Understanding Literacy

Nov 16, 2021


“Literacy is the door to knowledge, essential to individual self-esteem and empowerment.” -Irina Bokova

Generally, literacy refers to the ability to read and write in any language or form. Of late the definition of literacy has evolved and it now refers to the general umbrella of communicative, anthropological and linguistic abilities. Along with the standards of living, the basic standard of education and literacy has also changed over the last few decades (due to the massive influence of globalization). In order to understand what literacy truly signifies we ought to understand the concept of foundational literacy and their significance, as well as the types of literacy.

Foundational literacy and numeracy is the basic standard form of literacy. It is the basic skill for a child to be orally fluent in a language and comprehend basic numerical concepts. It focuses on enhancing children’s comprehension and communication skills through reasoning, creativity, and critical thinking. This approach to literacy often ensures a proper base for practical knowledge-building, helps in creating a successful academic performance and benefits in future career paths. Active engagement and counter-interaction during lessons ensues intellectual development and psychosocial growth.

Even people who can read and write in any language, and are therefore literate in traditional terms, can fail to utilize their ability or are unable to implement/effectuate their knowledge. They are called functionally illiterate. Students in secondary or higher levels of education also tend to face difficulties while transitioning to advanced levels of education. All of this can be avoided if we shift our focus and invest on providing foundational literacy and numeracy to students in primary levels of schooling. The system of mugging things up that was essentially valued in the past is not the best approach to education today. And for the development of the educational system, benefit of the student and to eradicate literacy poverty.

Literacy can further be classified into different types based on different contemporary sociological factors. Some major types of literacy are: Digital Literacy, Media Literacy, Information Literacy, Health Literacy, Civic Literacy, Financial Literacy, Cultural Literacy, Emotional Literacy, Scientific Literacy, Legal Literacy, etc. Hence, there is more to literacy now that it has become a concept complementary to knowledge. To be able to comprehend knowledge or information, and have an awareness of any area/ subject matter is, thus, the extended definition of “literacy”.

Yet, we cannot forget that there are some low-income communities and areas in developing countries that struggle to attain basic literacy. That is a humanitarian crisis that needs to be resolved. Given the fact that definition and significance of literacy has evolved around the world due to (but not limited to) the presence of digital media and the internet; it is even more important to eradicate literacy poverty from the globe.

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