Illiteracy – especially in today’s highly developed and technological society – is one of the world’s evils. It impoverishes individuals and it impoverishes nations. It debases the currency of any nation’s social and economic capital. It is intolerable, and therefore it should not be tolerated.

Yet it is tolerated in the most advanced and civilised countries in the world. The real scale and burden of illiteracy is masked by worldwide statistics which show Western civilised countries to be almost fully literate. What these statistics do not show is the real level and cost of illiteracy – such as the 100,000 plus young people who leave UK schools every year without reaching the level of functional literacy.

We know everything we need to know regarding how to eradicate illiteracy. No matter how psychologically complex we find the academic world of literacy studies, the actual remedies are simple. Yet to date no nation in the world has made a bold declaration that it will eradicate illiteracy, by taking the simple but bold steps required to do so.

Internationally we do not start from a level playing field. If a nation is very poor, if there is little provision of basic education and if the main social and economic priority is to find a way of feeding the people and providing clean water, then the attainment of national literacy is a much longer-term goal. However, the actual remedies for literacy are the same, and they involve steps that any developed country could take with relative ease. The key issue is not an economic one. It is a question of vision.

I would issue a challenge to any Government or nation.

Commit yourself to a vision of eradicating the social and economic evil of illiteracy, and I will work with you on the steps to take and the timescale required to become the first illiteracy free nation in the world.