Thursday, 17 March 2016

How literate is our society?

There has been some discussion in tweets and blogs and at various conferences about literacy recently.

A range of researchers have talked about literacy from different perspectives. Each of these is important to gain a fuller understanding of what you need to consider for inclusion and participation for the people with whom you engage.

There was a discussion on RadioNational this week about the PIAAC, 2013 data which tells us 44% of the Australian adult population has non functional literacy. Listen to the broadcast to hear about 2 individuals’ issues and needs when they had non functional literacy.

Easy English is needed as part of a broad plan to engage with adults of all backgrounds so they can be included, participate and make meaningful decisions about their own lives. This may be for medical information, housing or organising a new mobile phone contract and many other things. Some examples of Easy English are here. Think about what documents you need in Easy English, and ask me how to make this happen.

Today I read about The World’s Most Literate Nations data.

This is an interesting analysis and worthy of discussion. It does address the issues about what constitutes literacy and evidence of literacy in a community. The report does agree the aspects reviewed could impact on the results. However, for this review the researchers used 
 - access to a computer (Percentage of households with either desktop or laptop computer and excludes other devices such as cell phone, personal digital assistant, or T);

- input to education (compulsory yrs of schooling and amount spent per student related to GDP);

- output of education (Data from PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) literacy, data from PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) and data from  YOA for 15-18yr olds);

- Libraries (Number of academic libraries, public libraries, school libraries, volumes in all (only) public libraries);

- Newspapers (including: paid-for dailies, circulation, online editions, export of newspapers) 

More details about each of these areas is in the research report. What other areas do you think need to be considered when you wonder whether Australia is a literate nation?

On the data analysed where does Australia fit in the overall schema of being a literate nation?
Where would you expect them to be?

Australia is not in the top 10 overall. Nor is it in the top 10 on any 1 of the parameters analysed. 

Australia is 16th overall according to this data. Have a look at the countries above and below Australia. Would you expect this is where our literacy is, as a country? If you agree, this is accurate, what do we need to do to develop into a more literate society?  What resources, what research, what support needs to be in place? What infrastructure, what training, what else needs to be done. I would be interested to hear your thoughts.


Cathy Basterfield

Access Easy English
Consultant – Speech Pathologist
Telephone: 0466 579 855

Facebook: (our recent projects)
Twitter: @accesseasyengli

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