The President of Indonesia happy over UNESCO literacy award

The president of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Friday that a recent award by UNESCO for an Indonesian literacy programme was a sign that the nation's human capital had developed greatly and was ready to compete regionally and globally. "This award is recognition of Indonesia's hard work to improve the quality of education, particularly the eradication of illiteracy," Yudhoyono said before commencing a Cabinet meeting at the Bogor State Palace in Bogor, West Java.

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Stronger Demographic Structure

The president of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
"This achievement is important and necessary for our long-term development. In the future, we will see fewer social, political and economic problems caused by the gap between those who are literate and those who are not. This will also help develop a stronger demographic structure," the President added.

The President was referring to a 2012 literacy prize from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), which was announced on Wednesday.

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The UN body is awarding one of two UNESCO King Sejong Literacy prizes to the Education and Culture Ministry's programme titled "Improving the quality of literacy education through entrepreneurship literacy, reading, culture and tutor training", which has so far managed to benefit around 3 million people, with a specific priority to illiterate women.

"This programme is aimed at enhancing quality education and eradicating illiteracy through entrepreneurship, reading, culture and training," UNESCO said in a statement published on its website,

The second UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize is awarded to the "National Adult Literacy Program" by the Pentecostal Church in Rwanda. The programme was selected for its focus on women and out-of-school youth, reaching over 100,000 people in more than 3,500 literacy centers.

Programs from Bhutan and Colombia have also won UNESCO literacy prizes.

Bhutan is due to receive the 2012 Confucius Prize for Literacy for providing community education programs via 950 education centers, while the second Confucius Prize for Literacy is awarded to the "Interactive System Program" in Colombia, which aims to improve literacy among people in areas affected by conflict and violence.

The awards will be bestowed at a ceremony to be held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, on Sept. 6 as part of celebrations marking International Literacy Day on Sept. 8.

Citing UNESCO data, Yudhoyono said Indonesia's literacy rate in 2009 stood at 93 per cent, a slight increase from 92.19 per cent in 2008. "[The 2009 rate] was the same as that of our neighbour Malaysia, and close to Singapore's 95 per cent," he said.

In terms of literacy, Indonesia is ahead of other Asian countries, such as Cambodia and Vietnam. Educational observers, however, have criticised the government's failure to boost the quality of education overall, in contrast to educational systems in Singapore and Malaysia, despite the high literacy rate.

In term of research, for example, Indonesia ranked 64th for the number of papers published in peer-reviewed journals between 1996 and 2010. The majority of Indonesian scientists shared their research credits with foreign scientists, with 74 per cent of the country's scientific projects being international collaborations.

The UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize was established in 1989 by the government of Korea, while the Confucius Prize for Literacy was created in 2005 by the Chinese government. The four laureates will each receive US$20,000 (S$25,000).

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