Why are literacy levels low?

There are many reasons why people have difficulties reading, writing and working with numbers. Some may have left school early. Others may not have found learning relevant to their needs. In Ireland nearly 30% of the workforce has only Junior Certificate or less, while 10% has only primary level or no formal qualifications at all.

Most adults with literacy difficulties can read something but find it hard to understand official forms or deal with modern technology. Some will have left school confident about their literacy skills but find that changes in their workplace and everyday life make their skills inadequate. For example, if a person left school before junior cert and didn’t have to use their reading and writing skills in their work or home life, they could easily get out of practise and lose confidence in their ability to use those skills. Literacy is like a muscle. If you don’t use reading and writing skills every day you can get out of practise.

Other reasons include:

  • physical or psychological reasons such as poor hearing, vision or problems with speech
  • specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia that were not diagnosed
  • being part of a large class and not having specific needs catered for
  • poverty and lack of access to educational resources
  • no free secondary education until 1967