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Illiteracy is a Global Crisis When Considering Next Generation Workplace Talent

Illiteracy is a Global Crisis When Considering Next Generation Workplace Talent

Lisa Hinton

N.C. A&T State University


Illiteracy is a Global Crisis When Considering Next Generation Workplace Talent

Rationale for teaching literacy in secondary school

Global shortage of talented workforce due to rapid changes for required skills

According to the World Economic Forum, Asia’s Next Generation of Talent, the current

global gross domestic product (gdp) is $60,000,000,000 ($60T USD). It is anticipated that in 30

years the global gdp will be approximately $300T USD. This means that there will be

tremendous change in business, technology and skills required to drive this massive increase in

global production. Today, as our global economy continues to recover, a huge percentage of our

current workforce is aging which is further driving the need for a literate and skilled workforce.

Roe, Stoodt-Hill, Burns state that literacy can be defined as the “ability to comprehend and

produce written language in order to operate effectively in a particular social context.” (2011).

Literacy is an evolving and necessary skill that must be learned by a motivated student and

taught by a skilled and comprehensive set of instructors if we are to meet the growing demand

for an adaptable workforce.

Literacy gives students the ability to adapt

Students require literacy that gives them ability to adapt. Business and technology are

governed by culture and societal needs and secondary students must be well prepared to meet

those needs. A well prepared student is not only literate from a content perspective, they are also

prepared for life-long literacy. Life-long literacy is the backbone for a recovering global

economy where according to the World Economic Forum, 31% of employers are having a

difficult time finding qualified talent (2010).

With rapid changes in technology, newly evolving global markets and increased

competition for an adaptable workforce, skills become antiquated quickly. Therefore literacy at

all levels of education is an increasing concern. Educators cannot assume that students are
Illiteracy is a Global Crisis When Considering Next Generation Workplace Talent

literate as vocabulary, comprehension and overall literacy needs are changing at an exponential

pace. Prior to the information/ computer age, literacy was localized and limited by region or

country. Economies and educational systems were disparate. However the internet, personal and

mobile computing, distant learning among other components have created a global literacy

where we have to rethink our ideologies regarding learning and comprehension. Therefore,

teaching literacy in secondary school is not only necessary, but critical for educational systems at

the to work effectively.

Next Generation Literacy

Carolyn McKay says that “in an economy that relies on the growth of a skilled

workforce, the literacy level of the general population becomes an important factor.“ (1997).

Low-literacy skilled workers will continue to find it difficult to find and keep a job in our

competitive market. People with low-literacy will also have a difficult time socializing and

participating in a globalized culture since reading and comprehension are changing. Since

workers “have to integrate information from books, trade magazines, and the Internet with

hands-on experiences”, content teachers in secondary schools should integrate strategies that will

help improve student comprehension using these materials. (Roe, Stoodt-Hill & Burns, 2011).

Speakers at the World Economic Forum stressed the importance of educators and

businesses having an obligation to define and provide skills for sustainable employment to the

next generation (2010). For example, “the lack of skilled blue-color workers could impede the

progress of infrastructure projects and inhibit national growth.”(Manpower, Inc. 2010). Literacy

and job skills/ preparation go hand-in-hand and should be approached synonymously.

Role of content area teachers in literacy development


Illiteracy is a Global Crisis When Considering Next Generation Workplace Talent

Content area teachers should create a system that helps identify the literacy skills

necessary for comprehension in their disciplines and the individual needs of students in order to

master those skills. The system would involve the following:

1. Identify the level of literacy needed

2. Determine student literacy level

3. Establish assessment strategies to continually determine student literacy levels over time.

4. Engage specialists and other school personnel in order to assist with student achievement

levels (Roe, Stoodt-Hill & Burns, p. 11).

Identifying the level of literacy needed

Content area teachers use literacy in constructing meaning and relevance for the student

based on the curriculum objectives.

Determine student literacy level

Every student has a different background and experience level so one-on-one evaluation

is necessary in order to determine what would bring meaning and relevance for a student.

Establish assessment strategies to continually determine student literacy levels over time

Content area teachers can use mandated state assessment data in order to determine broad

area proficiency in reading comprehension, word identification, and vocabulary and aspects of

writing. However, that data provides only a snapshot view and teachers should incorporate

classroom assessments which are 1. Tied to the curriculum objectives and class strategies, 2. Are

more fine-grained, 3. And focused on the process and products of learning, 4. Timed for

immediate feedback and 5. Designed to provide teachers and students with tailored instruction

based on their individual needs. (Paratore & McCormack, 2007).


Illiteracy is a Global Crisis When Considering Next Generation Workplace Talent

Engage specialists and other school personnel in order to assist with student achievement levels

After assessing student literacy, if specific learning problems are identified by a content

area teacher additional personnel should be engaged in order to help the student overcome

literacy challenges.

