Functional illiteracy as a challenge for continuous education

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I. Kost
In recent years, many people have recognized the significant weakening of basic skills in communicating with the surrounding world. The research conducted shows that the phenomenon of functional illiteracy is growing. It is not just a lack of basic reading and writing skills that result in malfunctioning in society, it is also the potential for social exclusion, weak social ties, and unemployment.
Key words: functional illiteracy, education, human capital, economy.
The modern world assigns to education a key role and simultaneously modifies it, focusing on its own needs. According to the majority of people, education must effectively and massively transfer the maximum amount of knowledge and constantly expand a person’s labor abilities, while his constitutive qualities must include eagerness for continuous learning, for deepening and broadening knowledge, for understanding the essence of rapid changes, for commissioning of a choice and decision-making, as well as responsibility. It is indispensable to develop an active stand in life, which should help in rising to new challenges and problem solving, as well as in the performance of different social roles. Europeans emphasize that education should be based on four main pillars, formulated twenty years ago in a Jacques Delors' report for the full-scale execution of its mission. The modern education requirement is ongoing study, proven by an adage: (1) to learn to know, that is, to assign the tools necessary to understand- (2) learn to act, that is, to influence the environment- (3) to learn to live together, that is, to participate and co-operate with others at all levels of human activity- (4) and finally, to learn to be — the desire that integrates the previous three- it was especially actively implemented in the early 1970s, after the publication of Edgar Faure’s report (Delors, 1996- Faure, 1975).
The rapidly growing amount of information requires constant growth of qualification for free orientation in the information space, however, and first of all, for efficient information search, interpretation, and evaluation, and for effective use of the same information in everyday life. Literacy as competence is usually regarded as an essential thing for the complete and deliberate participation in professional and social activities, but in the first instance for the harmonious development of human personality (Biatecki, 1996). Today, however, it is becoming increasingly obvious that many people have significantly deteriorated basic ability -the ability to communicate with the outside world. The research conducted on this topic (for example, PISA/OECD) confirms the growth of the functional illiteracy phenomenon, which can be regarded as a true paradox of modern civilization, as it affects people of all ages and diverse backgrounds. For many years it has been one of the top priorities in political election programs and in research projects: to combat functional illiteracy. The researchers of this phenomenon do not stop at naming and defining the minimum of necessary competencies- on the contrary, they pay attention to their level character (Przybylska, 2014). Literacy largely
depends on the education obtained at school. Education, in its turn, is the only basis for further accumulation and processing of information. Academic ability level determines the number of indicators, such as the activity of a person, his curiosity, character, intensity of motivation, the structure of interests. These figures are influenced to a large extent by the surrounding, depending on its needs and expectations, as well as the opportunities it provides. In every society there is a kind of functional literacy image as personality characteristics.
During recent years, literacy among adults started being accepted as a condition that determines the economic potential of the industrial countries. A reevaluation of the key word for this article occurred — from the original understanding of functional literacy as a formed ability to read and write at a basic level, to the interpretation of it as the ability of adults to use written information to function more effectively in society. Nowadays, adults are generally interested in higher levels of literacy for successful activity, achieving headway, making vital decisions and taking the right choice. Functioning in modern society becomes more complex, and job places that require low-skilled workers are disappearing. The societies where there are groups of people with low levels of literacy are a potential source of danger to the economic and social stability of the world as a whole. If a person is functionally illiterate, the probability of many negative developments increases, including those statistically most probable: choosing a profession that does not require high skills, or complete exclusion from the employment field. There is a tendency to crime, & quot-retreat"- reactions, and escape from reality among such people (alcoholism, drug addiction). As a rule, these are people with many children, but at the same time unable to educate their children properly. The representatives of this group often develop a feeling of alienation and low self-esteem.
The modern world estimates information as a wealth, and therefore it is carefully protected. Members of the information society are obliged to master the art of effective and targeted use of information, and at least, if necessary, to change profession several times throughout their life.
Otherwise, a person is doomed to the fate of the functionally illiterate and destined to passivity, social and professional stagnation, and transition to a lower standard of living. A non-independent, non-creative person with a weak desire for self-education dooms himself to bondage and assumes the role of a supplicant, in need of constant care, that is, the role of a person who is easily manipulated.
Permanent, irrational, and inefficient inertness leads to an inability to adapt to changes and, therefore, to a distorted vision of reality. Underestimation of knowledge leads to educational regression, which paralyzes the social activity.
Meanwhile, society has entered a phase of globalization, and at the same time a state of increased risk. Globalization has led to the expansion of the labor market, but only for those who meet its requirements. Permanent and uncontrolled progress has led to changes in the labor market — to increased competition and, as a consequence, to expenditure of the minimum qualification. This all leads to anomie, alienation of functionally illiterate people as & quot-educated outsiders& quot-. Albert Tuijnman, the author of the OECD report section on the necessity of & quot-literate"- education for the development of society, came to the conclusion that there is a lack of balance between the demands of the labor market and the real
qualifications of potential employees. This all happens in the context of an aging society, with all the attendant social and economic consequences. A modern person, regardless of age, needs education more than ever, and one of the main reasons for this is the necessity to regulate and use the information flow correctly.
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