As NLU continues to add its voice to the global conversation about education, connections are opening for University faculty and staff to participate in wide-ranging international discussions — as one NLU team experienced last month in a world-renowned setting.
Over three days in April, the World Literacy Summit at Oxford University in the U.K. brought together key players in education — from national ambassadors, commissioners and legislators to leading academics and other education advocates — all looking at how to better tackle the problem of the more than 700 million people worldwide who have low levels of literacy, as well as tie in ways to increase knowledge of other critical aspects of life among the disadvantaged.
This was the first time NLU sent a delegation to Oxford. Lead by James O’Meara, Professor, the NLU team included Sue Offutt, Executive Director of the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership; Debbie O’Connor, Assistant Professor; and Monica Ramos, Student Success Coach. O’Meara said the trip to the WLS was an ideal chance to promote NLU’s culture of research while making connections with other education figures and contributing to the larger literacy effort.
“One of the goals of NLU in terms of distinction is to shape policy, and this is a good example of moving in that direction at the global level,” O’Meara said.
Specifically, O’Meara was the lead author on the latest iteration of the Oxford Declaration (you can sign it here), a major advocacy document that comes out of the biennial summit. The declaration is sent to 23 heads of state, the European Union, African Union and UNESCO, and its purpose is to challenge governments to empower citizens by supporting the development of literate societies .
In addition, a collection of articles written by WLS supporters was released at the summit, “Literacies: The Power to Change,” in two volumes, the first of which has O’Meara as editor and contains work from four NLU professors, providing a larger platform for faculty to share their work. Beyond this, O’Meara made appearances at the summit on Al Jazeera TV and BBC Oxford about various literacy issues.
The definition of “literacy” continues to expand in international forums, O’Meara said, and at the WLS, panels covered not only reading and writing, but literacies in personal finances, health — particularly for maternal care and infant mortality — human rights, and information and communications technology.
“The whole role of literacies continues to be a global agenda, and the role will continue to grow for groups that are focusing on different forms of literacies,” O’Meara said. “We’re looking at how we connect our work with these global agendas to contribute to NLU as a place of distinction.”
O’Meara noted that in addition to himself, two of the lead authors on the Oxford Declaration had attended NLU’s Global Education First Conference last fall, including Professor Marilyn Leask, University of Bedfordshire, and Professor Jean Pierre Ezin, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commissioner of Education Science and Culture . Professor Ezin continues to work with NLU on moving forward science education initiatives in Africa, while Professor Leask has advised the University on research-informed pedagogy.
In addition, O’Meara said that NLU was able to strengthen relationships with a number of philanthropic organizations, as well as universities in the U.K. and Australia and ECOWAS.
Partnerships are needed to tackle the huge challenge of low literacy levels and related education issues, both inside and across borders. This month O’Meara traveled to Chile to attend the the Collective Consultation of NGOs on Education For All’s meeting, “Realizing the Right to Education beyond 2015.” And in November, NLU plans to host another installment of the GEFC during International Education Week. O’Meara said it will continue to be a platform to develop existing relationships as well as foster new ones.
“It’s clear that NLU’s taking a leading role in advocacy in terms of literacy,” he said. “I think if we start to work in this more collaborative approach our collective impact will be so much larger.”