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Adult illiteracy found surprisingly high

The Local · 1 Mar 2011, 15:58

Published: 01 Mar 2011 15:58 GMT+01:00

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The study published by the University of Hamburg found that the number of German citizens between 18- and 64-years-old who are unable to read or write is now almost 7.5 million – or 14 percent of the work force.

Previous estimates had put the number of functionally illiterate adults in Germany at some 4 million people.

Federal Minister for Education and Research Annette Schavan was on hand as the study was presented in Berlin and said she was shocked by the findings.

“Illiteracy exists in Germany on such a scale that it shows it is no longer a niche problem,” she said. “What we need now is a national effort.”

The study by Professor Anke Grotlüschen showed that some 300,000 German citizens can’t read or write at all, while another 2 million are unable to read or write more than a series of random words. A further 5.2 million are able to make out short sentences, but would fail to understand a longer text.

Sixty percent of those found to be functionally illiterate were men, and 40 percent were women. Even those who had completed a higher level of education were found to be affected, comprising 12 percent of those found to be illiterate.

To combat the problem, Schavan has launched a new initiative to promote literacy and increased education in the workplace, which will receive some €20 million until 2014. Business associations, unions, chambers and adult education centres will all take part in the programme, she said.

The study, which surveyed some 8,000 German citizens, is the country’s first comprehensive examination of illiteracy in the country, the author said.

Story continues below…

President of the KMK conference of state education ministers, Bernd Althusmann, said it was a problem that receives little notice.

“Reading and writing competence must be further developed,” he said.

The Local/DPA/rm

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

17:20 March 1, 2011 by Kayak
"Even those who had completed a higher level of education were found to be affected, comprising 12 percent of those found to be illiterate." - w. t. f.
18:33 March 1, 2011 by sunsolar
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
19:02 March 1, 2011 by auniquecorn
Hmmm, maybe the nichts zu Guttenberg was also illiterate,
20:29 March 1, 2011 by ovalle3.14
All those Meiers, Müllers, Schultzes should go back to school!
20:30 March 1, 2011 by wood artist
Unfortunately, this sounds a lot like the US. We routinely graduate "12th graders" who read at the 3rd grade level. Why? Because teachers won't hold them back out of fear for their fragile self-esteem, and parents don't want them to be socially stunted.

The result? We have kids leaving school who can't even handle a simple sentence. Sad.

23:08 March 1, 2011 by pepsionice
I used to hear all the time....less than one percent (out of eighty million, that meant 800,000 Germans) that might be in a illiteracy situation. So now.....fourteen percent of the work-force might be illiterate? The question would be why?

Having watched my son maneuver and make his way through eventually through Haupt Schule....I'd say that half the kids in Haupt Schule can't read beyond the fourth grade level. They got passed around and basically dropped off at the Haupt Schule door. Irresponsible teachers? Yes....once they put a label on a kid....that was the end of any effort to rectify the situation.

So lazy teachers over the past two or three decades have made this problem and I doubt that anyone in the German school system really wants to fix this. So I'd prepare for an eventual twenty percent of all working Germans having just enough ability to read at the fourth grade level....and they just have to be happy with that.
09:19 March 2, 2011 by Krim
All those who can not read are good clients for TV.

I will assume that many are immigrants who got German citizenship. School is a must in Germany. In other countries the situation is different. This aspect shoul be taken taken into account to explain the high numbers.
10:17 March 2, 2011 by marimay
@ Krim

I highly doubt Germany grants citizenship to illiterates. You clearly have no idea how hard it is. Nice try though.
11:09 March 2, 2011 by Surferjoe
I could imagine that many immigrants from other cultures are functionally illiterate. Along with a good many kids today. And the people on this forum who don't agree with me.
12:13 March 2, 2011 by auniquecorn
@pepsionice(So lazy teachers over the past two or three decades have made this problem)

No I don´t think so, Try lazy parents, who don´t read to their children and stress the importance of reading.

