(голосов: 0)
Published: June 27, 2011

Functional illiteracy

A vague and often misleading term, usually defined as an inability to read, write or calculate well enough to function as an independent adult. Some definitions are more precise than others, variously pinpointing functional illiterates as adults who have not had eight years of formal education; adults who have not gone beyond the eighth grade; adults who cannot read, write or calculate above the eighth grade level; 16-year-olds who cannot read, write or calculate above the sixth grade level; adults who cannot read a bus schedule, order from a menu, understand newspaper articles, order from shopping catalogs or use want ads correctly.
The U.S. Department of Education’s National Adult Literacy Survey conducts periodic studies of what it calls “prose literacy,” “document literacy” and “quantitative literacy” of adults 16 and over. Its survey in the late 1990s found 21% of adults at the lowest level of prose literacy, that is, unable to write a simple description of the type of job they would like to have and able to do no more than locate a single piece of information in a short text with no “distracters.” It found 23% at the lowest level of document literacy and, thus, unable to locate and use information from documents such as indexes, tables, paycheck stubs and order forms or even match money-saving coupons to a shopping list of several items. About 22% of the American population scored at the lowest levels of quantitative literacy, which required them to perform single, relatively simple numerical and arithmetic operations of daily life, such as adding two entries on a bank deposit slip. Rates varied widely according to age, race, ethnicity and levels of education. Only about 15% of whites demonstrated the lowest levels of literacy, while 40% of blacks were functionally illiterate and 46% functionally innumerate. Well over 50% of Hispanics were functionally illiterate and innumerate. About 75% of those who had dropped out of school before attending high school were illiterate and innumerate, and about 45% of high school drop-outs were functionally illiterate and innumerate. (See also ILLITERACY.)