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Literacy in the new millennium
  • Michele Lonsdale, ACER
  • Doug McCurry, ACER
The meaning of literacy has changed over time from an elementary 'decoding' of words to a range of more complex and diverse skills and understandings. Changing conceptions of literacy need to be understood against a background of economic, social, political and cultural change. Recent theorists see literacy as a 'social practice' which should be considered in context, rather than the convention of literacy as an individual, cognitive skill. Literacy can be described as a form of human capital, an essential functional skill for individual employment and economic sufficiency. A contrasting idea is that of literacy as 'enabling' and empowering individuals for critical reflection, rather than simply accepting existing social beliefs and institutions. Social and economic change requires new literacies beyond print, but the boundaries are indistinct. Computing knowledge, and social comprehension skills, may be regarded either as 'literacies' or as 'generic skills' for employment. There appear to be three main models of literacy which have implications for Australian policy- making, teaching and learning. These are the: cognitive, individual- based model, which assumes that levels of ability can be tested; economics-driven model associated with workforce training, multi- skilling, productivity and the idea of 'human capital'; [and] socio- cultural model, which believes that the meaning of literacy depends on its context and thus, can have different interpretations. The third model is preferred by the authors. Literacy, it is argued, can no longer be linked uncritically to demands of the economy and national training agenda. Although current research puts literacy with social practice, government policy aligns more with the traditional model of literacy as a set of foundation skills required by every individual.
  • Education,
  • Policy,
  • Literacy,
  • Generic skills
Publication Date
Citation Information
Michele Lonsdale and Doug McCurry. "Literacy in the new millennium" (2004)
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