Does St. Lu­cia have rea­son to cel­e­brate In­ter­na­tional Lit­er­acy Day?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Clau­dia Elei­box

Saint Lu­cians don’t read nearly enough! How many times have you heard those damn­ing last four words in my open­ing sen­tence? How many times have the words flown out of your own mouth? News­pa­per pub­lish­ers and book­sell­ers are only too fa­mil­iar with the re­gret­table truth. Teach­ers too. There is hardly a par­ent­teacher con­fer­ence at which school per­son­nel did not re­gret the lack of re­sources by which to en­cour­age lit­er­acy.

But be­fore we ac­knowl­edge our coun­try is gen­er­ally il­lit­er­ate, or that our chil­dren sim­ply have no de­sire to read, it’s im­por­tant first to know what we mean by lit­er­acy and its im­por­tance in our daily lives. The most re­cent definition of lit­er­acy in the most ba­sic sense is: ‘The abil­ity to read and write’. This definition was handed down in the late 1900s.

Ac­cord­ing to UNESCO’s 2006 Ed­u­ca­tion for All Global Mon­i­tor­ing Re­port, un­der the chap­ter ‘Un­der­stand­ings of Lit­er­acy’, there are var­i­ous ways peo­ple iden­tify the skill. “. . . lit­er­acy as a con­cept has proved to be both com­plex and dy­namic, con­tin­u­ing to be in­ter­preted and de­fined in a mul­ti­plic­ity of ways. Peo­ple’s no­tions of what it means to be lit­er­ate or il­lit­er­ate are in­flu­enced by aca­demic re­search, in­sti­tu­tional agen­das, na­tional con­text, cul­tural val­ues and per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences.” This has over the years caused dis­agree­ments be­tween schol­ars, some of whom viewed lit­er­acy as be­ing fa­mil­iar with lit­er­a­ture or well ed­u­cated, while oth­ers be­lieved that lit­er­acy leaned more to the present day mean­ing.

Ei­ther way, in the dig­i­tal age the mean­ing of lit­er­acy has evolved as much as tech­nol­ogy has ad­vanced. Teach­ing lit­er­acy to­day de­mands the abil­ity to in­ter­pret and ac­cess in­for­ma­tion through the World Wide Web and to com­mu­ni­cate ef­fec­tively in the tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced global vil­lage. Tech­nol­ogy opens as many doors as do read­ing skills to­day.

In 1966 the United Na­tions deemed September 8 In­ter­na­tional Lit­er­acy Day (ILD). This year’s theme is ‘Lit­er­acy in a Dig­i­tal World’. In­ter­na­tional Lit­er­acy Day is a global cel­e­bra­tion where mem­ber states of UNESCO “re­mind the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity of the im­por­tance of lit­er­acy for in­di­vid­u­als, com­mu­ni­ties and so­ci­eties, and the need for in­ten­si­fied ef­forts to­wards more lit­er­ate so­ci­eties”.

This news­pa­per re­lies on both mean­ings of lit­er­acy. Over the years the com­pany has adapted to the dig­i­tal agenda of dis­pens­ing in­for­ma­tion at the speed of our read­ers’ de­sire, mak­ing the theme ‘Lit­er­acy in a Dig­i­tal World’ all the more re­lat­able.

This re­porter could hardly wait to hear from the ed­u­ca­tion min­istry how Saint Lu­cia would be mark­ing In­ter­na­tional Lit­er­acy Day. Un­for­tu­nately no sched­uled ac­tiv­ity could be sourced. I en­quired about statis­tics on Saint Lu­cia’s lit­er­acy but dis­cov­ered that the last sched­uled lit­er­acy sur­vey was set for 2009. It never ac­tu­ally oc­curred due to funds be­ing re­al­lo­cated by the day’s gov­ern­ment. I was un­able to es­tab­lish when the last lit­er­acy sur­vey was un­der­taken, let alone the re­sult.

I fi­nally re­sorted to Google, only to dis­cover that Saint Lu­cia is one of the few mem­ber states with no lit­er­acy statis­tics recorded by UNESCO. Which begs the ques­tions: How does the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion pin­point the rate of lit­er­acy in Saint Lu­cia? How to ad­dress groups af­fected by il­lit­er­acy? Lit­er­acy pro­grammes and ac­tiv­i­ties have been hosted all over the coun­try by gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions like Na­tional En­rich­ment and Learn­ing Unit, by non­govern­men­tal/not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Hands Across the Sea and by busi­ness foun­da­tions, one of which is Chil­dren’s Lit­er­acy Ac­tion Pro­ject—for which San­dals hosted fundrais­ers.

But in our present dig­i­tal at­mos­phere where the dy­namic of lit­er­acy has evolved in just a few years, th­ese ef­forts may not be enough. How do we know who is miss­ing out or which stu­dents are strug­gling in their class­rooms? If no lit­er­acy re­search is un­der­taken, how can teach­ers be equipped with the ap­pro­pri­ate re­sources? They may need more than books, a chalk­board and desk. In the new dig­i­tal world it should be a sim­ple mat­ter find­ing out why Saint Lu­cians don’t read!

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.