The effective combating of illiteracy and improving literacy levels in the European Union could have positive consequences for people, their societies and economies. According to the report of the High Level Committee presented and discussed at the two-day conference "Literacy for All", good literacy skills are essential for improving the lives of people and the advancement of knowledge, innovation and development. The conference was organised by the Ministry of Education and Culture of Cyprus and the European Commission within the frame of the Cyprus EU Presidency, on September 5 and 6, at the ‘Filoxenia’ Conference Centre in Nicosia.
EU Education Ministers have set a common goal to reduce the percentage of 15 year olds with low reading skills from the current level of 20% to 15% by 2020. Studies show that if Europe meets its target for 2020 on basic skills in literacy, mathematics and science, this could have a 21 trillion euro benefit in GDP in the lives of children born after 2010.
To address this problem and to achieve the above goal, the European Commission established an independent High Level Group which included 11 special experts, chaired by Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, in order to analyse the available data and evaluate the most effective policies, in order to identify ways to achieve the common goal of improving literacy levels.
The report of the High Level Group on Literacy was presented and discussed during the two-day conference, which was attended by the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Androulla Vassiliou, the President and members of the HLG and distinguished experts from abroad.
Creating a culture of reading
The 80-page report includes a series of recommendations, such as advice for parents on creating a culture of reading for pleasure to their children, the construction of libraries in atypical settings and specific advice for boys, who read less than girls on the whole. The report makes age-specific recommendations and provides examples of good practices already in place in Member States. Among the positive examples of policy that contribute to improving literacy levels, the report includes two examples from Cyprus: the New Curriculum for Language and the programme for schools in disadvantaged areas which aims to tackle school underachievement, called ‘Zones of Educational Priorities’.
The Cypriot Minister of Education and Culture, Mr. George Demosthenous, emphasised the importance of tackling illiteracy and promote literacy.
"In a rapidly changing world in which lifelong learning is now seen as the key to employment for economic success and full participation in society, lack of basic literacy may prove to be extremely problematic", said Mr. Demosthenous.
Recognising that effectively combating illiteracy could have positive consequences on individuals, their societies and economies, Mr. Demosthenous noted that "the Cyprus Presidency has made the fight against illiteracy and the promotion of ‘Literacy for All’ as one of its main priorities.
"He added that "the recommendations of the High Level Group will provide very useful material for those responsible throughout Europe for the prevention and combating illiteracy."
"Witnessing a paradox"
Commissioner Vassiliou said: "We are witnessing a paradox: while reading and writing is more necessary than ever in the context of our digital world, literacy skills are inadequate. We urgently need to reverse this alarming situation. Investment in improving literacy among citizens of all ages is cost effective as it produces tangible benefits for individuals and society, which in the long run could reach billions of euros."
In turn, Princess Laurentien added that reading and writing is much more a technique than a skill. "Literacy is related to people's self-esteem and their ability to operate and flourish as individuals in society, as active citizens, as workers or parents. We need clear, coordinated strategies, and much better awareness across Europe, not only in circles of politics and education, but also in hospitals, workplaces, and especially the families. It is time for Europe to increase its level of ambition and to ensure literacy for all”, she said.
Based on the recommendations of the Group and the conclusions of the conference, the Cyprus Presidency will hold a discussion during the Informal Meeting of Ministers of Education in October 2012 and subsequently will promote the adoption of Council Conclusions in November on this issue, seeking to tackle illiteracy through the provision of qualitative education and training.
Ministry of Education & Culture
Telephone: +357 22800954
Find more related photos here
Minister Demosthenous EN
Commissioner Vassiliou EN
Press Release EN
FAQ on Literacy EN