Education global perspective: literacy versus numeracy

Education global perspective: literacy versus numeracy

“Education” comes from two Latin words "Educare," which means to train or to mould, and "Educere, “meaning to lead out. This definition is a true reflection of ‘proper’ education. First is the ‘moulding’ and thereafter ‘leading out’. In other words, what is imparted during the moulding process is what is drawn out. This definition is carefully crafted because it does not restrict what should be imparted or drawn out from the learner. Reason being, it should depend on the curriculum which of course should reflect the demands of life, work, society, ideals, global standards and values


In 2016, the Future Workplace company-an Executive Development firm conducted research with top managers and executives and discovered that new graduates lacked soft skills like leadership, teamwork, writing proficiency, ownership, communication, critical thinking, attention to detail and problem solving. All of which are useful in work efficiency and effectiveness. This can be traced to back to literacy and numeracy experience of employees.

The 21st Century definition of Literacy and Numeracy.

Literacy-Having the capacity to read, understand and critically appreciate various forms of communication including spoken language, printed text, broadcast media, and digital media. This broader understanding of the skill, including speaking and listening, as well as communication using not only traditional writing and print but also digital media.

With this modern definition of Literacy, it is clear that many of us in the third world are yet to get there. Many young people reach university without any digital literacy whatsoever, leave alone having the ability to have the ability to read critically and appreciate various forms of communication. This inadequacy is therefore felt at a later stage in life -during employment and in social life.

Numeracy-Numeracy encompasses the ability to use mathematical understanding and skills to solve problems and meet the demands of day-to-day living in complex social settings. One must have the ability to think and communicate quantitatively, to make sense of data, to have a spatial awareness, to understand patterns and sequences, and to recognise situations where mathematical reasoning can be applied to solve problems.

Again, we fall short of this too. Numeracy is not the ability to count only; it is applied use of mathematical knowledge to solve every day problems, thinking quantitatively, communicating quantitavely and make sense of data. This is a true reflection of the demands in the world of work and society we live in in the 21st century.

While we are focused on completing school and having a result slip or transcript to wave. We should also ask ourselves if we have appropriate skills to back up the award for success at work and social life.

While there are complaints of high unemployment, it is no wonder that most executives and managers are still on the search for that ‘perfect’ employee to fill that position for perfect results. It means there are gaps in the employed staff and this can be traced to the ‘input’ we received from the education system. Education therefore is more than a degree, a diploma or a certificate which are entry requirements but what keeps one in a job are the ‘special’ skills and abilities to solve the organisations work requirements and expectations.

Emmanuel Okiria

Teacher of English/Literature/General Paper

Global Education Partnerships Coordinator

St. Kizito SS Bugolobi

International Accreditation in Global/Development Education and School Partnerships

IGCSE Tutor.