What are some causes and effects of illiteracy?
IF we can send a people to the moon, should not every person on earth have the ability and opportunity to read and write well? Knowing how to read and write, or being literate, is a prerequisite for succeeding in today’s technologically advanced and quickly evolving global society. Every person needs to acquire literacy in his/her early development, because reading and writing are useful skills in so many daily activities, from reading newspapers, medicine bottles, and product warning labels, to writing letters, emails, and reports. Being literate also develops the mind, imagination, and critical thinking skills. However, many people in the world are not literate, and many do not even have the opportunity to become literate in their lifetime. In fact, UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the international organization that collects data for the United Nations, estimated in 2004 that 800 million people (nearly 1 in 6 people in the world) are illiterate, and more than 65% of that number are women. This number is increasing as well, due to the high birth rates in illiterate societies. Therefore, in order to understand more about this significant phenomenon, a few of the causes, effects, and solutions to illiteracy will be discussed.
One of the major causes of illiteracy is poverty and the subsequent lack of access to reading and writing materials. Realistically, students who would have gone on to continue their education past the 5th year sometimes quit school in order to work on the farm or in a factory in order to assist with the family income. Also if a family is poor, food and the basic necessities of life take precedence before books can be purchased. Related to this issue is Maslow’s theory on the hierarchy of needs. Maslow, a well-known psychologist, wrote that people deprived of basic needs, such as shelter, food, clothes, and basic safety, are less likely to develop themselves with higher education (University of Tennessee Website, 2004). In other words, economic instability can affect the ability of a population to become literate.
The effects of illiteracy often negatively impact a nation’s ability to develop its human resources. Countries with a high illiteracy rate are more likely to be disadvantaged in the global economy. If a populace is not literate, it cannot be as involved in high tech jobs. New careers in the sciences, mathematics, and technology are primarily established in countries that have literate populations. Another major effect of illiteracy is not having access to basic information that is distributed via books, newspapers, or the Internet. This type of information could include practical advice to increase the quality of life, such as how to participate in microfinance projects. In short, illiteracy does not encourage positive social change, personal growth, or the preservation and development of language and culture.
How can illiteracy be overcome? One of the best solutions to solving the stubborn problem of literacy is to teach parents to read, so that they can in turn teach their children. In a document published by the Departments of Education of Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, and others, Judith Schickendanz explains that “Children learn about written language in a … socially mediated way…. Children also learn about the functions of written language as they observe and help parents make lists, write letter to family members or friends, or read menus in a restaurant” (1999). If the adult women are educated first, each generation will be able to read and write, since mothers are the first educators of children. The women will teach their children, both male and female, who will in turn teach their children. Once more people in a society are literate, that society tends to develop further capacities, and further value literacy.