Functional Illiteracy

What Is Illiteracy?

“Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.”1 In contrast, illiteracy is the inability to read, write or comprehend written or verbal communication. What is illiteracy? Illiteracy is a barrier to a better quality of life.

Education resulting in literacy empowers people to navigate and understand their jobs, relationships and other aspects of society. Without sufficient education, many adults remain illiterate and trapped in difficult, low-paying jobs and rely on their children or other adults to help them read, write and communicate.

Undereducated adults may undervalue education. When parents choose to not send their children to school, or cannot afford to do so, this continues the cycle of illiteracy.

However, illiteracy is not limited to education; there are many types of illiteracy, including the following:

  • Cultural illiteracy — Cultural literacy is a functional understanding of a specific culture, including the language, values and traditions. Cultural illiteracy deprives people of forming lasting connections with people around them.
  • Financial illiteracy — Financial literacy is a person’s understanding of the value and use of money in financial transactions such as banking, budgeting or saving. Financially illiterate adults may overpay for items or mismanage their money due to misinformation. Financial illiteracy can contribute to debt and poverty.
  • Technological illiteracy — A person is technologically illiterate when they lack access to and understanding of technology, which is crucial in many workplaces, governmental institutions and educational spaces today. Technological illiteracy may look like an adult not knowing how to compose an email or fill out an online job application, which may impact their career and their livelihood.

Want to help combat illiteracy worldwide?

Please consider supporting GFA World’s literacy program today. GFA missionaries teach adults phonetics, letter-writing and sound combinations through literacy classes that empower adults to read, write and do basic math. Literacy skills help adults navigate daily life, read medical and governmental paperwork and support their children in school. Literacy skills open new job and career opportunities and build hope in individuals and in families.

Your generosity can impact individuals, their families and their communities. Please consider giving to help provide adult literacy classes today!

Learn more about functional illiteracy

1 Montoya, Silvia. “Defining literacy.” United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. 17 October 2018.