Indonesia Gets Unesco Literacy Prize
Fidelis E. Satriastanti& Arientha Primanita
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has rewarded
Indonesia for its fight against illiteracy, the UN agency said on
The country’s directorate general for community
education development was the top winner for the Unesco King Sejong
Literacy Prize this year.
“This program [in Indonesia] is aimed
at enhancing quality education and eradicating illiteracy through
entrepreneurship, reading, culture and training. It is involving more
than 3 million people and specifically prioritizing illiterate women,”
According to Unesco data, Indonesia managed to boost its total literacy rate to more than 93 percent in 2009.
rate for its young adults aged 15 to 24 is far higher, reaching almost
100 percent in 2009. Indonesia has managed to steadily reduce its
illiteracy rate since the 1980s. In 1980, the country’s literacy rate
stood at a mere 67.31 percent. Ten years later, it had jumped to 81.5
In 2004, the rate passed 90 percent, and four years ago it hit 92.19 percent
Indonesia is on par with its more advanced neighbors, such as Malaysia
and Singapore, which had literacy rates of 93 and 95 percent,
respectively, in 2009.It is ahead of other Asean countries, such as
Vietnam and Cambodia.
Education experts praised Indonesia’s
achievement, saying that the continued increase in the literacy rate
showed that the country had the potential to compete at the regional and
Arief Rahman, an education advocate, said that
in the last 10 years Indonesia managed to drastically cut the illiteracy
rate, enabling many of its citizens to expose themselves to knowledge.
He praised the government for its continued fight against illiteracy,
and for aiming to achieve education for all targets by this year.
That might be difficult because many children lack the birth certificates needed to get into schools.
Arief pointed to difficulties in getting women older than 30 to become literate.
illiterate persons are women above 30,” he said. “It’s very difficult
to reach them. For young adults, we can teach them in formal schools.
That’s why we have a near-universal literacy rate at the young adult
According to Arief, who is the head of the Indonesian
Commission for Unesco, the country still faced cultural problems as many
people, especially at the village level, did not believe reading and
writing skills were important.
“What is important to them is to
earn a living by farming or selling something,” he said. “It’s time to
get them to realize that illiteracy causes poverty, while literacy opens
the door to prosperity because they have the ability to get more
Darmaningtyas, an education observer from Taman
Siswa, urged the government to continue providing books to those who
have just learned to read.
“They need to practice reading and
writing,” he said. “Books are very important in this regard, so that
they will not forget their skills several years later.”
and Arief agreed that the country’s rising literacy would strengthen
its ability to achieve its educational goals in mastering science and
technology, a prerequisite to becoming an advanced country. The mastery
of the sciences and technology could also boost Indonesia’s ability to
achieve its development goals of economic prosperity and compete with
“The ability to gain knowledge through reading is a key to competing at the global level,” Darmaningtyas said.
Unesco also awarded prizes to Bhutan, Colombia and Rwanda for their efforts to improve literacy.
winners will receive their awards during a ceremony on Sept. 6 at the
Unesco headquarters in Paris, as part of International Literacy Day.
received the second King Sejong Prize for an adult national literacy
program by the Pentecostal church. The program, which focuses on women
and teenage dropouts, has reached 100,000 people through 3,500 education
Bhutan earned the Confucius Prize for Literacy by providing community education through 950 education centers.
Columbia, the Transformemos Foundation took second place in the
Confucius Prize for its interactive programs which fight illiteracy in
conflict areas. The program has reached 300,000 people since 2006.