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World Literacy: Sustenance for the Mind

World Literacy: Sustenance for the Mind

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World Literacy: Sustenance for the Mind

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  1. World Literacy:Sustenance for the Mind Overview, Statistics and Programs to Improve Literacy in the World

  2. The Basics • According to UNESCO statistics, almost a billion people in the world were illiterate as we entered the year 2000. • Industrialized countries are learning that low levels of literacy can be just as troubling and sometimes more difficult to deal with, than illiteracy in developing countries.

  3. Statistics May Not Tell The Whole Story • UNESCO relies on countries to report their own literacy rates. • Countries report literacy rates based on national census data and self reporting by their people. • As a result, data are misleading and most likely underestimate the nature and scope of literacy problems.

  4. Do School Programs Help? • Neither increases in primary schooling nor adult literacy programs have been very effective at reducing illiteracy rates. • While more people are learning to read, gains are offset by the increase in population growth.

  5. General Views of Literacy Rates Mask Large Inequalities • The literacy rate among girls and women is much higher. • Marginalized, minority and indigenous groups also have much higher rates of illiteracy. • Cultural issues have made universal primary schooling and increased adult literacy much harder to achieve than originally expected.

  6. What is Literacy? All of the Following Have Been Used to Define Literacy: • Being Able to Sign One’s Name • Being able to read/write a simple sentence describing one’s daily activities • Being able to read and write (self-reported) • Being able to pass a written test of reading comprehension at a level comparable to that achieved by an average student at grade 4 • Being able to engage in all of those activities in which literacy is required for effective functioning in his/her community

  7. Present View • Generally, the present view of what constitutes “literacy” is that it is dynamic. This view assumes that literacy should be defined only within the country or culture, or over time. • Some definitions include numeracy and problem solving.

  8. Measuring Literacy • Direct Assessment—performance on a test or on literacy tasks given by an examiner • Indirect Assessment—estimating literacy from information that is known to be indirectly related to literacy, such as the number of years of schooling.

  9. Direct Assessment • To illustrate the complexity of measuring literacy, complete the following 6 Tasks and ask yourself the questions that follow: Note: Assume that the instructions are given verbally and that each word is written on a separate card. If your native language is not English, assume these words are written or said in your own language.

  10. Task 1 • SAY EACH OF THESE WORDS: book water vote five hundreds computer poison

  11. QUESTIONS • What aspect(s) or process(es) of literacy does the task (item) measure? • How well does the task measure that aspect or process of literacy? • How important is it to measure that aspect of literacy? • What administration or scoring issues are involved?

  12. Task 2 A. HERE ARE SOME PICTURES.  WRITE A WORD THAT DESCRIBES OR MATCHES EACH ONE:  ____________  ____________ _______________ ______________ B. HERE ARE SOME PICTURES. CIRCLE THE WORD THAT FITS THE PICTURE: book    bull    read beard    bird    bear Note:Assume that the instructions are given verbally, in addition to being written.

  13. QUESTIONS • What aspect(s) or process(es) of literacy does the task (item) measure? • How well does the task measure that aspect or process of literacy? • How important is it to measure that aspect of literacy? • What administration or scoring issues are involved?

  14. Task 3 Write a short sentence that describes what you      do when you get up in the morning.____________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________ Note:This task can be given orally or in written form.

  15. QUESTIONS • What aspect(s) or process(es) of literacy does the task (item) measure? • How well does the task measure that aspect or process of literacy? • How important is it to measure that aspect of literacy? • What administration or scoring issues are involved?

  16. Task 4 • A woman goes to the market to buy flour. She needs to bake bread for 4 people. She has twenty dollars. Each package [kilogram] of flour costs 3 dollars. How many packages [kilograms] can she buy? Answer: She can buy ________ packages                                                    [kilograms] • Note:This task can be given orally or in written form.

  17. QUESTIONS • What aspect(s) or process(es) of literacy does the task (item) measure? • How well does the task measure that aspect or process of literacy? • How important is it to measure that aspect of literacy? • What administration or scoring issues are involved?

