EAEA News 2005-08-05
Unesco regional meeting on Literacy
About 150 participants from 38 countries attended the European Regional Meeting on Literacy held 2-5 April, 2005 in Lyon, France in the framework of the UN Literacy Decade (2003-2012).
The participants included policy-makers and high-level representatives of research institutes, universities, and public and private providers of literacy. This meeting was organized by the UNESCO Institute for Education (UIE), the UNESCO French National Commission, the Agence Nationale de Lutte Contre L“Illettrisme (ANLCI), and the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA) with support from the European Union.
For the preparation of the conference, the participating institutions were asked to fill out an extensive questionnaire on literacy in their countries. The 30 questionnaires received from 23 countries revealed a high variety of literacy definitions and policy frameworks (either having an economic, social or cultural focus). Also the role of the government varies: in many countries the responsibility for literacy lies in the Education Ministry, in others in the local governments and authorities. Literacy programmes mostly aim at facilitating access to the labour market and at improving socio-cultural integration.
New developments in the delivery of literacy programmes include the wide range of NGOs and private initiatives involved, the use of Information and Communication Technologies (e.g. e-learning literacy courses) and the pro fessionalization of literacy teachers.
The workshops dealt with "spaces", "excluded groups" and "quality of literacy". The workshops on the spaces in which literacy takes place looked at families, the workplace, the community and public spaces as well as virtual spaces (distance education and ICTs).
The workshops on excluded groups included migrant literacy, literacy in prisons, literacy among the Romas (representing the biggest European minority group), and literacy among both older and younger adults, with a focus on gender perspectives.
The workshops on quality covered the issue of learners“ participation, literacy for active citizenship and measurement, assessment and evaluation. The latter was also the topic of the plenary speech of Andreas Schleicher from the OECD, who presented some reflections on the challenges of literacy surveys of which the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) and the PISA studies are the most prominent examples.
The OECD is currently preparing the "Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies" (PIAAC), a kind of "PISA" survey for adults. It was stated by many conference participants that the collection of data through the international surveys has brought the dimensions of functional illiteracy in Europe to the attention of governments and public, but much remains to be done when it comes to policies and practices to improve adult literacy in Europe.
Teacher training was identified as crucial for the improvement of the quality of literacy provision in Europe. There will be no achievement of the Lisbon agenda without adult literacy. This was one of the statements expressed in the concluding plenary session, in which a number of challenges were raised. The broad and multiple definitions of literacy were questioned in several discussions.
The need for building networks and sharing knowledge and experiences with each other, but also with other regions of the world, was one of the main issues addressed. Some of the speakers such as Suzy Halimi, Chairperson of the Education Commission of the French National Commission and member of the UIE Governing Board, recommended that UIE should coordinate the UN Literacy Decade in Europe and be a clearing house for best practices in the European region.
On the last day, the European meeting joined a national French colloquium of literacy practitioners. This was a symbolic way of demonstrating another issue raised at the conference: effective research and theoretical analysis need to be linked to actual practice. 3 An advocacy document based on the conference entitled "Why Literacy in Europe" is available in English, French, Spanish and German and can be downloaded from the UIE website ( www.unesco.org/education/uie /pdf/literacyineurope.pdf ).
Source: UIE News
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