Tarnished Image of Book-Loving Nation Skip to content

Tarnished Image of Book-Loving Nation

It’s time for us Icelanders to face the fact that many of our children are illiterate in the sense that they’re unable to read effectively, thereby vastly limiting their chances of higher education and active participation in society. This, according to Minister of Education Illugi Gunnarsson who was interviewed by Bylgjan this morning.

In the program Í bítið, Illugi announced the launch of a national campaign against illiteracy in a nation whose image has long been that of book-loving and avid readers. Recent studies by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reveal that at the end of mandatory education, or roughly by the age of 15, as many as 30 percent of Icelandic boys and 14 percent of girls are unable to read effectively. When asked to explain the meaning of reading effectively, Illugi clarified that by “effectively” he meant having the ability to understand what is read and answering questions related to the text.

He said a national campaign was needed to combat this problem and ensure children equal access to educational opportunities. The schools alone are not responsible, he contended; parents, too, should read with their children to ensure they master the skill. He compared this to learning to play an instrument: “You go to music school to learn to play an instrument, but you must practice at home to be able to play well.” Parents, he said, must realize that the burden lies not with the schools alone. Economically and socially, this, in his opinion, is the most urgent problem we, as a nation, face today.

The campaign will focus on detecting reading difficulties at an early age. Two public agencies , the Study Evaluation Institute and the National Center for Educational Materials, have been united in an effort to fight the problem. They will employ 10 literacy advisors who will be called in whenever a school is found to be underperforming in reading instruction. There also has to be a nationwide awakening among parents, Illugi added. They must be made aware of their essential role in educating their children.

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