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Comparative Education Review





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The "eradication of illiteracy by the year 2000 has been adopted as a goal of Unesco and a significant number of its member states. In a manner similar to successful attempts to eliminate certain diseases, such as smallpox and malaria, the eradication of illiteracy is seen as something that might be possible if only a big push could "innoculate" adults along with their school-aged children so that all might be protected from illiteracy for generations to come. Efforts to reduce illiteracy in today's world contain a central paradox: that so much effort has been invested with so little knowledge about how to best achieve success. For example, the well-known Experimental World Literacy Program, organized by Unesco in the 1960s and 1970s, ended with moderate success and little information to use in subsequent literacy programs. After several decades of international attention and financial investment, the literacy rates of most countries are now relatively stable. However, due to population growth, especially in the Third World, the actual number of illiterates in the contemporary world has grown over the last decade. Furthermore, it is now widely accepted that, in addition to illiteracy in the Third World, large "pockets" of illiteracy exist in the industrialized nations as well. For this reason, there has been an increased interest within the scientific community in the nature and functions of literacy, even though there exists a surprisingly small amount of contact between researchers and the policy-making community.

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© 1986 by University of Chicago Press.



Date Posted: 25 April 2018

This document has been peer reviewed.