International Literacy Day reminds us of the critical importance of literacy not CAO points

September 8, 2021

International Literacy Day – Wednesday 8 September

The media may be preoccupied with CAO points today but remember that almost 1 in 6 adults have low literacy in Ireland – that’s about half a million people who struggle with reading and understanding text. Even more have low levels of numeracy and digital literacy.

This has a devastating impact on individuals, families and communities. People with the lowest literacy levels earn less income and are more likely to be unemployed and to report poor health. They are also less likely to vote and understand health or other information. This was most apparent during the pandemic for those who struggled to understand ongoing public health messaging, keep in touch with family online and even identify fake news.

Since 1967, International Literacy Day (ILD) has been celebrated annually around the world to remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights.

Colleen Dube, NALA CEO said, “Covid-19 took us all by surprise and many of us felt overwhelmed by the volume of information. However, for those with low literacy or digital skills it was especially difficult – many struggled with being able to support their children’s learning, were often the hardest to reach with correct information, and felt isolated. Indeed, many callers to our helpline simply wanted help using technology to stay in touch with family. While we may be concentrating on CAO offers today it is important that we focus our attention and funding on those who have been failed by the State in availing of their right to education.”

Today on International Literacy Day the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) is encouraging anyone who would like to improve their literacy, numeracy or digital skills to contact them.

“Sometimes people are very worried about returning to education and hide their challenges with reading, writing, maths and technology from their friends and family. However, this does not have to be the case. We would encourage anyone to pick up the phone or send us a text.  We will call you back and provide you with information on all the free courses and services that we offer and are available around the country.

Adult education is a very different experience to school.  It is welcoming and can open many doors for you once you they get started. We are all there to support you on your journey so there’s no need to be worried about attending a course. And there are lots of different options for learning. You can learn in your local ETB adult education centre, or with NALA on the phone with a tutor or online by yourself. Or you can do a combination to suit your lifestyle. You decide what, where and how you want to learn. It’s completely free and there are no exams.”

Call NALA on Freephone 1800 20 20 65 or text LEARN to 50050

International Literacy Day 2021 will be celebrated around the world under the theme “Literacy for a human-centred recovery: Narrowing the digital divide”. The COVID-19 crisis has disrupted the learning of children, young people and adults at an unprecedented scale. It has also magnified the pre-existing inequalities in access to learning opportunities, disproportionally affecting those with literacy difficulties.

Even in the times of global crisis, efforts have been made to find alternative ways to ensure the continuity of learning, including distance learning, often in combination with in-person learning.  Access to literacy learning opportunities, however, has not been evenly distributed. The rapid shift to distance learning also highlighted the persistent digital divide in terms of connectivity, infrastructure, and the ability to engage with technology, as well as disparities in other services such as access to electricity, which has limited learning options.

The pandemic, however, was a reminder of the critical importance of literacy. Beyond its intrinsic importance as part of the right to education, literacy empowers individuals and improves their lives by expanding their capabilities to choose a kind of life they can value. Literacy, therefore, is central to a human-centred recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

During September, the National Adult Literacy Agency will host four webinars that explore how literacy can contribute to building a solid foundation for a human-centred recovery, with a special focus on the interplay of literacy and digital skills required by adults. You can find out more at NALA’s website


About the National Adult Literacy Agency

The National Adult Literacy Agency is an independent charity committed to making sure people with literacy, numeracy and digital literacy difficulties can fully take part in society and have access to learning opportunities that meet their needs. We are involved in tutor training, developing teaching materials, distance education services, policy making, research and campaigns to raise awareness of the causes, extent and responses to adult literacy difficulties in Ireland.

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