Giving Compass' Take:

• Sophie Edwards explains that approximately 750 million people over the age of 15 still lack basic reading and writing skills. Global literacy across the world needs to improve and is a challenge that the development sector is trying to address.

How can philanthropy support global literacy initiatives with regards to the challenges presented by development leaders?

Read about why global literacy matters and what organizations are taking action.

Literacy experts and advocates gathered in Oxford this week to discuss the latest thinking around how to promote global literacy. Despite recent improvements, it remains a major challenge but is massively underfunded and subject to a number of misconceptions, experts said.

Here are five key takeaways for development from the two-day conference:

  1. Remember adult learning-Historically, donor funding for literacy has focused on young school children and has tended to miss adolescent or adult literacy, according to Katy Newell-Jones of the British Association for Literacy in Development, or BALID.
  2. Teach in the mother tongue-In many developing countries, lessons are taught in English or another nonlocal language, such as French, from a young age. In Pakistan, for example, this is has resulted in children learning to read English but with very little comprehension.
  3. Don’t just hand out books: Foster a love of reading-Rana Dajani, the NGO’s founder, told Devex that fostering a love of reading is the first step to improving literacy but is something that many development programs fail to appreciate, instead focusing on inputs such as books.
  4.  Embed literacy into other programs-Standalone literacy programs are not necessarily the best approach, according to Newell-Jones from BALID, who argued that literacy and numeracy should instead be embedded into community development projects.
  5. Use technology — but use it carefully-According to a 2016 analysis of the global literacy sector by United States NGO Results for Development, donors focus too much on technology at a time when there is a “significant lack of evidence on what types of technology interventions actually work.

Read more about how to improve global literacy by Sophie Edwards at Devex.