Why is literacy important?
Literacy is fundamental for learning in school. It has an impact on an individual's ability to participate in society and to understand important public issues. And it provides the foundation upon which skills needed in the labour market are built. Technology, and the science behind it, permeates all aspects of our lives, from how we work and communicate to what we shop for and how we pay our bills. The complexity of today's world means that individuals need to have some level of proficiency in reading, mathematics and science in order to understand and participate fully in economic and social life. A population's literacy skills also have a bearing on how well a country performs economically. The world we live in today is vastly different from that of a generation ago. Technological change has transformed the way in which work is done; competition in many industries is global in nature; and the industrial structure of the Canadian labour market has rapidly evolved from a manufacturing and agricultural base to one based on services. These changes have, in turn, brought rising skill requirements. Countries that are successful in endowing their populations with strong skills are usually in a better position to meet the economic challenges of operating in a globalized information economy. Finally, having a population that has strong literacy skills also places a country in a better position to meet the complex social challenges that it faces. For example, strong literacy skills are linked to better health outcomes for individuals. A highly literate population will be better able to deal with issues of governance in a highly diverse society. And informed debate is needed to help us determine how best we can allocate scarce resources across competing priorities, such as education, health, investment in infrastructure, and social programs.
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