TRADITIONAL literacy levels have declined due to an increasing use of technology a Charles Sturt University (CSU) professor says.
Research from the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2006 revealed nearly half of all people aged 15 to 74 years old do not have the literacy skills they need to cope with the complex demands of everyday living.
CSU school of teacher education associate professor Jo-Anne Reid said she is not surprised by the ABS data and said things are probably slightly worse today.
Professor Reid said if you set any test half the population is going to be below average.
“The demands we have on literacy are less because of technology,” she said.
“Reading a map might have been a really good literacy skill but now we have GPS.
“Technology does assist people who don’t have traditional literacy skills and GPS or iPods are the best examples of this.”
She said people are learning new types of literacy brought to them by an increasing amount of technology around them.
“People get their information from so many other sources not just text,” she said.
“You don’t have to look up a book, you just do it on your phone.”
Professor Reid referred to the No Single Measure survey of Australian adult literacy conducted in 1996 which said people could function adequately with lower levels of literacy.
“The study said you only need literacy levels of a 14-year-old to function in society,” she said.
“[However] there will still be a number of people leaving school without high level literacy skills.”
Professor Reid said If you’re a plumber you’ve probably got a good understanding of the volume of water through pipe but not a good understanding of calculus.
Despite this Professor Reid said traditional literacy skills need to be maintained after leaving high school to score well in literacy tests.
“If you don’t use it you lose it, if people leave school and don’t use their literacy that’s why they don’t score well.”