David Archer, head of programme development at ActionAid, in a post yesterday to the Guardians’ Poverty Matters Blog, argues that policymakers make “at least four fundamental mistakes” when addressing children’s literacy around the world. According to Archer, one of those mistakes is “to think schools will do everything alone.” He writes:
…The biggest determinant of success in any school is the home environment. When children come from homes where both parents are illiterate, and there is nothing to read or reinforce their learning, they are likely to fail. If the school is an oasis of literacy in a village community, it is hard for children to develop literate habits or to value literacy practices.
Officially, there are more than 750 million illiterate adults in the world; in reality, that number should be doubled. Yet almost nowhere are governments investing in adult literacy programmes. There is compelling evidence on the particular importance of female literacy for transforming the chances of girls, and there is clear evidence about what works in running effective adult literacy programmes. A set of 12 core international benchmarks developed by ActionAid and the Global Campaign for Education have been widely agreed. Until we see new energy being invested in female literacy, we cannot be surprised that children struggle to learn. (my emphasis)