Teaching literacy is reciprocal

According to Adora Svitak (age 12) who is a prolific short story writer and blogger since age

seven, “regimes become oppressive when they are fearful about keeping control.” (2010). She

advocates for literacy and impresses her audience that adults should be willing to learn from all

including young people. Young learners, technology and business are redefining literacy and will

continue to do so. We should take into account the wishes of the younger population and “help

students read their textbooks and supplementary materials more effectively in order to learn the

content more effectively.” (Roe, Stoodt-Hill & Burns, p. 11).

How does literacy affect assessment and evaluation in the

classroom?

Valencia explained that assessment should lead to instructional action therefore careful

and thorough evaluation will determine classroom literacy. (1997) Assessment and evaluation is

a tool and is not necessarily affected by literacy. On the contrary, assessment should affect

literacy. There are a variety of assessment and evaluation tools that are used to determine

individual and classroom literacy: mandated, class-based, and performance or authentic.

Mandated assessment

Federal legislation brought about the “No Child Left Behind” Act (NCLB) which

emphasized student literacy. This act brought about a need for standardized assessment in order
Illiteracy is a Global Crisis When Considering Next Generation Workplace Talent

to analyze common data that would determine student literacy and proficiency in content areas.

These tests allow educators a snapshot view of individual progress over time. The standardized

assessments have high-stakes attached and focus on broad areas of competency: reading

comprehension, word identification, vocabulary and aspects of writing (Jeanne R. Paratore,

Rachel L. McCormack, p.18). As mentioned earlier, they are limited in that they do not take into

account immediate student learning. (“Testing Our Children: Introduction“, 2007)

Class based assessment

Assessments created and conducted by the class teacher. These assessments help to

provide iterative progress in literacy.

Performance or Authentic Assessment

Valencia explains that performance assessment “requires students to demonstrate their

knowledge, skills, and strategies by creating a response or a product.” (1997). Students might

demonstrate their literacy abilities by writing a summary, developing a character analysis,

debating a character's motives, creating a poster of important information they learned, creating a

poem or rap using key terms discussed in a textbook chapter, or reading aloud a personally

meaningful section of a case study.

Summary

Role of the educator is changing toward learning catalyst for students based on the

growing demand for a high-skilled, technical workforce. Business and technology are the drivers

that help define literacy in secondary education, but we must also allow young people the

opportunity to define literacy for themselves. Teaching literacy in secondary school is a

fundamental characteristic of a life-long learning strategy.

Content area teachers have a vital role in helping to identify literacy deficiencies along
Illiteracy is a Global Crisis When Considering Next Generation Workplace Talent

with helping to prepare learners with new skills desperately needed in our expanding and

changing market.

Assessment tools play a major role in determining literacy, however they have limitations

in determining the what a student understands and their progression over time. Educators use a

variety of assessment tools to determine the literacy levels of students at all levels of education

including secondary.

Svitak summarizes that the goal of education is to create adults who are better than the

current. “New generations grow and develop to become better than the previous ones.” (2010).
Illiteracy is a Global Crisis When Considering Next Generation Workplace Talent

References

1. Manpower Inc. 2010. Warns Global Skilled Trades Shortage Could Stall Future Economic

Growth. Retrieved from

http://files.shareholder.com/downloads/MAN/999626376x0x397738/314779db-5263-447d-

8978-991dd9bc490c/MAN_News_2010_8_25_General.PDF .

2. Valencia, Sheila W. 1997. Understanding Authentic Classroom-Based Literacy Assessment.

Retrieved from http://www.eduplace.com/rdg/res/litass/ .

3. Paratore, Jeanne R., McCormack, Rachel L. 2007 Classroom literacy assessment: making

sense of what students know and do. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?

id=xs2s3_vNonAC&printsec=frontcover&dq=literacy+assessment+in+the+classroom&sourc

e=bl&ots=R5lEGOJ9sQ&sig=gKHH0IYbHJRUYRdPKtGw8WC0POU&hl=en&ei=PDp5TI

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4. World Economic Forum- Asia’s Next Generation of Talent. 2010. Retrieved from

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UFyTb1Gq58 .

5. Adora Svitak. What adults can learn from kids. 2010. Retrieved from

http://www.ted.com/talks/adora_svitak.html .

6. Glaves, Rachel, Andrejewski, Alexa, Hinman, Rachel, Cronin, Brian. 2008. Mobile Literacy,

Design Principles. Retrieved from

http://www.adaptivepath.com/mobileliteracy/principles.php.

7. McKay, Carolyn. 1997. Illiteracy: Exploring the Personal and Social Costs in Canada.

Retrieved from http://www.writersblock.ca/spring1997/feature.htm .

8. Roe, Betty D., Stoodt-Hill, Barbara D., & Burns, Paul C. 2011. Secondary School Literacy
Illiteracy is a Global Crisis When Considering Next Generation Workplace Talent

Instruction. The Content Areas.

9. Testing Our Children: Introduction. 2008. Retrieved from

http://www.fairtest.org/states/survey.htm .