My wife is a school teacher, and believe this or not, Last week during a parent teacher conference, she was explaining to a parent that their son always forgets to dot his I´s, add periods and commas, add the dots on the letters and to please ,help him during his homework to remember these.

The parent asked her, where can she get these dots.

My wife had no idea what to say after that,

todays generation has no excuse for being illiterate, the schools are working the best they can.
12:45 March 2, 2011 by mehta_p
what do you mean by German citizens?

Do they include German-passport holders from other countries?

If yes, can you please inform their number of illiteracy?

Just want to know where do foreigners stand when it comes to school education in Germany.
13:16 March 2, 2011 by idiot
quote SurferBob:

> I could imagine that many immigrants

less imagination, more study could help to solve your problems. Good luck on that.

>functionally illiterate.

Whats that ? A product of your imagination ?

> Along with a good many kids today.

Oh, another product of your imagination ?

quote mehta_p:

> German citizens German-passport holders from other countries

Hä ?! I like opposites


Gott ist das peinlich, hier sammelt sich ja echt die Intelligenz des gesamten deutschen Volkes.
14:23 March 2, 2011 by derExDeutsche
lol. surfer bob is an lib commie plant.
15:49 March 2, 2011 by Surferjoe
lol. Idiot is a plant.
16:51 March 2, 2011 by derExDeutsche
Everyone that posts here is functionally illiterate. Its why we all enjoy theLocal so much;)
22:43 March 2, 2011 by OkieinBerlin
Pepsionice, what about the crummy parents of these illiterate, manipulative students? They never hesitate to blame teachers for their kids' failures. Teachers are trying to educate kids, but parents have to raise them. If kids are already failures at 16, it's because their parents failed, not their teachers. According to the article, teachers are doing fine with 86% of the work force.
00:26 March 3, 2011 by CaSimone
As for Parents or teachers responsibility it is a joint issue.

Teachers are the ones with a degree to teach and make "honest" assessments of a child progress.

Granted, a parent who has a natural aptitude for reading and writing will instill these naturally and with shared interest into their children. Thus providing a new generation of happy readers, writers and literary communicative individuals.

However how can it be expected that a parent who does not hold this strength, (perhaps illiterate themselves?) to teach? They will, with NO doubt, find it difficult to teach something they are not inclined to even have learned at a decent level for themselves.

There are multitudes of strengths, for example people who are not so inclined to written words, may in fact have a great aptitude to absorb without needing to read it. There is even a term I cannot recall and my time is not so great at the moment that I can hunt it down now.. but there is even a term to describe those who learn from visual (words) absorption and those who retain from audio absorption.

Non-the-less..... Illiteracy on any level is difficult for a society to deal with, is the percentage in Germany sad... yes, but also perhaps it is just a very honest poll in compare to tweaked polls elsewhere. I think all over the world there are many people who simple don't digest written words in the same way as others.

I think people need simple be honest, assess children as they are and then try to focus on what their strengths actually are before writing them off as lazy or dumb.
01:55 March 3, 2011 by derExDeutsche
Illiteracy is everywhere. The same goes for basic computational skills. Illiterate people do not advertise their lack of understanding. In fact, often they are Oscar-worthy actors at hiding the fact that they are unable to divide/multiply or read.

People who want desperately to fall through the cracks, do.
18:37 August 12, 2011 by Sastry.M
At the beginning of 20'th century Germans maintained the highest literacy among all Europeans and were at the forefront in all disciplines of learning. Indeed European scholarship held its sway during 19'th century when many young people studiously applied to Universities and implemented knowledge gained there from pioneering many technological innovations with a spirit dangling between laboratory work benches and patent offices.

Where at present has it all evaporated? May be such an exercise of conviction did not seem all too conducive for human welfare because competitive greed began replacing human values as foreseen by the great humanist von Goethe who witnessed a pact between Dr.Faust and Mephistopheles.

With the dropping of A bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during Aug.1945 probably that pioneering spirit evaporated along with the plasma plume of nuclear detonation and proved the pact of prophecy of Goethe just over a century after his death.
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