Eight years ago, 7.5 million adults in Germany were unable to read and write properly. Federal Education Minister Anja Karliczek thus sees the results of the latest LEO Study as evidence "that we are on the right road, in order to raise the basic educational level of adults". This will enable more people to participate in public and working life to a greater degree, said the minister.
An issue that must not be ignored
Nevertheless, it is important that politicians and society continue to focus on the issue. It is still very difficult for adults to admit they have difficulties reading and writing. They can often read or write individual sentences, but are unable to understand a structured text, irrespective of the length.
Majority of those affected are native speakers of German
The LEO Study 2018 also demonstrates that more than half of sufferers (52.6%) are native speakers of German. Although 47.4% of people who have difficulties reading and writing German have a migrant background, almost 78% of this group state that they can read and write difficult texts in their own mother tongue.
Many sufferers are in employment
In spite of the difficulties they have to read and write, 62.3% of sufferers work. Progress can also be seen in the group of adults who are able to understand structured texts, but can nevertheless not read fluently and make many mistakes in written German. Their numbers dropped from 13.4 million in 2011 to 10.6 million.
The LEO Study 2018 was presented at the annual conference of the National Decade for Literacy and Basic Education. It is held to be the largest and most representative study of functional illiteracy among adults. The study provides information on the age, sex, background, family status and employment status of individuals with low levels of reading and writing skills, as well as their schooling and vocational education.
What is the German government doing?
The national and state governments and partners within society are implementing the National Decade for Literacy and Basic Education 2016-2026. Stakeholders aim to do more to promote literacy by 2026. The campaign aims to encourage affected individuals to make use of special educational services and to raise awareness within the general public for the issue. To this end, the German government has topped up the support it provides by 180 million euros.
The German government is also supporting a number of different programmes that draw attention to reading and writing support and courses available. The Federal Literacy and Basic Education Association (BVAG), for instance, runs mobile units known as "ALFA-Mobile" throughout the country, to provide information for those affected and to advise adults to would like to learn to read and write better.
The German Adult Education Association (VHS) learning portal
The German Adult Education Association (VHS) learning portal has won the innovation prize for digital education. The e-learning service is available free of charge, offering online literacy and basic education courses as well as an extensive range of functional literacy services for working life.