  18. NEW YORK – University of Maryland senior Stacy Chanin on Wednesday became the first person to swim three 28-mile laps around Manhattan. Chanin, 23, of Virginia, climbed out of the East River at 96th Street at 9:30 p.m. She began the swim at noon on Tuesday. A Spokesman for the swimmer, Roy Brunett, said Chanin had kept her strength with “banana and honey” sandwiches, hot chocolate, lots of water and granola bars. Chanin had twice circled Manhattan before and trained for the new feat by swimming about 28.4 miles a week. (text truncated…) Task 5Here is some text from a newspaper article. Underline (mark) the sentence that tells what Ms. Chanin ate during the swim.SWIMMER COMPLETES MANHATTAN MARATHONThe Associated Press Note: This task was used in the 1993 National Adult Literacy Survey in the United States. It appeared in the NALS report to illustrate a low-level “Prose Literacy” item. The original text looked the same as it looked in the newspaper, but it was longer; text here was cut to save space.

  19. QUESTIONS • What aspect(s) or process(es) of literacy does the task (item) measure? • How well does the task measure that aspect or process of literacy? • How important is it to measure that aspect of literacy? • What administration or scoring issues are involved?

  20. Each task enables us to learn something about a different aspect of literacy. However, no single task covers all aspects of literacy. • Ideally, we want to measure how well each citizen in a country performs on a reliable and valid test of literacy. Since this is not feasible, many countries use indirect measures, which are far less valid but have some logistical advantages.

  21. Indirect Assessment • Self-Report Measures: Self report measures are based on information collected when citizens answer simple questions about their skills as part of a survey or a census. Here are some examples:

  22. 1. Can you sign your name? (yes no don’t know) 2. Can you read/write? (yes no don’t know) 3. How well do you read? (very well quite well poorly not at all) 4. On a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being poor and 5 being excellent, how would you rate your reading and writing skills in [specify language]? 5. All things considered, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your reading and writing skills in [specify language]? (yes no don’t know) 6. Are your reading skills adequate for your job? (yes no don’t know) 7. How many years did you study in school?

  23. Critique of Self-Reporting Self-reporting seems useful but there are serious limitations: • Definitions are unclear. • Averaging is difficult. Respondents are asked to summarize abilities over many situations because functional abilities may vary between situations. • People overestimate. People tend to report higher levels of literacy than their actual performance on tests. Sometimes this is because they believe their skills are adequate for the situation so they must be literate.

  24. Basic Statistics • As an introductory exercise regarding literacy statistics, you will be presented with a quiz consisting of five questions. Try to answer each question. • On the Answer Slide, you may learn something new about literacy around the world, or about literacy statistics.

  25. 1) Which of the following world regions in 1995 had the largest estimated number of adult illiterates (“adults” as defined by the United Nations, are individuals 15 years and over)? ___ Sub-Saharan Africa ___ Arab States/North Africa ___ Latin America/Caribbean ___ Eastern Asia/Pacific ___ Southern & Western Asia ___ More Developed Regions ___ Countries in Transition

  26. In 1995 Southern & Western Asia had an estimated 397 million adult illiterates (44.5% of the world’s 872 million adult illiterates). Sub-Saharan Africa: 135 million (126 million in 2000) Arab States/North Africa: 65 million (67 million in 2000) Latin America/Caribbean: 41 million (39 million in 2000) Eastern Asia/Pacific: 208 million (185 million in 2000) Southern/Western Asia: 397 million (412 million in 2000) More Developed Regions and Countries in Transition: 18 million (15 million in 2000)

  27. 2) Which of the countries below in 1995 had the largest estimated illiteracy rate (i.e., the largest percentage of adult illiterates)? ___ Nigeria ___ Brazil ___ Egypt ___ India ___ Sierra Leone ___ Pakistan ___ China

  28. In 1995, Sierra Leone had an estimated adult illiteracy rate of 68.6%. Here are the adult illiteracy rates for each country in 1995: Nigeria: 43.6% (36.0% in 2000) Brazil: 15.3% (13.1% in 2000) Egypt: 48.9% (44.7% in 2000) India: 46.7% (42.8% in 2000) Sierra Leone: 68.6% (2000 data not available) Pakistan: 60.7% (56.8 in 2000) China: 18.1% (14.8% in 2000)

