Posts

Literacy Skills for a New World

As an answer to this month question To what extent do you believe the literacy skills required for a new world will be more or less the same as they were before, I think the answer would be that we need to make sure the number of literate people will keep growing because literacy is a key to a good life and prosperity and education in general, is a way especially for girls out of poverty. But, we will also need to acquire new literacy skills because our societies are constantly changing.

We can think of literacy as the ability to read and write or as the understanding of something. Literacy is also a way to measure population’s level of education.

Literacy rates have grown dramatically during the past couple of centuries. From 1820s to today the overall literacy rate has grown from 12% to 83%. An important consequence of the global education expansion is a reduction in education inequality across the globe. More than 4 out of 5 people are now able to read. Young generations are better educated than ever before. Through teacher training especially in the poorer countries we can grow this number even more.

However, new literacies are needed due to the changes in our societies. In many countries, for example in Finland the day-to-day life has become more digital. How do the elderly manage in societies where one should pay your bills, check your medical records, sign contracts etc. online? This requires new kind of understanding of the literacy skill, computing.

In today’s world news can reach millions of people in a matter of seconds. An important literacy skill is the ability to understand what can/cannot be true, the possibility of fake news and the way people can be influenced by them.

Social media also requires new kind of literacy. As an English teacher I showed my ESL students (12-13 yrs) a list of abbreviations and acronyms generally used in text messaging and surprisingly they knew most of them!

The important question is how to engage the young people in the exciting world of books? Books can teach them, move them, give them new perspectives, and help shape them. Books can influence the way they think. And the most powerful ones can change their lives forever. They should find their Tom Sawyers, Harry Potters, Little Princes and their Margaret Atwoods, John Orwells and even Stephen Hawkins’. But how! Take them to libraries, read out loud for them, give them audio books (they’re attached to their earplugs anyway!) and read yourself, show example. And help those who have trouble learning the amazing skill of literacy!

(Interestingly, I’m writing this on board a plane that has a picture of Johan Ludvig Runeberg, the Finnish national poet, on its tail!)

As part of the Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education  http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB,  above is principal Marjo Rantanen  answer to question of June: Literacy Skills for a New World.