Oxford will be the host of the World Literacy Summit at the beginning of April of this year, as part of a new initiative to target the widespread problem of illiteracy.

The main objective of the Summit is to stimulate greater levels of co-operation and partnerships in the global literacy sector. The organisers want to support the 796 million people who cannot read or write. World Literacy Foundation CEO Andrew Kay stated, “If a person does not have the solid base of literacy and numeracy skills that so many of us take for granted, their opportunities in life are far more limited.”

One in five adults lack basic literacy skills and 67 million primary school aged children don’t attend school. The organisers believe that millions more are receiving education of such poor quality that it will do little to enhance their life chances.

300 leaders from government, education and international development will converge on Oxford for the four days of the Summit. According to the organisers, this will include Heads of State, Ministers for Education, and literacy practitioners and experts.

A recent report by the World Literacy Foundation highlighted that the economic and social costs of illiteracy are estimated at 2-2.5% of a country’s Gross Domestic Product. It also stated that the direct and indirect costs of low literacy rates to an economy include unemployment, poverty, and health and welfare costs. 

Kay also claimed that illiterate people are prone to making poor decisions on their health and personal welfare, which can trap people in a vicious cycle of poverty and disadvantage.“

This is the first time that a global think tank of literacy experts has been dedicated to collectively addressing the problem of world literacy and its link to poverty,” he said.

“Leaders and experts from the literacy community from around the world will attend this Summit in Oxford to build a collective plan of action to make inroads into addressing the illiteracy issue.

”The event will be based in many of the university’s buildings, including the Sheldonian Theatre, Bodleian Library, Balliol, Trinity and Wadham College.

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