High-level group of experts on literacy recommends addressing literacy challenge in Europe with a lifelong learning approach
As part of its responsibilities during its Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the government of Cyprus organised a conference on literacy in September. This is the first time that a country who has assumed the EU Presidency has decided to prioritise the issue of literacy. Held from 5 – 6 September, the conference also served as a launch pad for the Report of the EU High-Level Group of Experts on Literacy, commissioned by the European Commission in February 2011. Chaired by HRH Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, the group had met eight times to discuss key issues and solutions to achieve literacy for all in Europe. The Report, which is meant to be a “wake-up call about the crisis that affects every country in Europe”, explains why literacy is so important: one in five 15-year-olds, as well as nearly 75 million adults, lack basic reading and writing skills. The report proposes a co-operative approach to address literacy as a societal problem rather than as an individual problem, with recommended actions showing a clear lifelong learning perspective, as they cover literacy issues for all ages: young children, primary school age children, adolescents and adults.
Attended by 200 government officials, civil society representatives, academics and private sector representatives, the meeting provided the venue for the discussion of the policy proposals made in the Report in five parallel workshops on the benefits of literacy, and on how to address specific literacy issues for the different age groups.
In UIL´s presentation made by the Deputy Director, Carolyn Medel-Anonuevo, she provided the global context of the literacy challenges and compared it to what the European region faces. She also described UNESCO´s involvement in the field of literacy in Europe in the last 25 years and highlighted the different recommendations from the five different regional fora that UNESCO has organised since 1986. In conclusion, she enumerated the five action points that need to be addressed for sustained work in literacy: 1) maintaining continuous advocacy for policy makers at all levels; 2) establishing connections (lifelong – across the life phases and lifewide – in schools, in communities, in workplaces); 3) ensuring accessible and quality literacy programmes; 4) reviewing state-of-the-art literacy research, distilling lessons and identifying gaps; and 5) strengthening existing national agencies and networks
Meanwhile, in her closing remarks, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Mrs Androulla Vassiliou, pointed to the lifelong coverage of literacy. She also announced the launching of the Commission´s webpage on literacy and said that some funds were earmarked for a network on literacy.