The Phenomenon of Functional Illiteracy in the Light of Empirical Studies

Ewa Przybylska
2018 Przegląd Badań Edukacyjnych  
The aim of the article is to throw light on the phenomenon of contemporary functional illiteracy in the countries of the prosperous West. According to the international comparative studies and the ones conducted in several Western European countries, this phenomenon affects a great population of adults who fulfilled schooling obligation in childhood. The range of illiteracy has contributed to making literacy a significant political and educational issue and scrutinizing the problem of
more » ... illiteracy by the scientists. The article outlines some of the threads interesting to the illiteracy researchers in German and English language areas. These are issues connected with conceptualisation of illiteracy phenomenon, its causes and results, and the problems of learning of adult illiterates. The contemporary concepts of literacy and programs focused on improving literacy skills emphasize "dispersion" of literacy practices, their embedding in individuals' localness and subjectivity. This questions all the attempts of imposing universal standards and the only right language patterns. Individuals' needs within the scope of the ability to read and write are highly particularized; they depend on life situations, needs and interests of individuals. With regard to the reasons for illiteracy, there is a conviction dominating in the scientific milieu that they are rooted mainly in social and economic poverty as well as improper socialization in family and school, although other "dysfunctional contexts" are noticed in illiterate people's lives. What is more, the effects of illiteracy cannot be generalized. Admittedly, functional illiteracy carries risk of social exclusion, still, it does not affect all people with low literacy skills. With regard to teaching and learning of illiterates, there is consistency concerning compliance with the principle of
doi:10.12775/pbe.2017.021 fatcat:yh4k727ylvalhijeh4d6vou6dm