5% of 16 year olds would be affected in France

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    At the end of May 2022, the General Inspectorate for Education, Sport and Research published alarming data on illiteracy in France: 5% of 16-year-olds are illiterate.

    Illiteracy refers to all people who cannot read or write. Long underestimated, illiteracy is a complex and often neglected reality, the National Education report points out.

    Alarming data

    According to the General Inspectorate for Education, Sport and Research, 10% of 16-year-olds “take the course of illiteracy” because they have reading difficulties (significant shortage of vocabulary; absence of basic mechanisms for processing written language).

    Indeed, 5% of them are in a situation of illiteracy, resulting in a significant shortage of vocabulary and an absence of the basic mechanisms for processing written language. A finding following the assessments conducted in 2020, during Defense and Citizenship Day (JDC).

    The remaining 5% have severe difficulties (correct lexical level, but inability or extreme difficulty to understand written texts).

    Some areas are more affected than others

    Illiterate young people have a very specific profile, especially when it comes to where they live.

    According to the INSEE IVQ survey (2012):

    • 50% of the illiterate live in sparsely populated areas;
    • 26% in rural areas;
    • 22.5% in cities with less than 20,000 inhabitants.

    “The data from the JDC, in 2020, shows that reading problems are most common in the north of the Loire”, according to the report. Amiens academy has been hit the most.

    The difference between mainland France and the overseas territories is all the more worrying. 7% of the population of metropolitan France is illiterate, and in the overseas territories, which are characterized by multilingualism, this number doubles or even quadruples.

    According to data from the JDC (2020), 10% of young people in mainland France suffer from very poor reading comprehension. Abroad, they are 25.4% in Réunion, 28% in Guadeloupe and Martinique, 46.6% in Guyana and 71.1% in Mayotte.

    A Little Known Topic in National Education

    According to the report, the situation of illiteracy in France is perceived as a “deadly”both by the students involved, their families and teachers.

    “However, structural measures, mechanisms and tools of the institution, its actors and partners already exist to detect the risks of illiteracy and remedy it as quickly as possible”argues the report.

    According to the inspectors, the existing levers are many:

    • Reduction of the compulsory school age;
    • priority education;
    • New forms of territorial networking;
    • Specific support and recovery systems;
    • Partnership resources;
    • Deployment of missions to combat early school leaving;
    • Adapted consultation of education teams.

    However, these measures are still rarely implemented and “insufficiently shared”† The problem of illiteracy has been neglected for a long time, and the National Education is aware of this.

    In order to “act effectively against this insidious evil”, the report proposes the development of reflex measures adapted to the entire school period of the pupils, in order to detect their difficulties as early as possible. It also provides efficient testing and careful monitoring of students. Finally, teacher training “a decisive role” to handle this “evil that thrives on negligence and ignorance”


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