The European Literacy Policy Network
The conference from 20th to 22nd January 2016 at the historic Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam saw the culmination of ELiNet’s two year project bringing together 78 literacy institutions across 28 European countries. It issued a call for literacy to be recognised as a fundamental human right.
Christine Garbe, the ELiNet Coordinator from the University of Cologne, welcomed us with an overview of the outcomes of the project. These were namely overviews of literacy provision in each country, good practice guides, and tools for awareness raising and fundraising, all available from http://www.eli-net.eu in addition to the network building, events and conferences. Jens Nymand Christensen, Deputy Director-General for Education and Culture at the European Commission, recognised the ongoing challenge of bringing literacy levels to 100% across Europe and expressed the commitment of the Commission to driving ahead with the key activities and instruments delivered by the ELiNet project.
We were delighted to be joined by H.R.H. Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, UNESCO Special Envoy on Literacy for Development and founder of Stichting Lezen & Schrijven the Netherlands Reading and Writing Foundation. The visit was prior to an awards ceremony for Literacy Ambassadors, a network of adult learners and other volunteers who encourage those with low literacy levels to participate in adult learning. This is a high profile campaign across the Netherlands including posters, television and local press; and a phenomenal confidence boost and expansive development opportunity for the ambassadors themselves. Many of the ambassadors joined us for an early evening chat in the networking chamber, practising their English language skills. Abdelkader Benali, author, concluded the Conference Opening with an illustration of the transition from the traditions of orality in his own family background to literate practices. His anecdotes encouraged participants to reflect on the values of oral traditions, and the development engendered by migration to literacy.
A range of workshops in the afternoon and following morning covered ELiNet participants’ activities including engaging with businesses and the corporate sector, family literacy programmes, social inclusion, teacher education and development, and respectful terminology. They disseminated the country reports and good practice examples including literacy for health, struggling learners, digital literacy, and reading for pleasure.
The conference closed with Christine Garbe introducing the European Framework of Good Practices in Raising Literacy Levels; Renate Valtin, Chair, German Society for Reading and Writing, inviting signatures to the Declaration of European Citizens’ Right to Literacy; and a panel discussion with the ELiNet teamleaders, moderated by David Mallows, Institute of Education UCL.
It was an open and friendly cross-sectorial conference in a lovely and well-serviced venue. There are suggestions of working across Europe to hold an annual literacy conference into the future, engaging all our areas of excellence and of development.