17.09.2012 POLICY

Work life requires better literacy skills

Comprehensive literacy might reduce unemployment and increase income, says European Commission´s new literacy report. The report strengthens the work done for literacy in Europe.

Tapio Säävälä hopes that the Literacy Report inspires the adult education community's work.

Eighteen months ago Androulla Vassiliou, the Commissioner for Education, formed a working group to draft a report on literacy in Europe. The Council of the European Union is to adopt the resolutions concerning literacy in November.

"Literacy has been widely studied but the problem has been how to transform all the information to education policies," says Tapio Säävälä, the Acting Head of the Unit from Commission's Adult Education Unit. His unit has been coordinating the project in cooperation with other units of DG Education & Culture.

Information Society creates new needs

The report is a wake up-call: 73 million European adults have low education level. It is likely that many of them have poor literacy skills as well. Giving exact numbers is impossible because adult literacy has been comprehensively measured only in the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

Most of the people with low literacy skills are native-born. Many with basic literacy skills are not able to read and write well enough to develop and function in society at home, school and work.

"The starting point is basic literacy, but the skill has to be developed through life," Säävälä states.

The literacy requirements increase as the communication environment multiplies and computers become more common. With poor skills it is difficult to understand, interpret and critically evaluate diverse messages.

"Computers are used so widely that more comprehensive literacy skills are needed in almost every profession," Säävälä tells.

Away from sectorial thinking

Säävälä is happy that a holistic approach to learning is spreading. Different areas of the society should work together to foster literacy. The report includes recommendations for business and other areas of work life on what they can do to promote literacy.

"We cannot think that literacy is the business of education sector only," Säävälä reminds.

More information:

Final report of EU High Level Group of Experts on Literacy
European Commission´s new web site on literacy