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What is literacy?

Literacy is an ever expanding term and the definition of literacy tends to change to reflect the context in which literacy skills are used.  The literacy skills required to be successful in 2010 are quite different from the skills that were needed twenty or even ten years ago.

The International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) defines literacy as “the ability to understand and employ printed information in daily activities at home, at work and in the community - to achieve one's goals, and to develop one's knowledge and potential.”  Literacy has clearly moved from a skill set that is “value added” to one that is absolutely necessary in order for people to meet their immediate and long term employment and training goals.

The link between literacy and economic success is being closely examined.  With a global economy, an aging workforce and an increasing reliance upon immigration to address skills shortages, the literacy level of Ontarians is a growing issue.  The goal of Employment Ontario is for Ontario to “have the most educated people and highly skilled workforce in North America in order to build the province’s competitive advantage.”  Literacy is now being recognized as the foundation upon which such a workforce will exist.

Through the development and promotion of the Essential Skills, literacy is recognized as being more than the ability to read, write and perform math tasks.  Literacy is also about the ability to think, to communicate, to problem solve, to continually learn and to use technology. 

With a fully literate population, Ontario will not only be able to effectively meet its labour demands; it will also be a province in which Ontarians can effectively contribute to their families and to their communities.