Blog post: International Day Of Education January 24, 2024

January 24, 2024

Written by Susanne Urbina, Capacity Support Assistant

Endorsed by the United Nations, the International Day of Education celebrates and promotes the importance of education for peace and development.  This signification also highlights that education is a basic human right. 

We understand the role that quality education and higher education play in enhancing social progress (meeting the basic human needs of citizens and communities), but not every individual has the luxury of attaining both quality and higher education.  

According to the World Literacy Foundation (WLF) “around 1 in 5 people are completely illiterate. Additionally, around 3 billion people around the world struggle with basic-level reading and writing”. “This has significant economic, social, and health impacts at both an individual level and societal level” (WLF, 2018). They go on to say that with our emerging knowledge economy, low-literacy levels prevent individuals from competing in the global economy. Individuals with low literacy skills are most likely to be employed where they’ll earn less income. These individuals are more likely to be more dependent on social agencies, have lower levels of self-esteem and may be victims of crime (WLF, 2018). In addition to those with low literacy levels, new immigrants with limited English language skills have challenges in everyday life filling out forms and applications, understanding civic, provincial, and federal government policies, as well as understanding labels on medicine and food.  

When looking at literacy more locally, Edmonton Social Planning Council (ESPC) reported that 40% of Albertans have literacy levels below the completion of high school (ESPC, 2015).  However, the most recent numbers for the country according to the Adult Literacy Skills for Success Report, are that 49% of our adult population scored below high school literacy levels and 17% in the lowest level (United for Literacy, 2022).  

One of the options available to empower individuals to lead healthier, more productive lives by increasing their literacy is through continuing education programs. Our province believes that “continuing education programs are designed to help Albertans become learners for life” and that everyone can participate in short-term, part-time classes for fun, to learn a new skill or hobby, prepare to return to school, receive certification to gain employment or explore new career options (Government of Alberta, 2024).  

The Community Adult Learning Program (CALP) which is funded and supported by the Government of Alberta, supports over 80 community-based learning organizations that provide Adult Literacy and Foundational Learning opportunities in communities throughout the province (CALP, 2023). CALP organizations support foundational learners in many ways. A Work Literacy Course, UP Skills for Work that ABC Life Literacy Canada offers to organizations that promote and engage with adult learners, has a series of workbooks on time management, attitude, presentation, confidence, and more (ABC Life Literacy Canada, 2024). These “soft skills” (social-emotional skills) can positively affect a person in both their work and personal lives. A benefit employers see from their employees participating in the Up Skills for Work courses is a reported 25% reduction in employee work-related stress levels (ABC Life Literacy Canada, 2024).  

The former Essential Skills (ES) program offered a similar course to help with attaining and growing the workforce (Skills Canada British Columbia, 2024). In late 2020, the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES), responded to the post-Covid-19 needs and rebranded their Essential Skills program to “Skills for Success” (SFS) to help adults improve their literacy through a blend of both foundational and soft skills. This newest version that Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) took to revamping, and overlaps some of the Up Skills program from ABC Literacy (Government of Canada, 2023). This program also introduces other skills to help people with further training and education, as it now includes technical and occupation-specific skills (Fifth Global Report on Adult Learning and Education, 2021). 

In this same Global Report on Learning and Education, Alberta’s Ministry of Education stated that foundational learning, which is synonymous with Adult Learning Education (ALE) prepares adult learners for post-secondary education and engaging employment. It also equips them to fulfill their potential and strengthen their communities (Fifth Global Report on Adult Learning and Education, 2021). 

Access to foundational learning can be found through adult education programs and centers. Some continuing education centers offer General Educational Development, also known as a General Education Diploma (GED), which qualifies as a high school equivalency certificate. There are providers to help students navigate the course contents and exams. Obtaining one’s GED is necessary before an individual can look at post-secondary education. Our province has a 10-year strategy for post-secondary education designed “to transform the adult learning system to focus on providing high quality education, skills and training needed for Alberta’s future” (Government of Alberta, 2024). This is a great initiative to develop a highly skilled and competitive workforce, but one must be able to enter a university first, which is difficult if one hasn’t graduated and/or developed the other necessary literacy skills.   

Other forms of literacy education may be available through basic computer courses such as financial literacy classes, assistance in getting a Nursing Accreditation (perfect for newcomers with a nursing background), resume writing, job interview skills, English language classes, and more. 

It only takes someone to check into community centers, public libraries, literacy centers, churches, and social agencies to find something of interest to engage in, to open the mind, to increase vocabulary, or to learn a new skill. This will be especially important to our youth who are experiencing learning challenges due to the COVID gap years, but also to anyone who wants to be a life-long learner. 

To conclude, all learners are urged to take advantage of the programs highlighted in September for Literacy month and International Literacy Day on September 8th.  Be sure to look out for celebrations on January 27th, Family Literacy Day, to raise awareness about the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family. Spring is around the corner; check out the upcoming community course offerings.  



ABC Life Literacy Canada (2024). UP Skills for Work. 

ABC Life Literacy Canada (2019). Workplace Literacy Statistics. content/uploads/2019/12/ABC-Workplace-Literacy-Infographic.jpg  

Community Adult Learning Program (2023). 

Edmonton Social Planning Council (2015). Literacy fACT Sheet. edmontonsocialplanning.ca_joomlatools-files_docman-files_ESPC-Documents_Fact-Sheets_FACT_Sheet_Literacy_2015.pdf   

Fifth Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (2021). Canada’s Submission to the Fifth Global Report on Adult Learning and Education-GRALE V (Adult Learning and Education Policy pgs. 3 & 4). 

Fifth Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (2021). Canada’s Submission to the Fifth Global Report on Adult Learning and Education-GRALE V (Adult Learning and Education Policy pg. 5). 

Government of Alberta (2013). Adult Language and Literacy. 

Government of Alberta (2024). Continuing Education. ( 

Government of Alberta (2024). Alberta 2030: Building Skills for Jobs.   

United for Literacy (2022). Adult Literacy Skills for Success, (National Report). 

World Literacy Foundation (2018). The Impact of Illiteracy and the Importance of Early Intervention.   

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Executive Assistant

Related categories: Blog: Miscellaneous
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