  29. 3) For the same seven countries as in number 2, which country in 1995 had the largest estimated number of adults who were illiterate? ___ Nigeria ___ Brazil ___ Egypt ___ India ___ Sierra Leone ___ Pakistan ___ China

  30. In 1995, Indiahad an estimated 280.1 million adult illiterates. Even though Sierra Leone had the highest illiteracy rate, it has the lowest actual number of illiterate adults. China and India both had numbers of adult illiterates in the hundreds of millions, yet China’s rate was much lower than India’s. This is because China has a larger population. Nigeria: 12.1 million (22.5 million in 2000) Brazil: 18.3 million (15.8 million in 2000) Egypt: 18.95 million (19.6 million) India: 280.1 million (286.9 million in 2000) Sierra Leone: 1.7 million (2000 data not available) Pakistan: 48.7 million (46.7 million in 2000) China: 166.2 million (141.9 million in 2000)

  31. Between 1970 and 2000, is/will the literacy situation around the work get/ting better, worse or not changing? ___ Better ___ Worse ___ Not Changing

  32. Better…sort of. The world’s illiteracy rate is dropping, from 36.6% in 1970 to 20.3% in 2000. However, the number of illiterate adults has increased from 847 million in 1970 to 862.0 million in 2000. Because the word’s population is growing rapidly, the number of illiterate adults makes up a smaller percentage of the overall population. Thus, it is important to look at several different statistics to get the full picture of literacy situations around the world.

  33. What measure of literacy is being used by the United Nations when reporting the number (or rate) of illiterate adults in different countries around the world? ___ Name signing (you can sign your name). ___ Test score (you can answer 25% of questions correctly on a written test of basic reading comprehension. ___ Years of schooling (you have had 4 or more years of formal schooling.

  34. Years of schooling is the literacy measure (or definition) in actual use. Statistics about illiteracy reported by all nations are based on this simple measure. Though it is cheap and the data is easy to obtain, it is problematic. One of the limitations is that it categorizes all people as either “literate” or “illiterate” and ignores the fact that literacy is a continuum of complex abilities that must be evaluated in specific cultural or functional contexts to be accurate.

  35. Summary Comments Many issues are involved in understanding the complexity of the literacy situation facing nations and people. Some of the issues illustrated include: • Any single statistic gives only a partial understanding of the literacy situation of a specific nation. • Measures of literacy used in official publications have limitations and may underestimate the extent of illiteracy in many countries. • Consider the date of the data. UN and World Bank data are updated only every few years and some data will change between reports. • Reported statistics are aggregated and may not fully reflect literacy levels of important subgroups (e.g., different language groups) in a nation.

  36. Illiteracy Ratesfor the US and Europe • In North America, the Illiteracy rate in 2000 was 6.9%, or 42 million people. • In Europe, the illiteracy rate in 2000 was 2.2% or 13 million people.

  37. Impact of Illiteracy • Economic—literacy improves with education and education results in higher income and job productivity. • Social—In industrialized countries, literacy results in lower rates of incarceration or recidivism in prisons, welfare dependency and social disintegration. In developing countries, it can result in lower fertility rates, lower infant mortality rates and higher nutrition. Reduction in gender disparities and racial/ethnic disparities can also be shown.

  38. Political—There is a long tradition of utilizing literacy programs in general, and literacy campaigns in particular, as a way to achieve political goals. These may include a greater sense of national unity or focusing on literacy as a way to reach out to disenfranchised people. The investment often results in reduced social welfare costs and greater economic productivity.

  39. Perhaps the best reason to promote literacy can be summed up by a quote from Cesar Chavez: “What is at stake is Human Dignity.”

  40. Sources: • UNESCO Institute for Statistics, “Estimates and Projections of Adult Illiteracy for Population Aged 15 Years and Above, by Country and by Gender 1970-2015 • International Literacy Explorer, located at