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International Literacy Day is celebrated around the world on 8 September

In 2006 the International Literacy Day is celebrated for the 40th time. The Day was proclaimed by the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) in 1966 by the recommendation of the World Education Ministers Conference on Eradication of Illiteracy, which was held in September 1965 in Teheran. 8 September is the day of solemn opening of the Conference.

The UNESCO main objective was to draw the world community attention to the importance of literacy spreading. On this day the UN Secretary-General addresses the world with a message, in which he calls upon certain people, organizations and states to demonstrate their support for and solidarity with the efforts for spreading literacy, and provide assistance to development of informal education for everybody, first of all for those who was deprived of an opportunity to join the school education system.

According to the latest assessments, there are about 862 million illiterate people in the world, and over 100 million children do not enroll in school. Moreover, a great number of children, young people and adults enrolled in school or other educational programmes, do not meet the literacy requirements under the current conditions in the world, which is getting ever more complicated. The literacy rates among adult population have considerably improved by 10 per cent for the last 20 years, from 70 per cent in 1980 to 80 per cent in 2000. However, the number of illiterates shows that the problem has not been solved yet. At the same time, the increase of the world population literacy rate proves the efficiency of the measures taken.

Achieving universal primary schooling by 2015 is one of the Millennium Development Goals fixed in the Millennium Declaration. In acknowledgement of the importance of universal literacy for human development and meeting global challenges, the UN General Assembly proclaimed the years 2003-2012 the United Nations Literacy Decade.

According to the National Report of the Republic of Belarus Status of Achieving the Millennium Development Goals, Belarus has met the goal. It has secured enrollment of all children in primary and general basic school. The literacy rate of people aged 15 to 24 is 99.8 per cent. Universal adult literacy has reached 99.6 per cent, according to the 1999 census.

Belarus and Russian rank first among the CIS participating countries by literacy rate. Belarus has the 391/10,000 student ratio. In 2000 it was 280/10,000. According to the Human Development Report 2005, Belarus outruns many states, which represent the high human development level group, for instance, Bahrain (87.7 per cent adult literacy rate), Mexico (90.3 per cent), Greece (91 per cent). There are states with a low human potential level, which Belarus surpasses by 80 per cent by adult and youth literacy rates: Burkina-Faso (12.8 and 19.4 per cent respectively), Niger (14.4 and 19.8 per cent), Mali (19 and 24.2 per cent).

The challenge of raising the female literacy level deserves a particular attention all over the world. In Belarus, according to the National Human Development Report 2004-2005, the general ratio of educated women aged from 6 to 22 totals 87.2 per cent, which exceeds the men level by almost 6 per cent.
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