Literacy in the World and Turkey "A General Assessment of the Situation"

By Acici, Dr. Murat | Reading Improvement, Winter 2018 | Go to article overview

Literacy in the World and Turkey "A General Assessment of the Situation"


Acici, Dr. Murat, Reading Improvement


Literacy, on which studies have been conducted since the 1950s, is a wider concept that covers reading and writing actions. The English word "literacy" in the beginning meant the capacity to articulate the letters and reading the texts using these letters, but then the meaning got more comprehensive.

This concept that formed in the Western culture and started to be used with its new meaning in Turkey has changed and become different as a result of researches carried out in the field of educational sciences, and social and technological developments in the world.

This change and differentiation that started in the 1970s rapidly increased after the 1980s. During the 1980s, literacy was defined as way of understanding, interpreting the events, facts, situations and objects.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) needed to classify the literacy within the framework of the "Education For All" program in 1987, taking into consideration the development of the concept in the world and the studies conducted in the field. Three different levels of definition were adopted to enable better understanding of the concept:

First level: Basic Literacy

Second level: Functional Literacy

Third level: Multi-functional Literacy

Particularly after the 1990s, the conceptual framework of literacy further differentiated and diversified depending on the technological developments, changes in the living conditions in urban areas, and newly arisen necessities. Now, literacy concept covers not a single fact, but multiple facts. The word literacy has started being used along with different disciplines such as "computer literacy, technology literacy, Internet literacy, media literacy, etc.".

Additionally, other types of literacy, such as information literacy, culture literacy, history literacy, environment literacy, art literacy, finance literacy, and universal literacy, have been defined and studies started to be carried out on such additional types of literacy. In developed countries, this term has started to be used in the meaning of a kind of communication surrounding the entire life of a human, a style of living.

For the first time in 1997, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) developed a research examination called PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) in an attempt to determine the situation of the developed and developing countries in terms of education, and to establish their position among all countries in the world.

Upon determination of the reading skills, and level of knowledge of mathematics and science subjects of students at the age of 15 in countries that participated in the PISA programme, it was determined whether they had the skills required for the present world, such as whether they can associate their knowledge with their daily lives, solve the problems using this knowledge, develop solutions to problems, think about the subjects, offer creative recommendations, and use the computer efficiently, etc.

The countries that participated in the PISA programme were expected to improve their educational statuses and develop their education policies in such a way to educate "literate individuals" depending on the reports in the fields of Reading (skills) literacy, Mathematics literacy, Science literacy, and Computer literacy upon receipt of their respective research results.

After this examination became widespread and started to be considered a benchmark reflecting the educational statuses of countries, the relation of the literacy concept with other fields of education and learning has been realized. Life-long learning is now considered along with this concept, and the term 'literacy' has started to be used for many fields requiring association with daily life and gaining awareness: History literacy, environment literacy, finance literacy, art literacy. …

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