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New strategy aims at closing childhood literacy gap in Finland

The goal is to make Finland's population the most media literate in the world by 2030.

According to the 2018 Pisa results, almost 14 percent of young Finns have insufficient reading skills to comfortably cope with everyday situations. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Finland's National Agency for Education says that a gap is evident in the reading skills of children and teens. This is being reflected in the fact that some primary school children are able to read long texts with little effort and assess the reliability of online sources, while there are others still experiencing difficulty with reading in upper secondary school.

One of the goals of a new national literacy strategy being published on Tuesday is to address this trend towards differentiation and to offset the effects of factors affecting literacy. These include home background, personal learning difficulties, and time spent reading outside of school.

According to the National Agency for Education, the level of literacy of Finns on average is good, but competence varies in all age groups. The literacy of young people in particular has clearly declined over the past two decades. According to the 2018 Pisa results, almost 14 percent of young Finns have insufficient reading skills to comfortably cope with everyday situations. The reading skills of young people have declined especially in those groups where parents or guardians have only a primary education, or where the appreciation of learning and culture is low.

Need to evaluate media sources

The new strategy now being launched aims to improve the overage media literacy skills of the Finns. This means a better ability to interpret a range of communication, including images, statistics and texts, and to assess their reliability, source and forms of expression.

The goal is to make Finland's population the most media literate in the world by 2030.

According to the National Agency for Education, this type of multi-faceted literacy will help prevent social exclusion and increases the ability to function in modern society.

"As society changes, so do the requirements for literacy. We want to keep everyone involved, and therefore multi-literacy must be maintained and developed in everyday life, work and studies," says Minister of Education Li Andersson (Left) in a press release on the subject.

One way to move towards this target is to further train teachers, healthcare and library professionals. Particular attention is to be given to literacy in Finnish or Swedish as a second language, education in integration, the teaching of the mother tongue of pupils with an immigrant background, and multilingual teaching.

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