„Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve his or her goals, develop his or her knowledge and potential and participate fully in community and wider society‟ (UNESCO 2005: 21).
UNDERSTANDING LITERACY:It’s Not a Matter of Have or Have Not It is important to recognize that literacy is not a have or have not ability, instead, literacy is assessed at different levels of competency in different areas including reading, writing and numeracy.
LITERACY IN CANADA:Still room for Improvement• Four out of 10 adult Canadians, age 16 to 65 - representing 9million Canadians - struggle with low literacy.• 15% of adult Canadians 16 years+ are in the lowest level of literacy(Level 1)• 27% of Canadians are in Level 2• 30% of high school students leave school without a diploma
LITERACY IN CANADA: HEALTH CONCERNS• 1 in 4 adults can’t read dosages and directions on over-the-counter orprescription medicines or read health and wellness information• Low literate adults are 2.5 times more likely to experience unemploymentcompared to those at Level 3 +•Those aged 16 to 65 who reported being in poor physical health scoredlower in document literacy than did those reporting better health.
LITERACY IN CANADA: EMPLOYMENT• Canadians with Level 1 literacy experience daily challenges such as:completing a job application form; using online banking; completing theonline application for Employment Insurance• People with low proficiency in literacy tend to have lower rates ofemployment, and they tend to work in occupations with lower skillrequirements.• Low literate adults are 2.5 times more likely to experience unemploymentcompared to those at Level 3 +• 43% of working age Canadians at level 1 literacy derive income fromEmployment Insurance or Social Assistance compared to 14% of those at thehighest levels
LITERACY IN CANADA: IMPACTS ON THE WORKPLACE1 out of 3 Canadian employers experience basic skills-related problems with theirworkforce, yet less than 1 out of 10 employers are involved in literacy programs orreferrals to programs. The impact of Basic Skills Programs on Canadian Workplace,reports on 86 employer and employee representatives from 53 workplaces whichhad participated in basic skills training for at least 1 year:• 79% reported increased productivity• 84% reported improvements in the quality of people’s work• 73% reported an increase in the work effort• 87% reported more competent use of workplace based technology• 82% reported increased health and safety• 97% reported increased self confidence that benefits the workplace
LITERACY IN CANADA: AFFECTS ON COMMUNITY• Literacy proficiency improves chances of employment, builds self-confidence and enables discussions and actions that affect the welfareof individuals and their community.• Greater understanding of social and political issues means a moreinformed opinion at the ballot box, better understanding of issues, andgreater confidence in discussing them. This, in turn, encouragesleadership and engagement in public debate.
LITERACY IN CANADA: ONE FINAL NOTE…By raising literacy scores by 1% in Canada, Canada’s national economic productivity isexpected to increase by 2.5% or $18 billion per year
LITERACY AND ITS GLOBAL IMPACT“Education is both a human right in itself and an indispensable means of realizing other human rights.” UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1999
LITERACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS Literacy should be recognized as a tool to pursue civil, political, economic or social rights. It also provides individuals with the ability to recognize and exercise their legal rights, as well as participate politically in society. Literacy classes provide a place for learners, in particular women, gain access to and develop a better understanding of their rights and how to claim, defend and promote them.
LITERACY, INCLUSION AND EQUITY At a global level, the challenge of literacy inequalities remains undiminished. Ensuring adequate and appropriate provision to diverse population groups will require that improvements in mass literacy go hand-in-hand with sensitivity to linguistic and culturaldiversity among minority and indigenous populations. In addition,provision for women, young people, rural populations and the poor is often inadequate. (UNESCO 2005: 29)
LITERACY AND INCLUSION In order for literacy to be inclusive, it needs to be recognized and respected that every individual, community and society presents its own unique ways of learning, interpreting and accessingprograms. It cannot be assumed that a one size fits all approach to literacy and learning will work.
LITERACY AND GENDER DISPARITIES WORLDWIDE• 63 per cent of the illiterate population were women in 1985–1994 as compared to 64 percent in 2000–2006.• The gender gap has improved most in the Arab States, and in South, West and EastAsia.• In Sub-Saharan Africa, the female literacy rate has risen from 45 per cent to 53 per cent,but the proportion of illiterate women within the total illiterate population has increasedslightly, from 61 per cent to 62 per cent.• In Pakistan, the gender disparity in literacy rates is much greater in rural areas than inurban areas.• In South Asia as a whole, the gender gap in school enrolments is particularly evident inremote areas.• Significantly, the Latin American countries with large indigenous communities(Guatemala, Peru and Bolivia) have lower literacy rates for women as compared to thepopulation as a whole.
LITERACY AND POVERTYBecause of the complex nature of poverty, there is no single solution to combat it. Competence in literacy is however, an essential component of the multi- faceted solution to poverty. Poverty reduction, economic growth and wealth
LITERACY AND POVERTYAlthough the Millennium Development Goals include the prioritisation of funding for primary education (Goal 2), adult literacy or non-formal education was not formally addressed. This means that a formal connection between literacy and poverty was not present however, it is clear that a strong link exists between literacy and poverty. For example, literate adults are more likely to send their children to school (Goal 2), and the learning of HIV and AIDS prevention through literacy (Goal 6).
GLOBAL LITERACY CHALLENGE UNESCO’s Global Literacy Challenge suggests 3 key actions that need to be taken:Mobilizing stronger commitment to literacy: • Greater advocacy • Greater political will and stronger policies • Clearer picture of real needs • More dynamic partnerships
GLOBAL LITERACY CHALLENGEReinforcing more effective literacy programme delivery: • Increasing scale and quality of delivery • Strengthened capacity development of literacy actors • Enriching the literate environment • More focused attention on numeracy • Better exchange of information on what works • Research to provide reliable data and evidence- based alternatives
GLOBAL LITERACY CHALLENGEHarnessing new resources for literacy: • More information on literacy programme costs • Increased budgets • Increased financial support from donors
WHAT CAN WE DO?• Donate books and reading materials to your local school or community centre• Start a reading club• Volunteer to teach literacy classes or become a one to one tutor in your community• Become a mentor of a non-literate person• Send your literacy stories to firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCES• Project Read• ABC Life Literacy Canada• Community Literacy of Ontario• UNESCO.org (Global Literacy Challenge)• UN.org