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Werd pozzle

EU confident it can eradicate illiteracy

(Photo: Chad Miller)

The European Union is convinced that illiteracy can be eliminated in Europe. Ultimately each and every European will be able to read and write, according to a joint statement by European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou and Dutch Princess Laurentien. "We cannot accept anything less than 100 percent literacy in Europe," they wrote. The princess chairs a European expert group on literacy.

The group, which was set up by the European Commission, presented its findings and recommendations to combat sub-standard literacy in Nicosia, Cyprus, on Thursday. One of the experts' views is that reading should be emphasised more. They recommend that reading material should be widely available, both in print and online. Libraries should be housed in hitherto "unusual places" such as shopping malls.

The teaching of reading and writing should be improved, the group said. Existing gaps between privileged and underprivileged children, and between boys and girls, should be bridged.

Vassiliou and Laurentien say that reading and writing is essential in today's society, yet a "disconcertingly high percentage" of Europeans, up to 75 million adults, do not possess sufficient reading and writing skills.

One in five 15-year olds in Europe reads poorly, and that has been the case in the past 10 years. The Netherlands, where the situation is slightly better than in the rest of the EU, there was a slight fall in the illiteracy rate of 15.1 percent in 2006 to 14.3 percent in 2009. But that is "no reason for complacency", Laurentien and Vassiliou wrote. - (IEDE)

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