School Teacher Career Development

Education Administrators Associates
Consultation and Resource for Educators
Education Administrators Associates was initiated by Dr. John Brownridge, an educator and school principal with extensive knowledge and expertise in the field of Education, and experience in both North America and the United Kingdom. EAA's objective is to offer resource, assistance, and consultation to professional educators in the English-speaking world.

A variety of issues of interest and concern to educators will be presented and considered in this blog on a weekly basis. All educators, whether teachers, administrators or consultants, are invited to comment on the Contacts Page.

None of us can be experts in every field. Yet, as teachers we are expected to be knowledgeable on a whole range of topics, especially those that relate directly or indirectly to education. The parents of our students frequently have questions and concerns about curriculum, special programs, and new innovations they have heard about through news media. Our colleagues, friends and acquaintances may seek explanations and definitions. It is in our own interest to have a cursory knowledge of issues outside our areas of expertise, and to be capable of providing some insight into a variety of educational topics.

This weekly blog will explore many educational topics. Please check in on a regular basis, and do feel free to submit your comments and questions on the Contacts Page. As teachers, we have a wealth of experience to share.

John Brownridge

This Week

The Characteristics and Prevalence of Functional Illiteracy

There is an important, fundamental difference between being illiterate and being functionally illiterate and a common unawareness of this difference has frequently been the cause of great confusion among employers and among people in general. An illiterate person by definitions is unable to read or write. A functional illiterate, on the other hand, is able to read and write in his or her native language though with variable degrees of grammatical correctness, speed and style.

When functional levels are very low, this can be the cause of great difficulty in performing ordinary civic tasks like filling out an application form or following written instructions. Adults who do not possess basic literacy skills cannot function effectively in a modern society which assumes an ability to interpret printed material. Making sense of newspaper articles may be relatively difficult, but when citizens are unable to read traffic signs, consult a dictionary or read a bus schedule their quality of life is severely impaired.

Functional illiteracy is much more than an annoying inconvenience and adults suffering from this disability can be subject to social intimidation in a number of ways. Without fundamental communication skills, people in this position find it difficult to find employment or they become trapped in low-paying jobs. Low income almost certainly assures more health risks and a more stressful life.

Disturbing statistics seem to confirm that there is a correlation between functional illiteracy and crime. Educators, sociologists and criminologists agree unanimously that adults who are unable to advance and improve their life situation because of poor literacy skills suffer increased stress and frustration and they are more inclined to try to beat the system through illegal means. Indeed, recent figures in the United States show that more than 60% of state and federal prisoners are functionally illiterate. Even more disturbing, it is estimated that 85% of juvenile offenders have severe problems with reading, writing and basic mathematics.

The importance of free and compulsory education in a modern society cannot be over stated as there is no doubt that the safety and wellbeing of society depends on it. The western societies of Europe and North America estimate that approximately 20% of their adult citizens have the literacy skills expected of an eleven-year old or lower. This should not necessarily be interpreted as a doom and gloom scenario, however, as sixth-grade reading and writing skills are well above a functional illiterate level. If 80% of adults have reached a higher level than this then the past one hundred years have achieved dramatic improvement.

Complacency should not be tolerated, however, and society must continue to find ways of reaching all citizens. A study by the Northeast Institute, Literacy in the Workplace, found that business losses due to poor literacy skills runs into billions of dollars each year. This is due mainly to accidents, errors and low productivity. Many programs and projects have been created around the need for business and education to work cooperatively and this must be encouraged and continued. It is doubtful that functional illiteracy will ever be totally eliminated but recognition of the problem and ongoing attention to new solutions will ensure continued improvement.

John Brownridge

Next Week

The Power of Critical Pedagogy