Development of guiding principles for the use of literacy-related terminology

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© UNESCO
4 February 2015

An international seminar on the uses of literacy-related terminology in different European languages took place at UIL from 2 to 3 February. The event was co-organised by UIL and the National Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy (NRDC) of the Institute of Education, University of London, and in the context of the European Literacy Policy Network (ELINET).

During this meeting, participants analysed the conceptual understandings of literacy that shape literacy policies in Europe. The seminar recommended a series of guiding principles on how terminologies may be more precise (e.g. what is meant by “basic” or “functional” literacy), while at the same time acknowledging increased complexity and respecting adult literacy learners (i.e. avoiding negative and stigmatizing connotations). Participants agreed to develop a learning package that can be used by different stakeholders in Europe to advocate for an enhanced understanding of literacy.

In preparation for this discussion a survey was designed to gather information from 33 organisations in 18 European countries. While many responses pointed to an understanding of literacy as a continuum of learning, there are also terminologies in use that reflect the traditional dichotomy of literate versus illiterate.