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International Literacy Day – A Reminder for the Rights to a Good Quality Education

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Every 8th of September the world celebrates international literacy day. This day is dedicated to reminding the importance of literacy as part of human rights. The day was first proposed during the 1965 World Conference of Ministers on the Eradication of Illiteracy in Tehran, Iran, under the recommendation that all countries observe September 8 as International Literacy Day.

This event is also a reminder of the right to access good quality education. Other than that, as this quality education is part of the SDGs, this issue should have been brought forward to gain more attention.

Quality education can be achieved by improving literacy skills. Literacy itself means the ability to process and understand information while doing the reading and writing process. It was clearly different from the ability to read.

The ability to read is just pronouncing the sound of a word. Yes, being able to know how to read is the start, but it is not enough, why? Because to fully understand something, we need to understand what we read and that skill is called literacy. That is why it is so important to not stop at the ability to read, we need to encourage more people to understand what they are reading.

According to a survey conducted by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) released by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2019. Indonesia is ranked 62 out of 70 countries related to literacy or is in the bottom 10 countries with low literacy levels.

In a paper titled “The Problems Of Reading Culture In Indonesia (Literature Study About Problem & Solutions)” written by Lilik Tahmidaten and Wawan Krismanto, they break down the factors why Indonesia has a low reading ability. They mentioned that these problems were caused by several issues, such as:

Misperceptions about the concept of reading ability in most people, including students and teachers. Generally, Indonesian student or teacher consider that the teaching of reading ends when an elementary school student has been able to read and write, Meanwhile, at a higher level, the teaching of advanced reading (reading comprehension) has not yet achieved serious attention.

Other than that, the factor that makes Indonesian students have low reading ability due to the development of reading skills is still perceived as part of the responsibility of certain subjects only, besides, the elementary school learning process still does not utilize models, methods, strategies, and media diverse learning and suitable for learning reading comprehension. More on that, reading materials, learning activities, and practice/evaluation questions in the teaching materials in schools tend to still dwell on low-order thinking skills.

Speaking of another important factor why Indonesian student has below reading skills is likely infrastructure. The infrastructure and services of the school library as a center have not maximized the development of students reading skills. According to BPS 2017 data, the availability of libraries has not reached one hundred percent or even less than 80 percent. If we assume 1 school and 1 library, then based on the data then 2 out of 10 elementary schools do not have a library, and yet The School Literacy Movement Program or Gerakan Literasi Sekolah (GLS) from the government still has not shown good progress as expected.

Reflecting on all of those factors, it is even more necessary to address this issue to the wider public. And as quality education is part of SDGs, we the governments should ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. In order to achieve that, we need to push the government to facilitate and provide good quality education. As the most vital stakeholder, the government needs to pay more attention to this matter.

Act Global as part of the community is also encouraged and believed that young people grow best through access to global education, contact with people from different cultures, and being exposed to new positive educational experiences.

What we do to involve in creating a learning opportunity is we hold a biweekly virtual education program. This space aims to give a non-formal way of learning by inviting some experts to share and discuss with us certain issues or subjects. Like on May 28th, 2022 Act Global conducted a session regarding the topic of intercultural communication we learn that communication plays a significant part in understanding each other and is one of the keys to making us closer.

And as we celebrated International Literacy Day, we need to remain ourselves that quality education is a right for everyone.


written by Harun Arrasyid
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