Saturday, 18 November, 2017

Weakening of literacy worries minister

Literacy Forum set up to challenge declining literacy

03 Nov 2017, 22:15 ( 14 days ago) | updated: 04 Nov 2017, 11:29 ( 14 days ago)

DF Report
Photo University of Helsinki by Mika Huisman.

The Ministry of Education and Culture has set up a National Literacy Forum to challenge the declining literacy and people’s willingness to read.

The Forum is tasked to draft guidelines to develop children’s literacy and interest in reading, said an official press release.

The Forum gathers experts on literacy and other parties involved with the issue. An appropriation of one million euros is granted to the Literacy Forum.

“Finland celebrating its centennial is a success story of a nation reading books. A versatile literacy constitutes the foundation of all learning. Literacy opens doors to self-knowledge, finding one’s own strengths and the development of one’s creativity and ingenuity. It is the prerequisite for one’s self development and active participation in societal affairs,” said Minister of Education and Culture Sanni Grahn-Laasonen.

“Signals regarding literacy and people’s willingness to read are showing polarizing tendencies, and this is a worrying development. What is especially worrying are boys and children coming from an unprivileged background, We have to ensure that all children, irrespective of their background, receive literacy that make them able to cope with life,” the minister added.

Finland was one of the leading countries regarding studies on literacy in the beginning of the millennium.

One of the special characteristics of Finnish young people that sets them apart in all groups of students is their high performance. However, the number of students that exhibit poor reading skills has increased, while that of top readers has decreased. The literacy level of people less than 25 years of age is lower than that of a decade ago.

New technologies will change the everyday life, work and, inevitably, reading habits. In everyday life, each person will be faced with increasingly complex texts ranging from novels to social media updates. Readers should be able to understand all such texts and assess them critically. Such posts may include fake news disguised as information. The scope of literacy has expanded, and, therefore, today, we talk about multi-literacy skills.

Students’ background factors and attitudes increasingly determine their literacy level. The decrease in the knowledge level is particularly pronounced in boys with parents of a lower education level and few cultural interests at home.

Girls also reported that they read clearly more than boys. In Finland, the gap in literacy between boys and girls was widest in the OECD countries, in favour of girls. Parents play an important role in children’s literacy, before the time children learn to read. However, only one fourth of Finnish parents read for their children.

The Literacy Forum is tasked to draft guidelines to develop children’s literacy and interest in reading. The guidelines comprise of proposals for correcting aversive developments in the development of the interest in reading and literacy and for ensuring that all children and young people have a sufficient literacy for continuous learning and active life.

Sanni Grahn-Laasonen invited author Juha Itkonen to chair the Literacy Forum.

“A lot of valuable work is already being carried out in Finland to promote literacy and reading skills. The new curricula emphasis multi-literacy skills, with the foundation being built in the early childhood education, Libraries, actors in the cultural fields and various organizations are performing a great deal. I hope that the Literacy Forum will gather this competence, making it our national task, According to research, parents, grandparents and families play a significant role in the development of positive attitudes and the foundation of literacy. While kindergartens, schools and educational institutions play an important t role, we need to involve the whole of Finnish society in the defence of education,” Grahn-Laasonen comments.

The guidelines must be completed by 31 August 2018.

 

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