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Published in Print: September 25, 2002, as Worth Noting

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Worth Noting

There must be _no community with an illiterate family, nor a family with an illiterate person._

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There must be ‘no community with an illiterate family, nor a family with an illiterate person.’

"Not surprisingly, all the cases of successful use of the opportunities of global commerce for the reduction of poverty have involved the use of basic education on a wide basis. Already in the mid-19th century, the task was seen with remarkable clarity in Japan. The Fundamental Code of Education, issued in 1872 (shortly after the Meji Restoration in 1868), expressed the public commitment to make sure that there must be ‘no community with an illiterate family, nor a family with an illiterate person.’ By 1910, Japan was almost fully literate, at least for the young, and by 1913, though still very much poorer than Britain or America, Japan was publishing more books than Britain and more than twice as many as the United States.

Later on, China, Taiwan, South Korea, and other economies in East Asia followed similar routes and firmly focused on basic education. In examining their rapid economic progress, their willingness to make good use of the global market economy is often praised, and rightly so. But that progress was greatly helped by the achievements of these countries in basic education."

Amartya Sen, the 1998 Nobel laureate in economics and a master at Trinity College, Cambridge University, in the United Kingdom, in remarks prepared for this year's International Literacy Day, held at UNESCO's Paris headquarters Sept. 9-10.

Vol. 22, Issue 4, Page 38

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