New Strategy has the potential to address social inequalities

September 8, 2021

ALL Strategy

Significant funding and a detailed implementation plan are needed

On International Literacy Day, the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) welcomes the Government’s new 10-year adult literacy, numeracy and digital literacy strategy for Ireland, due to be announced today at 2pm by Simon Harris TD, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

Speaking ahead of the launch of the strategy, Colleen Dube, NALA CEO said:

“Literacy is a fundamental right and must be a priority for all who are concerned with human rights and equality. In Ireland, the supposed land of Saints and Scholars, over half a million adults have low levels of literacy. Even more have low levels of numeracy and digital skills. This has a devastating impact on individuals, families and communities.  This was most apparent during the pandemic for those who struggled to access information and services, or keep in touch with family and friends.

That’s why today, we welcome the Government’s new 10-year adult literacy, numeracy and digital literacy strategy for Ireland. They’ve set achievable targets to address societal inequalities and ensure that everyone has the necessary skills to fully participate in society. The Strategy contains all the essential elements for lasting impact. The link between literacy and disadvantage is clear and significant funding, a robust implementation plan and measurable targets are now required to achieve its ambitions.  NALA looks forward to continue to collaborate on the Strategy’s evolution and implementation to ensure its success.”

Significant funding will be needed to improve literacy levels

Over the Strategy’s 10 years Ireland will need to strategically plan and significantly increase the provision of literacy learning opportunities, access points and providers. Those whom the education system failed first time round are least likely to see the benefit of returning to education.  They will need to be encouraged, supported and provided with learning opportunities tailored to their needs – whenever and wherever they need it – be it in their family, their local community or in their workplace.

There are many barriers to participation in adult education such as childcare, technology and transport which will need to be considered in-line with approaches taken for students in higher education.

Importantly, the Strategy commits to support those with literacy needs in the workforce. Over 300,000 adults in Ireland do not have any formal education equivalent to the Leaving Certificate while almost 900,000 people have no formal education beyond school level. Skills development are more relevant and effective if linked to work. Employers have an important role in training their staff; but some, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, will need public assistance to provide such training.  

Need for detailed implementation plan and measurable targets

The new Strategy sets out a cross-Government, cross-economy and cross-society approach.  This means a whole range of local services will need to work together to ensure that literacy needs can be identified quickly and that the right supports and services are provided straight away.

This multi-stakeholder approach is to be welcomed but the Strategy will require a detailed implementation plan to drive change. All activity must be monitored and evaluated across the various levels of the Strategy. This means developing indicators and setting measurable targets, along with a robust reporting process, to monitor progress. All progress, cross-sectoral commitments and actions should be defined, quantified, monitored and evaluated.

“We are pleased that the Government’s new 10-year strategy sets out a long overdue roadmap for adult literacy, numeracy and digital literacy.  Most importantly, it acknowledges that low levels of literacy, numeracy and digital literacy are a failure of the State.

High literacy, numeracy and digital skills empower people to advocate for themselves and their communities and take part fully in society. We look forward to working with those with unmet literacy, numeracy and digital literacy needs and everyone involved in this new 10-year Strategy to make it a success.”

Colleen Dube, NALA Chief Executive Officer

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.

For media queries or interviews with Colleen Dube please contact:

Clare McNally, National Adult Literacy Agency 087 648 6292 or

Adult literacy for life

reading icon

Sign up to be kept up to date on our latest campaigns.