Is literacy a basic human right?

Essay by coco__beanCollege, Undergraduate February 2006

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The Universal declaration of Human Rights was a milestone in judicial and Human history, embodying a set of guarantees for a person to be able not only to live but to live with dignity in order to develop fully and use one's Human qualities, intelligence, talents and conscience to satisfy one's spiritual, physical, social and other needs. In other words, one's Right to be Human. Literacy is crucial to the acquisition of essential life skills that enable one to address the challenges one can face in life, and represents an essential step in basic education, which is an indispensable means for effective participation in the society, and thus, is essential for an individual to live with dignity, and can as a result be seen as a crucial human right.

In order to fully understand the necessity of literacy in everyday life we must consider examples of how it interferes with the individual's effective participation in society.

The first aspect of life I wish to address is the issue of healthcare. The relationship between literacy and health status in nonindustrialised nations is well known. Studies in these countries indicate a direct relationship between education level attained and key health issues such as life expectancy and infant survival. Consequences of inadequate literacy are poorer health status, lack of knowledge about medical care and medical conditions, decreased comprehension of medical information, lack of understanding and use of preventive services, poorer self-reported health, poorer compliance rates, increased hospitalisations, and increased health care costs. These findings also reflect the situation in many industrialised countries too. In Ireland, 2% of the population is illiterate, according to the National Adult Literacy Agency. These people would also suffer at due to this same risks. It is shocking to think that in a country with a roaring Celtic tiger...