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Improving educational outcomes for underserved communities globally

Sharing our vision for International Literacy Day

Udarie Fernando
Udarie Fernando
Senior Communications & Social Impact Manager






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International Literacy Day

This year’s International Literacy Day (ILD) is particularly resonant for us here at Turnitin. The 2021 theme - ‘Literacy for a human-centred recovery: Narrowing the digital divide’ - compels us all to interrogate how educational technology can alleviate the gaping inequities caused by last year’s sudden transition to remote learning.

The COVID-19 pandemic marked a new chapter for students and educators globally. The unfortunate reality was that the transition to virtual classrooms included detrimental impacts, with the worst hit communities invariably being ones that were already underserved due to a lack of access to technology and digital connectivity.

This only exacerbates the patterns we have already seen in the data on illiteracy. Since the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) began celebrating International Literacy Day in 1967, the world has experienced important gains in global literacy levels. And yet, progress remains slow with an estimated 773 million young people and adults around the world being unable to read and write. In this context, the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal number four is particularly pertinent: “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” It is an audacious goal, and one that Turnitin supports.

Turnitin Social Impact

So, what is Turnitin doing to support literacy? Our work in the global education sphere is underpinned by our company’s ethos. Our mission being: “to ensure the integrity of global education and meaningfully improve learning outcomes.” This is powered by our company values that include: Passion for Learning; Integrity; Global Mindset; and Action and Ownership.

Turnitin partners with educational institutions and schooling communities around the world to support an end-to-end assessment experience that transforms student learning. Simultaneously, we are beginning our social impact journey to explore how we’re uniquely positioned to contribute to improved learning outcomes for underserved communities that may not yet have resources available to access such technologies.

At Turnitin, we have begun formulating our definition of our ‘Social Impact’. For us, Social Impact fuses together a multidisciplinary, intersectional approach that includes: corporate social responsibility; international human rights frameworks; diversity, equity and inclusion; and sustainability to create a 360 degree view of our role as global citizens. With offices around the globe including Oakland, Mexico City, Manila, Kyiv and Noida - our social impact work looks to become more deeply rooted in these communities where we ourselves live, work and operate. We are beginning with understanding how we can best partner and listen to the needs of the underserved educational communities in these locales. Through leveraging our technologies, people power, and resources - we strive to equip students with supports that prepare them for higher education and the future of work.

As we embark on this commitment to social impact, we have begun in our own backyard. In Oakland, for example, our longstanding partnership with Oakland Promise recently funded 50 students through their ‘Great Expectations Scholarship’ program. The scholars are supported throughout their journey with the funding including wraparound educational resources such as mentors and advisors.

As the United Nations proclaimed when launching the Sustainable Development Goals agenda, these goals will not be achieved by the year 2030 by public and private sectors working in silos. The seminal partnerships we create within our communities help ensure that those being left behind by educational systems and structures are uplifted through access to technology, opportunity and resourcing from private enterprise.

Transformative power of education

The pandemic is far from over, and yet it has already taught us many invaluable lessons here at Turnitin. Perhaps no more important than this: the fundamentals of literacy and academic integrity have the power to ignite curiosity, spark lifelong learning, and transform lives.

For Turnitin, this is just the beginning of our social impact journey as we advance our mission and impact on the global educational landscape. We are honored to collaborate with partners and organizations in support of learning and literacy around the world.