Take literacy seriously


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.
However, 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.
This week in Papua New Guinea is the 26th National Literacy Week.
Each year, 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.
Celebrations marking this week were held in West Sepik with the closing today at the Vanimo Oval grandstand under the theme “Promoting access to improve literacy”.
The message is clear – without literacy or education, individuals would not be able to support themselves as societal beings.
In the current modern era, literacy enables individuals to compete progressively to sustain their livelihood through accumulation of resources.
The development of individuals, families, communities and the country therefore depends 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 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 facts can more easily be taught with pictures or video and some things can only be learned 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 are the numbers of children in PNG who leave primary school unable to read properly.
Just as other developing countries, PNG’s development challenges are huge.
With the current population of close to 8 million and growing at more than 2 per cent annually, 85 per cent of the population live in hard-to-reach isolated areas, health indicators are 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 policy makers have been trying to find ways of raising achievement across the board for the past 40 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.