This year International Literacy Day focuses on the pivotal role Literacy plays in achieving sustainable development in Small Island Developing States like Barbados. A literate population builds on the achievements of the present and safeguards the future.

In the present challenging economic climate there is need for greater awareness of the urgency to focus on promoting actions and behaviours that will support the sustainability of the country, the eradication of poverty and the building of an entrepreneurial class.

Any discussion on sustainable development, however, must be conducted within the context of educational development since it is education that empowers citizens and provides the impetus for the kinds of thinking and action that are required for assessing a country???s needs; while determining how these needs can be met without eroding social, economic, and environmental gains.

Education and literacy are essential for achieving sustainability. It is within this context, therefore, that education and training must be seen as being critical for moving societies toward achieving sustainable growth.??Access to education promotes and supports the development of literacy and creates citizens who are equipped to act responsibly and decisively to ensure that their behaviours impact positively on the society and environment in which they live.

Literate persons are better equipped for problem solving, escaping the clutches of poverty, developing self-reliance and comprehending the complexities of the large issues of life: the need for a country to be competitive; the threat of climate change.??Education for sustainable development must therefore focus not only on creating awareness, but more importantly, there must be a concerted effort to engage citizens, young and old, in discussions about practical solutions to the social, economic and environmental problems which the country faces.

This can be attained by not only identifying practices which are unsustainable but by also creatively finding solutions to these practices which, if left unchecked, have the potential to do irreparable damage and create disequilibrium in the society. Increased access to quality education and literacy should be used to change the habits of citizens who have developed lifestyles which not only threaten the well-being of the individual, but also negatively impacts on the physical and the economic environment of the country.

Literacy can result in decisions which lead to improvement in the productive sectors through the adoption of scientific and technological innovations that lead to energy savings and increased productivity; literacy helps citizens make healthier choices which can positively impact the cost of public health care; literacy increases the probability of employment in a changing society; literacy promotes the acquisition of higher education qualifications as well as technical and vocational skills; and facilitates good decision-making and policy-planning which can contribute to the growth of a ???greener??? economy and which reduce the country???s dependence on imported energy and manufactured goods.

The Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation is very cognisant of the link between education, literacy and sustainable development; supports the need for education for sustainable development and reiterates its commitment towards strengthening the development and implementation of curricula that emphasise individual and collective responsibility, creativity, the acquisition of knowledge and skills, and a focus on the application of science and technology to create revenue generating ventures.

In this the forty-ninth year since the declaration of international literacy day, the Ministry of Education joins with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation as well as with countries world-wide in commemorating International Literacy Day 2014 and promotes the understanding that Literacy is the basis on which STEM education must be built.

Author: Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation

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