Illiterate people can be wise

Illiteracy - What is it?

Forms of illiteracy

  • Primary illiteracy: People cannot write and read at all. You never learned that.

  • Secondary illiteracy: People learned to write and read as children, but forgot or unlearned again as adolescents or adults.

  • Functional illiteracy: People have learned to read and write, but cannot apply them. They have less reading and writing skills than society assumes. Some can write or read words and individual short sentences. However, they are overwhelmed with long texts.

Why are there illiterates?

As a child rights expert, you are probably wondering how illiterate people can exist. Although all children in the world have the right to an education, not all may or may not go to school. And because they never learned to read or write because of that, they can't do that in adulthood either. Since schooling is compulsory in industrialized countries, there are almost no people in these countries with primary illiteracy. However, this rate is significantly higher in developing and emerging countries. However, the number of people affected by functional illiteracy is increasing significantly in industrialized countries.

facts and figures

  • There are around 781 million illiterate people worldwide (as of 2013/2014)
  • two thirds (around 496 million) are women
  • India has the largest number of illiterate people: around 287 million
  • there are around 75 million illiterate people in Europe

Are there illiterates in Germany?

Since there is compulsory schooling, almost everyone in Germany learns to read and write. However, some cannot apply what they have learned well. About 7.5 million adults in Germany are functionally illiterate, that is 14% of the population. They are severely restricted in their everyday life. Most often, illiterate people can read and write short sentences but cannot understand texts (5.2 million people). Around 2 million adults can read and write single words, but not entire sentences. Very few can read or write at all.

How do illiterate people cope with life?

In our everyday life we ​​read and write so much that we don't always notice that good written language skills are required almost everywhere: menu cards in restaurants, street signs, contracts, signature campaigns, posters, timetables, at work, in shops, etc. Do not read and being able to write is a taboo in our society and many illiterate people do not want to admit that they have problems with reading and writing.

That is why they have many imaginative tricks for their everyday life on how to get around reading and writing. For example, they have excuses that they have forgotten their reading glasses or that they have injured their hand and therefore cannot write. So that they don't always have to ask for help, they often take the same route by car, bus or train and go to the same cafés. They know their way around well in their familiar surroundings and can cope without reading or writing. With these tricks, most of the people around them do not notice that this person is (functionally) illiterate. But when something new is added (for example a construction site with a diversion or train cancellation), then it becomes difficult for them.

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