EDUCATION Social SOCIAL & HEALTH

Over 40pct of Romania’s children struggling with functional literacy

More than 42 percent of Romania’s children aged 15 years are struggling with functional literacy, according to statistics released on Monday at a conference on this theme organised by the Department of Education and Research with the Romanian Presidential Administration in northwestern Cluj-Napoca on Monday in cooperation with the Faculty of Political, Administrative and Communication Studies of the Babes-Bolyai University (UBB).

According to data released at the debate called ‘Educated Romania,’ the EU High Level Group of Experts on Literacy issued a first report made up of five chapters, including functional illiteracy in Europe and recommendations.

The report as well as other data available Europewide reveal serious problems under the Romanian formal education system with functional and multiple literacy, with Romanian students ranked 49th out of 65 countries in the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) ranking in terms of reading and reading comprehension. In terms of student performance in math and sciences, Romania came out 47th, with Albania the only European country behind it.

The report also shows that 40.4 percent of Romania’s students rank below PISA level 21, which means that they struggle with understanding the simplest tasks in national examinations. According to data with the organisers, that virtually means the access of those young people to jobs will be confined to those that require a minimum of formal education. The Department of Education and Research with the Romanian Presidential Administration said the percentage has increased to over 42 percent in 2016.

‘Talking about functional illiteracy is an alarm call that shows we fare badly. I would like to say that failed educational opportunities are at the roots of illiteracy. Unlike other educational systems elsewhere in the world, our big chance is that the majority of children get an education. Unfortunately, some of them drop out very quickly or they stay put up to a point but without truly getting an education. The optimistic message is something can be done because there is an opportunity for direct intervention with some children, but on the other hand, there are very worrisome statistics showing just how complex the problem is,’ said Director of the Institute for Educational Sciences Ciprian Fartusnic in a speech to the debate.

In his turn, UBB President Ioan Aurel Pop said in his speech that Romania has regressed to a phenomenon it thought it uprooted under its Communist regime.

‘The communist regime uprooted illiteracy in Romania – including a margin of error purposefully considered – because literacy was achieved by force, but sometimes combining constraints with the conviction the communists would display by imitating great philosophers was a good thing. But, over the past 26 years, we have regressed to what we thought we had overcome long ago. As a teacher, I can tell you that this liberty of ours is leading to dehumanisation, because I sincerely believe that human condition requires education. If we take these criteria out of our behaviour we get dehumanised,’ said Pop.

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