Backgrounder:”More than one million or one in five 15-year-olds in Europe, as well as over 75 million adults, lack basic reading and writing skills, which makes it harder for them to find a job and puts them at risk of social exclusion. In order to help address this serious problem the European Commission has taken action to improve literacy levels in Europe. According to the latest PISA survey, the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, there is a worse situation in the EU, where 20% of young people have reading difficulties, than in comparable countries across the globe – compare with 18% in the USA, 14% in Japan, 10% in Canada and just 6% in Korea. Furthermore, the gender gap between boys and girls is widening. Girls outperform boys in reading skills by the equivalent of one year of schooling. A similarly serious challenge exists beyond school. More than 75 million adults in the EU currently have low or basic skills, and many of them do not have sufficient literacy levels to cope with the daily requirements of personal, social, and economic life. People with limited basic skills not only risk being excluded from further education or training, but will also increasingly find themselves locked out of the labour market and society. This is already happening. Unemployment rates for young people are climbing and unemployment stands at more than 50% across the EU for those who have only basic school qualifications or none at all. The European Commission regularly monitors the success of education reforms in EU countries. Reducing the share of 15 year olds with poor reading skills to 15 % by 2020 is one of its five joint European targets (benchmarks).”
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