She was speaking at the Port-of-Spain Rotary Club luncheon meeting on Tuesday at Goodwill Industries, Port-of-Spain. In March, the club observes International Literacy Month.
Lucie-Smith noted the most recent reports on literacy in Trinidad and Tobago were done in 1995 and in 2006. The former was done by the University of the West Indies and stated 22-23 percent of adults had so little reading and writing skills that they were unable to function properly in society. The same study found less than half of all adult Trinidadians and Tobagonians were able to read and understand newspapers.
The study in 2006 was an international one in which Trinidad surveyed. nine and ten-year-olds for literacy. It was found that Trinidad and Tobago scored lower than the international benchmark for literacy of 500 points and placed 39 out of the 45 countries surveyed.
Lucie-Smith explained the education system does not provide for persons who do not have a natural ability to learn to read, making it difficult for them to become literate. Money, time and resources needed to coach them to obtain the skill is also lacking.
“Universal secondary school education was the worse thing to happen to our education system, because it is moving people through the system who are not able to read. Teachers who are unable to teach a child would pass them up and along to other levels, hence the reason there are children in secondary schools who are unable to read,” she said.
When this is discovered, she said, children are treated as if they are the problem when it is the education system at fault. This results in resentment and frustration which may bubble over and result in the child taking it out on people around them.
Government and private sector, Lucie-Smith said, were not doing enough to address the problem of literacy. She said companies were generally less willing to improve lower level staff and would seek to get rid of those they discover who are illiterate.
“We get a lot of companies approaching us to do assessments of their workers’ literacy. They want to know who cannot read, but they are doing nothing to address the issue. We see it in the business community, and government. There is an unwillingness pervading society to address the problem,” she said.
Government, Lucie-Smith explained, provides skills training for persons who do not perform well academically, but neglects literacy. “Those students who go for training, if they cannot write their portfolios, have it done by their teachers who are masking the problem of literacy,” she said.
She added while illiteracy does not lead to a life of crime, it narrows the options of those struggling with literacy.