High Level of Illiteracy

– Linda Sullivan –

Literacy refers to an individual's ability to read, understand and process written information. Literacy is therefore essential to making informed decisions, achieving personal goals, and functioning in society. It also includes the concept of skill development.

According to the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) survey conducted in 2012 (the most recent data available), the dramatic situation in Quebec is that 53.3 per cent of Quebeckers between the ages of 16 and 65 (slightly more than one in two people) do not achieve level three literacy, i.e., being able to read dense or long texts that require interpreting and making sense of information.

Since 2012, the education system has been victim of an anti-social offensive with millions of dollars being taken away by successive governments. Clearly, the situation has deteriorated since then.

According to Wikipedia, the term illiteracy describes the inability to use reading, writing, and calculation skills, while literacy assesses the ability to do so. Literacy is the acquisition of the basic knowledge and skills that everyone needs in a rapidly changing world.

There are six levels of literacy:

0) Knows basic vocabulary.

1) Understands short texts with one piece of information.

2) Makes connections between text and information in texts with two or more pieces of information.

3) Reads dense or long texts requiring interpretation and making sense of information.

4) Evaluates long and complex texts requiring prior knowledge.

5) Is able to integrate, evaluate, and synthesize multiple texts and their subtleties. Requires specialized prior knowledge and understanding of logic and concepts.

The Literacy Foundation points out that the impacts on illiterate people are many:

- Limited ability to obtain and understand critical information;

- Unemployment: the unemployment rate is two to four times higher among those with little education than among those with a bachelor's degree;

- Lower incomes;

- Lower-quality jobs;

- Reduced access to ongoing education and professional development;

- Financial insecurity;

- Low interest in education and reading in the family often resulting in intergenerational transmission of illiteracy;

- Low self-esteem that can lead to isolation; and

- Health consequences: illiterate people experience more accidents in the workplace, take longer to recover, and are often more likely to misuse medications due to lack of knowledge of health care resources and difficulty reading and understanding relevant information (warning, dosage, contraindication, etc.)

Without the basic tools necessary to achieve their goals, individuals with inadequate literacy cannot participate fully and equally in social and political discourse.

The fight to stop paying the rich and to invest in social programs, health and education is imperative if all human beings living in Quebec are to flourish.

Linda Sullivan is the PMLQ candidate in Sainte-Marie-Saint-Jacques.

(The Literacy Foundation.)

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 24 - October 3, 2022

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