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How can we tackle illiteracy on a global scale?

There have been many great concepts mentioned involving improving educational resources, encouraging independence and fostering youth empowerment on a global scale. Focusing on digital learning opportunities like the Hole-in-the-Wall kiosks and the Khan academy seem to be a great way to give children across the world access to education. However, what about taking it one step further and addressing digital education for non English speakers. Often, when children who have limited access to educational resources finally do get their hands on reading material, it is not in their native language. This can be extremely frustrating and may slow their learning process or deter them altogether. Enabling children to access digital learning tools in their mother tongue will motivate early learners to gain literacy skills by making them more relevant, and fostering the capacity to enrich their cultural identity and strengthen their community.

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Written by DeletedUser

Reading and writing are tools for eradicating poverty, a means of reducing child mortality, and the key to gender equality. When you educate a child, you improve their drive and self-esteem, as well as give them the tools they need to grow, build and support their family, and encourage the education of their own future children. An educated child is an asset to their society, opening the door to development and growth in both the individual and the community.

Evaluation results

5 evaluations so far

1. Does this concept deserve a place on the i20 agenda?

Yes – it's definitely a significant global issue requiring innovation - 60%

Maybe – it's important but there are other issues which deserve more attention - 40%

No – it's interesting but not of global significance - 0%

2. Does this concept point to innovation opportunities that i20 leaders can discuss?

It points to a range of opportunities - 80%

It points to a single opportunity - 20%

It's indeed a challenge but doesn't point to opportunities - 0%

3. Is this concept well framed?

Yes – it relevantly covers the issue to promote onwards discussion - 20%

Somewhat – though the scope is either too narrow or too wide - 60%

Not really – interesting issue but this concept doesn't really invite conversation - 20%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ashley Jablow

I like the idea of promoting education and literacy in a child's native language for a couple of reasons. First, and obviously, it gives kids more immediate access to learning through reading in a language they already know. But it also, I would guess, help ensure the protection and promotion of global cultures, many of which are being lost through globalization. It makes me think of the work the Pachamama Alliance is doing in Ecuador ( to help advance the standard of living of the Achuar people while also ensuring that their culture and traditions don't literally get lost in translation...Great concept!

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I totally agree with Ashley's point of view!

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Congratulations on making it to the final 9 on the agenda! Well done!

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Making initial connections between sounds and letters works best in the mother tongue. Once that connection is made, it becomes easier to introduce words from other languages for children to compare and contrast. It's fun and mind expanding to find out how many different ways there are of naming one animal. Even if a child does not have the opportunity to become fluent in other languages, learning about how people speak differently in other places is valuable in building bridges of tolerance and understanding. These children's children may have more opportunity to interact with the wider world. How are we preparing this generation to accept and nurture their poly-cultured children?

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When I was in Kenya last week, I had the opportunity discuss his issue with a teacher, she explain to me that she often has to go back to the child tribe language to get them to click on the relationship between letter and sound, she has covered the walls with drawing and underneath the name in Kiswahili or Tribe language, because they have no access to written material.

Speaking several languages is an invaluable wealth, which unable us to understand other and accept our differences.

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I totally agree that it's important to establish language as a global common language (charity foundation comment), but learning how to read using visual tools (modern method) only works in your mother tongue, how can you make a child understand "D" like in "Dog" if for he sees a "Chien". It's easier to build on what the child knows, and then move on to english.

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When we encourage people to become literate in their mother tongue we support and value their culture. When we encourage people to become literate in English, we invite them to join our conversation. Both together will work. Kids can learn to write stories about their lives in their first language and translate them into English. So can adults if they want to and have time.

Photo of Meena Kadri

Isabelle – so great to see you here after meeting you in Kenya this week! I agree with you on enabling children in their mother tongue. (obviously English could be added later if desired)

Adam (Charity-Foundation Global-Firm) I'm surprised that you prioritise English given your earlier post about Identity. Doesn't one's mother tongue provide the cornerstone of identity?

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I think that it is especially important to support the education of the english language, which turned out to be the, though regrettably unofficial, established global language.