High Level Group of Experts Report
Final Report September 2012
P.6 EU REPORT Executive Summary
‘Low literacy is something that happens in developing countries, surely not in Europe!?’
One in five European 15-year-olds and almost one in five adults lack the literacy skills required to successfully function in a modern society.
‘Low literacy is a problem imported by migrants, not for those born and bred in European countries.’
The vast majority of children and adults with poor literacy skills were born and raised in the country they live in, and speak its language of instruction as their mother tongue.
‘Poor literacy only affects those on the margins of society.’
One in five adults in Europe lack sufficient literacy skills and most of them are employed.
‘Some people just cannot learn to read and write.’
Almost everyone who struggles with reading and writing could develop adequate literacy skills, given the right support. Only people with the most severe cognitive difficulties are incapable of developing functional literacy.
‘Schools are responsible for teaching children to read and write.’
Schools play an important role but are not the only ones responsible. A broad range of actors shape literacy development, from parents and peers to health services and others. After formal education, employers have a vital role to play,
with positive gains for both employer and employee.
‘Dyslexia is an incurable condition so there’s nothing we can do about it.’
Today’s children are increasingly expected to progress in reading and writing at a standard speed and through one methodology. Struggling readers are often diagnosed as dyslexic. The diagnosis should be ‘struggling reader’, and the focus
should be on solving the problem. Every child can, in principle, learn to read and write.
‘Improving struggling readers’ skills is too time-consuming, too difficult and too expensive to be worth the effort.’
Programmes aimed at improving struggling readers’ skills have a high rate of success, and are extremely cost-effective. This investment pays for itself dozens and possibly even hundreds of times over during the course of an individual’s life.
‘Parents have no influence on their children’s literacy development after the early years.’
Parents’ attitudes and literacy practices have a very significant influence on their children’s literacy development, all the way through secondary school. Interventions to improve parents’ support skills have a large impact on child
‘It’s too late to do anything about literacy problems after children finish primary school.’
Millions of children enter secondary school able to read, but not well enough to do well in school. With specialised support, these young people can develop good or even excellent literacy skills.
EU Executive Report Summary p. 7
A Co-Operative Approach
Literacy has for too long been viewed as solely a matter for the education system. Low literacy is a societal problem with huge consequences for our ambitions and strategies on public health, employment, digital participation,
e-Government, civic participation, poverty and social inclusion. Achieving real improvement in literacy requires political ownership and co-operation across the policy spectrum and beyond. Literacy strategies should be co-owned across society and government, should cover all ages, and should be independent of political timetables.