In a recently-concluded study of literacy results from the 2012 standardised tests in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Jyväskylä University researcher Inga Arffman said that 11 percent or 6,800 of 15 year-olds in Finland have weak reading skills.
In the year 2000, the percentage of teens who read poorly was seven percent. Arffman concluded as a result that literacy levels in Finland had declined steadily since then.
She noted that poor reading skills could shackle many young people and prevent them from accessing opportunities for further studies and employment. She noted that literacy levels could determine whether teens go on to succeed or fall between the cracks of society.
"Literacy levels have weakened most especially among young people who come from the most disadvantaged families. On the other hand the level of literacy among well-to-do families has generally remained excellent," she explained.
Large gulf separating boys and girls
The study also found that the gap in literacy levels between boys and girls has grown. Many girls continue to read at a very high level, while there are more boys joining the group of youngsters who struggle to read.
"Finland has traditionally been a country where the difference in literacy between boys and girls has been especially large. But unlike other countries participating in the PISA tests, we have not been able to narrow the gap. The current difference corresponds to roughly 18 months of teaching," Arffman remarked.
The United Nations has declared September 8 as International Literacy Day and Arffman says the observation should serve as a wakeup call for Finns.
"It’s finally time for Finland to wake up to the fact that literacy isn’t a given but that it requires work – at home, in school and generally in the wider society," she declared.