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EPALE - Elektronická platforma pro vzdělávání dospělých v Evropě


EPALE Discussion: Adult literacy – what skills do adults need and what makes for an effective policy?

od EPALE Moderator

/en/file/literacy-discussion-epale-ebsnLiteracy Discussion EPALE EBSN

Literacy Discussion EPALE EBSN


As part of EPALE’s September focus on adult literacy, we would like to hear your views on what literacy skills adults need and what the success factors are for an effective national policy in this field.

The discussion is open to everyone and will take place on this page between 4-7 September 2017. It will be moderated by EPALE’s Thematic Coordinator for Life Skills, David Mallows in collaboration with our partners from the European Basic Skills Network (EBSN). This is a very lively discussion which is taking place over several pages. To go to the second page click here.  To go directly to the third page of discussion click here. Please make sure that you have perused all the discussion.

Feel free to comment or share your opinion on any of the following questions:

What kind of literacy skills do adults need in Europe in 2017?

  • What do we mean when we talk about 'adult literacy'? How does literacy relate to other basic skills?
  • What is the place of literacy in the context of Upskilling Pathways?
  • What needs improvement in literacy teaching and learning?

What are the success criteria for effective national policy in this field?

  • What are the main challenges (in your context) in supporting adults to improve their literacy?
  • How can we ensure that adequate investment is made in adult literacy education?


**The discussion has now been closed. You can still browse and read the community's comments.

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Obrázek uživatele Carlos Ribeiro

The less burden, density, complexity, nuances, inject into the concept of literacy, the greater capacity we will have to influence a real progression in the European situation in this matter.
The simpler the better!
But it is important to reaffirm that we are not only faced with the elementary operations of reading and writing. Adults with high levels of schooling, including the Higher level, are unable to complete forms of finance to declare their taxes, do not know how to respond to their bank that has just increased the provision of home loan and can not read / support a map to define a tourist route in a city.
That's why it's so uninteresting to talk about Basic Literacy. Literacy, period.
Use the information available to act. The information elements to consider are those of the subject, those of which he is the bearer and those that the context places as the field of application.
It is a process of mobilization and adequacy. Different from the concept of competence that requires a combinatorial and creative operation between knowledge, skills and attitudes.
And make no mistake. The best way to support processes of improvement in the literacy of each person is not from "needs" and seek to bridge the so-called gap between the current state and the desired state. The needs-based process is always a reason to press on the side of "structural needs, economy, development, etc." It would be useful to base improvement programs on "priorities" in what is truly important to the person and that will make him act for something that is achievable and compatible with his own motivations and goals.
But this is already asking to be caught up in literacy from the point of view of the development of people, which some consider a waste of time and even a joke of bad taste

Obrázek uživatele Graciela Sbertoli

... and which is worth watching:

David Mallows wrote: "If we lived in a different context, reading and writing would be less valued than, for example growing food, or mending houses, or dancing very well. But we don't and so we strive to educate others in literacy so that they can navigate our literate world. The important thing is that we don't forget that there are other skills, competences, attributes that should be valued - and often those who lack literacy make up for it in other ways. 

This reminds me greatly of the thoughts of Alberto Melo which I was lucky enough to capture on video and you can see here."

Do watch that video. It's a wonderful contribution to our discussion.

Obrázek uživatele Kenneth Camilleri

Hi All

My name is Kenneth Camilleri and I am currently responsible for the accreditation of programmes in General Education.

I am new to the platform and was enticed to this online discussion considering its relevence vis a vis our national education strategy. Like Martin Dobes above I am more of a practitioner and as Gina Ebner suggested earlier on the needs of policy makers are rather more basic/direct. Although I found the discussions on the definitions of Literacy interesting I have to say I found the link to the Norwigian even more useful and relevant. I will definitely promote similar initiatives with the local sectorial skills council. Thanks Graciela Sbertoli for bringing it up and Martin Dobes for provoking discussion.

On another note Malta is currently promoting the design and accreditation of programmes in a wide spectrum of different areas that integrate core literacy (understood as English, Maltese, ICT & Numeracy Literacy) in their Learning Outcomes. By focusing on functional literacy one hopes to improve the overall level of Literacy. 

Obrázek uživatele Ramon Mangion

Hi Kenneth ,


If I may add to your comment. Reference can also be made to the local Referencing Report whereby there are guidelines regarding key competences and how these should be included in Maltese Qualifications. Hence as per my comment later on in this discussion, i see literacy as a fundamental component in adult education that links with other basic skills. Literacy can open the door to entrepreneurship, social and civic competences, science, mathematics, digital literacy, personal development and more.


Ramon Mangion

Obrázek uživatele Graciela Sbertoli

Very happy to read that you found the Norwegian link so helpful. 

Your Directorate for Lifelong Learning is a member of the EBSN. Our network will always be very happy to cooperate with you to further good policy and practice for basic skills. You are all doing wonderful work. Stay in touch!

Obrázek uživatele Ricarda Motschilnig

Although basic education is neither a particularly new area of education nor a "niche offer" there is no uniform picture of what is basic education about. 

The regularly recurring demand for a "clear" definition of basic education relapses as unheard of as it emerges: 

- Basic education may be more than a fixed educational offer for a narrowly defined addressee group, some say.

- Basic education as a concept is not comprehensible, too fluid, not concrete enough, the others say.

The fact is that basic education courses with various faces, have multiplied over the last few years. In particular policy making and governmental programme planning documents provide frameworks of conditions and (quality) requirements. Also the possible location of basic education in the European/National qualification frameworks could be seen as a call to define what basic education is about. Therefore we are wondering: to what extent does it require a clear description of basic education in order to position itself against other areas of education and other policy areas? Is there a need for a defnition within the basic education scene? Who is needed to adequately basic education? Or does basic education through clear positioning build its own borders and run the risk of losing its inherent diversity?


Best wishes from Austria,

Ricarda (EPALE ambassador NSS Germany)

Obrázek uživatele Martin Dobeš

Hi Ricarda. We have a similar approach in our posts, see above. You also used a term "float" while talking about defintions of literacy. I had a light smile on my face while reading it. And also - the world is small, isn´t it :-)

Obrázek uživatele Ricarda Motschilnig

It is tiny indeed :) Great to read, that there are similiar "floating" thoughts and ideas out there...

Obrázek uživatele Graciela Sbertoli

Hi, Martin. I do sympathize with the floating definitions and see your and Ricarda's point. In the context of the Upskilling Pathways's initiative, however, and to further decisive and efficient policy making in Europe regarding the need for adult literacy programs, I believe the less floating we are, the better. :-) We need concrete definitions to facilitate the operationalization of initiatives. 

Thank you for staying connected to the discussion!

Obrázek uživatele Graciela Sbertoli

Thank you for joining us, Ricarda. This is our fourth day and we have to a large extent been struggling with the proposed theme, which includes trying to define literacy. I am sure that discussing a possible definition of basic education would be very interesting - but I hope we can leave that for another discussion, because this one has become complicated enough as it is. ;-)