Once again literacy is the main theme, many readers of the journal will no doubt say. But this time there is less emphasis on theory and concepts. The focus is on practical experiences in a wide range of countries and contexts. There are plenty of good reasons for this:

  • No one has yet dared to put the number of adults now living in the world who have some sort of problem with reading and writing – from functional illiterates or semi-literates to those who have never in their lives attended a school or an adult education course – at much under the figure of 900 million that has been accepted for some time. The task for everyone therefore remains huge, and not just in the education sector.

  • It is obvious to us who work in adult education that by far the greatest attention given so far to the programme of Education for All has been directed at urgently increasing the number of places for children and young people in compulsory state education. At the same time, the importance of obtaining a school-leaving qualification is being stressed; a criterion of quality has therefore been added.

  • Is there no longer any point in trying to achieve a greater balance in literacy provision for all children, young people and adults? The positive discovery that children gain from a literate environment in the parental home, and that those who are now succeeding in earning a livelihood, and will need to do so for decades to come, are adults, unfortunately has only limited impact.  

Among the contributions, the paper about the use of computers in literacy in Germany stands out. For the last few weeks a variety of awareness-raising advertisements have been shown on television – a young girl has to get her friend to read her love letter; a father cannot help his daughter with her homework; a worker causes an accident in a factory because he cannot understand an instruction notice. Viewers have learnt that in one of the richest industrialized countries, which has moreover had compulsory schooling for 100 years, there are around four million young people and adults who find difficulty with reading and writing. Each of the advertisements ends with the sentence: “Don’t write yourself off – please contact...” and then follows the telephone number of the national literacy association. Can computer-based programmes help?

In 2003, this Institute was involved in a large number of major conferences. In preparing for these and following them up we made extensive use of our website, www.iiz-dvv.de

Documents were made available beforehand, and immediately afterwards, the declarations, the most important speeches and the most useful materials and studies were put on the net. However, we knew that only a small proportion of the readers of this journal have easy access to the Internet. We therefore print these documents here and state in the text where further material can be obtained.

Heribert Hinzen

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