mission is to extend the capacity of communities to promote basic education and literacy, decrease gender inequality in education, and improve adult literacy. We support education for all children and literacy for both children and adults. Together we are thriving hard towards changing lives and improving communities all over the world as we believe that the very spring and root of honesty and virtue lie in good education. 


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Penned by Rtr. Chamudi De Silva in collaboration with the District Editorial Team

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