Despite progress,

illiteracy endures

* * *

School Dropping Out

One can only be appalled by the extent of teenager high school failure, exclusively due to their insufficient mastery of reading skills, hence, writing and arithmetic.

Besides, this problem is far from being exclusively French. This observed deficiency in learning reading skills is in fact international, and most so-called "civilised" countries are victims of the trend. Canada (*) , the United-States, Great Britain, among others, know the same difficulties.

(*) An article published in daily "Le Soleil" (Quebec city) of August 2001 indicates that 38% of the population of the province of Quebec, that is about 900.000 persons, all ages included between 16 and 65 years old, are functionally illiterate (7% completely illiterate, 9% can read words, but are unable to decode the meaning of written sentences, and 22% can read in a limited fashion, and this, only in a number of situations).
The situation is then worse than could be imagined!

With regards to the French schooling system, teachers of the last two years of primary school: about 9/10 years of age), and those of the first year of secondary school (about 11 years of age), complain that they are receiving in their classes pupils that have not been adequately prepared, particularly with regard to their obvious lacks in reading ability.

Teachers of the 4th year of high school (students of 14/15 years of age), have in their classes noticeable numbers of their students suffering various levels of illiteracy. This deficiency also results in failures in mathematics since numerous students are unable to solve problems of their level simply because they are unable to understand the very statements of the problems. In a report titled "La réussite à l'école"("Success in School") published in 1989 at the request of the French National Education Minister, Mister Michel MIGEON , then Principal of the Académie, he underlined quite appropriately that : "the comprehension of the statement of a problem is a mandatory condition required prior to its resolution. ".

On their part, parents worry, and rightfully so, because they observe that at 8, at 11, at 15 years of age, their children still cannot read correctly.

This deficiency is without a doubt one of the major causes of school failure.
We know presently that a child who is made to retake his first year of primary school on account, among other causes, of his lack of reading proficiency, is left with only 4 chances out of 10 to successfully complete his education. In numerous cases, his progress in reading proficiency at the end of this second take of the first grade are not conclusive, and he is right then in a situation of severe failure.

In the same report quoted above, principal MIGEON reminded us that "it has been verified that children who successfully complete the first grade are those who have successfully learned to read ..."

Illiteracy endures

Although statistics vary, the findings are overwhelming: too many teenagers drop out after 12 or 13 years of schooling (!) - without having mastered reading (and consequently, writing and mathematics) which invariably condemns them to be excluded from our (so-called) modern society.

Recent studies in France reveal that about 30% of young adults do not understand the meaning of simple texts. How could we remain indifferent when confronted with the misery of these teens unable to find their way in large cities, to decipher printed texts, to write a Resume, or to simply fill a Social Security form.?

How can this be tolerated, on the eve of the XXIth century?

As years went by, various measures have been considered and applied in many countries, notably in France, to address this situation (nth reform of reading skills teaching methods, courses for maintenance or catching up, etc...), alas without much success up to now. It can however be observed, despite some progress, that illiteracy endures and that real improvement remains doubtful.

So, what could be done?
Solutions exist however!
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Member of I.A.L.F.I.
( International Association for Literacy From Infancy )

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