Literacy: The key that unlocks knowledge

Editorial

LITERACY is education.
At first glance, ‘literacy’ would seem to be a term that everyone understands. Literacy is traditionally meant as the ability to read and write. According to Wikipedia the concept of literacy has evolved in meaning.
The key to literacy is reading development, a progression of skills that begins with the ability to understand spoken words and decode written words, and culminates in the deep understanding of text. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) defines literacy as the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts.
Each Sept 8 marks Unesco’s International Literacy Day, raising awareness globally on the issues surrounding adult and child literacy.
International Literacy Day highlights the changes and improvements being made worldwide in literacy development.
Yesterday, Education Minister Nick Kuman launched the 23rd National Literacy Week in Port Moresby along the theme ‘Quality literacy for economic development’.
The message is clear with the launch – without literacy or education, individuals will not be able to support themselves as societal beings. In the current modern era, literacy enables individuals to compete to sustain their livelihood through the accumulation of resources.
The development of individuals, families, communities and the country therefore depend largely on the literacy level of its population. Literacy in terms of reading, writing and understanding English as the official language of instruction, is a very basic skill individuals need to acquire in order to advance into other fields of specialisation.
Some say that to be illiterate is not like being deprived of television, or any other medium. It is more like being deaf, or being deprived of music.
Literacy does not just give us access to knowledge of facts or skills. Some skills and some facts can more easily be taught with pictures or video, and some things can only be learnt by practice.
Literacy supplies a whole mode of thought. The purpose of universal literacy is to make better people, capable of richer lives, and able to enter fully into society, in dialogue not just with their contemporaries but with the community of everyone who has written in the languages they speak.
Shocking numbers of children in PNG leave primary school unable to read properly.
Like other developing countries, PNG’s development challenges are huge.
With the current population of close to 8 million and growing at more than two per cent annually, 85 per cent of the population live in hard-to-reach areas, with health indicators below neighbouring countries.
In view of the challenges, providing literacy is at the heart of human development and lifelong learning to alleviate poverty by building and empowering capacities of individuals and communities to achieve many development goals.
Right now in PNG, education policymakers have been trying to find ways of raising achievement across the board for the past 30 years, with mixed success and unintended consequences for teaching methods.
The combination of the highly specified and often very demanding national curriculum and new exam grading scales are leaving teachers feeling disempowered and educationalists warning of the risk the changes pose to skills such as understanding and creativity, the two key attributes distinguishing people from robots.
One cannot do without knowledge. But knowing how to use it matters too.

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