Commission launches high-level expert group on literacy chaired by Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands

01 February 2011
Commission launches high-level expert group on literacy chaired by Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands

One in five 15-year-olds in Europe, as well as many adults, lack basic reading and writing skills, which makes it harder for them to find a job and puts them at risk of social exclusion. To help tackle the issue, the European Commission has set up an independent group of experts to identify ways of raising literacy levels. The group, which met for the first time today in Brussels, is chaired by Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, who is a Special Envoy on Literacy for Development for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). EU Ministers have set a target of reducing the share of pupils with difficulties in reading, maths and science to fewer than 15% by 2020.

Raising literacy levels in Europe

The latest results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a worldwide survey on the performance of 15-year-olds in reading, maths and science, show that one in five, or 20%, has low reading skills. The findings, compiled every three years by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), mean that Europe has slightly improved since 2000. But greater efforts will be needed if EU countries are to achieve their target of fewer than 15% of low performers in reading, maths and science by 2020.

For adults the need for action is just as urgent. Almost 80 million adults in Europe – a third of the workforce - have only low or basic skills, but estimates show that share of jobs requiring high qualifications will increase to 35% by the end of the decade, compared to 29% now. Reading and writing are essential skills, not least as they are the key to further learning.

The EU's plans to raise literacy levels are linked to the Europe 2020 flagship initiatives "Youth on the Move" and "Agenda for New Skills and Jobs", which both aim to improve skills levels in Europe through better quality of education and training.

Objective of High-Level Group on Literacy

The objective of the High-Level Group on Literacy is to give visibility and political importance to the issue of raising literacy levels in Europe. It will analyse scientific evidence and evaluate what policies work best. The 11 members of the group are experts on literacy from academia, politics and business. Click here for biographies and comments from the members.

Next steps

The High-Level Group will meet regularly over the coming 18 months and will present policy proposals to the Commission in mid-2012. Based on the group's proposals, Commissioner Vassiliou will present recommendations to Education Ministers in autumn 2012. On this basis, Member States and the Commission will take the issue further as part of their strategic co-operation framework on education and training ("Education and Training 2020").

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 01 February 2011
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  • literacy
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