Nature taught us to read ourselves, other people and things in the environment, the future and so on right through to our various forms of media and technology today.
Politicians, parents and educationalists constantly stress the state of the 3Rs for those in, leaving school and the general populace who whether willingly or not find themselves as lifelong learners. Now we are told times and the world are far more more complex. In addition to ability in Reading, wRiting, and aRithmatic - literacy comes in other forms that are increasingly essential to our individual connection with the world, and our collective capacity to solve major local and global issues.
The efforts of Gutenberg shame us when in the 21st century basic literacy evade so many:
On the other hand Gutenberg reminds us of the need for stability if a people, a government is to provide the capacity and resources to support education and literacy for its peoples.Today one in five adults is still not literate and two-thirds of them are women while 75 million children are out of school.Since its foundation in 1946, UNESCO has been at the forefront of global literacy efforts and is dedicated to keeping literacy high on national, regional and international agendas. However, with some 776 million adults lacking minimum literacy skills, literacy for all remains an elusive target.UNESCO’s literacy programmes aim to create a literate world and promote literacy for all.
As mentioned above reading, writing and basic numeracy skills are now joined by other essential literacies. In the figure below I have (hurriedly) combined them with Hodges' model:
Here in the 3Rs we need to appreciate the child developmental factors that influence the acquisition, learning and refinement of basic literacy skills. The early detection of visual, hearing, and cognitive problems is crucial in ensuring everyone realises their full potential. The 3Rs span several of the care (knowledge) domains of Hodges' model. Children must be allowed to be children, hence the importance of play in emotional development and literacy.
As our societies become ever more visual to the extent of being described as visually polluted with excessive amounts of signage; spatial and visual forms of literacy come to fore. If the digital divide does not intervene then information, media literacy, and fluency in the use of computers, software, virtual interfaces and other digital devices represent the 21st century literacy?
Economic literacy extends beyond numeracy, not just a person being able to manage their own financial affairs and that of their family. This may also encompass - as the world has witnessed over the past two years - the economic management of whole communities, countries and the need for governance and accountability.
What then of political literacy in the figure above? In medicine and surgery great store is placed on informed consent before an operation or procedure is performed. Do people just 'vote' or should the electorate be informed as they grant permission to a political party to operate on their behalf?
When speaking to clients, carers and families a judgement must be made about the language used. Get this wrong either way - too jargonistic, technical or too simplistic and positive outcomes may be reduced.
In the future as populations continue to grow, cities are forced to flee rising tides and governments seek to relocate, spiritual literacy will assume an importance never seen before. That is why spiritual literacy surrounds Hodges' model.
Of course in health and social care encounters, of the many factors that are weighed the emphasis in professional caring and essential humanism is on acceptance and being non-judgemental.
It has to be judged if global health is to have any meaning.