State Of Literacy In Australia

The Australian National Year of Reading’s focus is on celebrating, sharing and loving reading. But it’s also a time for reflection on the state of literacy in Australia.

What most of us take for granted or think of as merely something for pleasure or research is a precious and vital skill necessary for people to function in a modern society.

It’s a timely call to literary arms in an age where many people think reading is being eroded and devalued and replaced with information overload and a focus on visual entertainment.

In the 2006 Adult Literacy and Life Skills survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as part of a broader international study, approximately 46% of Australians aged between 15 and 74 scored below 275/500 for tasks that involved reading and understanding texts from newspapers, magazines and brochures. 47% scored in the same range for tasks such as locating and using information in job applications, maps, tables and charts.

This means that almost half the adult population experienced difficulty with basic but highly necessary daily life skills. See a summary of the report’s findings here.

A 2008 NSW Auditor General’s report into literacy and numeracy in NSW public schools highlighted the literacy and numeracy problems for younger people, finding that “one in five students are at or below the minimum level needed” and that “compared to ten years ago the NSW government has spent over three times more money on improving literacy and numeracy, yet there has been little real improvement for our children”.

Surely statistics like these are a major cause for concern.

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