Functional illiteracy is one of the most widespread and worrying phenomena in recent years. Many adults are functional illiterates because they have difficulty in fully understanding simple texts, with negative effects that are reflected in everyday life. To counter the phenomenon we must invest in two main directions: family and school. Functional illiteracy, what does it mean? UNESCO definition of 1984: “Functional illiteracy is the condition of a person unable to understand, evaluate, use and get involved in written texts to actively intervene in society, to achieve their goals and to develop their knowledge and potential”. The functional illiterate, therefore, is a person who can read, write and express himself in a substantially correct way. However, he is unable to reach an adequate level of understanding and analysis of a complex discourse. The estimate of the degree of diffusion of functional illiteracy can be made through an estimate of the overall competence of a given population based on the possession of key competences considered fundamental “for living and working in current societies”. In OECD surveys, these skills are assessed through literacy and numeracy cognitive tests and the level of skills is articulated in levels of increasing difficulty. This also allows us to estimate which portion of the population reaches a level of skills that can be considered adequate to successfully deal with the problems of social, educational and working life. The OECD PIAAC survey defines six levels of competence, based on ranges of scores that vary on a scale of 0 to 500 points. The set of levels 0 and 1 represents the area of ​​functional illiteracy. The achievement of level 3 is considered as a minimum essential element for a positive insertion in social, economic and employment dynamics. From the latest OECD-PIAAC survey, it emerges that Italy is at the bottom of the ranking in alphabetical skills (literacy), even if compared to previous OECD surveys the distance from other countries appears to be reduced. In addition, Italy is penultimate in mathematical and calculation skills (numeracy), which are fundamental for dealing with and managing mathematical problems in the various situations of adult life. According to the Piaac – OECD (2019) survey in Italy, 28% of the population between 16 and 65 is functional illiterate. The figure is among the highest in Europe, equaled by Spain and exceeded only by that of Turkey (47%). To stem the phenomenon of functional illiteracy, it is first necessary to return the right value to family and school. It is within these two dimensions that the most important actions can be taken to counter functional illiteracy. A very useful first step is to carry out an analysis of your habits and those connected to your family unit. A few simple questions, whose answers allow us to draw a first picture of the situation: do we spend time reading? Do we read enough? Are we educating children to read? Leaving the right space in the books is essential, then there is school: many teachers complain about the impossibility of carrying out the lessons adequately due to the difficulties of understanding that the pupils have, but this problem concerns the teaching class and the methods of recruitment: the Italian school system seems unable to understand the extent of the challenge. Upstream of the problem is the political class which is at least partially responsible for these failures. Our country spends only 3.6% of its GDP on education, against an OECD average of 5%, and spending for this sector decreased by 9% between 2010 and 2016. n the 21st century, skills represent key elements for individual and social well-being as well as for economic success. It is clear that today’s society requires people who are able to develop cognitive, socio-emotional and specific skills to solve complex problems throughout their lives, to interact effectively with others and to ensure correct sharing and use of information. Lifelong learning represents the overcoming of a defined temporal dimension which in the past represented, in the existence of a subject, often the only portion of life dedicated to learning; today it represents the only way to combat functional illiteracy. Adult education associations can play an important role in helping people develop and maintain the processing of key information, develop skills and acquire other useful knowledge for life. It is therefore essential to provide and guarantee access and organize learning opportunities in addition to initial formal education.


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