Adult Literacy In Ireland


Sir, It was with complete disbelief that I read Joe O'Toole's comments, on behalf of the INTO (November 18th) rejecting the recent OECD adult literacy survey finding that one in four Irish adults have a reading difficulty. His challenge to anyone to consider their circle of acquaintances and conclude that one in four has a literacy difficulty, was rightly ridiculed by Brendan Glacken (November 19th), noting that Joe O'Toole's acquaintances, i.e., teachers, are not likely to be the one in four who have reading difficulties.From my own middle class and educated background, none of my friends had reading difficulties that I noticed. However, if one is aware of the telltale signs of an adult literacy difficulty or works with people who are improving their basic reading and writing skills, the figure is realistic.A previous study carried out by the OECD showed that 930,000 adults in Ireland left school at or below Junior Certificate level. In this context, 500,000 adults with only basic reading and writing skills does not seem so outrageous.To assist Joe O'Toole and others in defining a literacy problem, I would suggest that an adult who has difficulty identifying the correct amount of medicine to give to a child from the information found on the package, has a problem.

This was one of the tests used in the OECD survey.For 20 years, there has been a campaign in Ireland to recognise fully the extent of the adult literacy service to cater for the learning needs of these adults. The INTO is the only group which has disputed the findings of the survey. This in itself is telling.The recent report on "school absenteeism" by the Clondalkin Partnership highlights that the adult literacy service will not be without clients in 10 years' time, as many would have us believe. Fergus O'Reilly's comments (November 27th) reinforce this point. - Yours etc.,Inex Bailey,Director,National Adult Literacy Agency, Lower Gardiner Street,Dublin 1.