In the Anglo-American area the terms "Literacy/Illiteracy" and "Numeracy/Innumeracy" are used in connection with "Basic Skills". "Literacy" is translated into German as "die Fähigkeit zu lesen und zu schreiben" ("the ability to read and write") or "Alphabetismus", "Illiteracy" means "Analphabetismus".
The term "Analphabetismus" has a negative connotation, as it refers to the deficiency of an individual. It appears to be antiquated, since it is not a current subject of public consciousness. It is, however, used in different programmes and projects. "Analphabetismus" is mostly used in combination with the adjectives "primary", "secondary" or "functional":
Primary illiteracy: Although the individual is provided with knowledge of single letters, he/she is neither able to write or read a text of some simple kind nor to operate with basic arithmetics.
Secondary illiteracy: Basic knowledge was acquired at school but forgotten due to avoidance strategies. This implicates that school education provided the individual with the necessary basics. The question arises, however, whether these basics were also sufficiently stabilized.
Functional illiteracy: The individual’s knowledge does not enable him/her to handle literary or arithmetical issues independently in everyday private or job life. Using this internationally acknowledged term we bring individual knowledge in relation to prevailing demands of society and deal with a person’s ability to function and take part in social life as a responsible citizen.
Talking about "basic qualifications" we mean the abilities of reading, writing and arithmetics.
The "Österreichischer Länderbericht" ("Austrian federal states report") on the "Memorandum für Lebenslanges Lernen" ("memorandum for lifelong learning") of the European Commission (July 2001) is about "old" basic qualifications: reading, writing, arithmetics; and "new" basic qualifications: IT-skills, foreign languages, technological culture, spirit of enterprise and social skills.
"New Basic Qualifications" are defined as competencies that enable people to take part actively in a society and economy that is based on knowledge – be it in the job market, at their place of work, in real and virtual communities and in democracy as such.
In connection with lifelong learning, the development towards a society determined by service and knowledge in the age of information we define "Basic Skills" for Austria (in conformity with the Austrian federal states report) as follows: reading, writing, arithmetic, IT-skills, foreign languages, technological culture, social skills and spirit of enterprise.
The German terms for basic skills vary: Basisbildung and Basisqualifikation are just two examples. The terms ‘literacy/illiteracy’ and ‘numeracy/innumeracy’ are used in connection with ‘basic skills’. ‘Literacy’ is translated into German as die Fähigkeit zu lesen und zu schreiben, (‘the ability to read and write’) or Alphabetismus. ‘Illiteracy’ means Analphabetismus.
The term Analphabetismus has a negative connotation, as it suggests a deficiency in the individual. It is, however, used in different programmes and projects. Analphabetismus is mostly used in combination with the adjectives ‘primary’, ‘secondary’ or ‘functional’:
Primary illiteracy:Although the individual is provided with knowledge of single letters, he/she is neither able to read or write a piece of simple text, nor to work with basic arithmetic.
Secondary illiteracy: Basic knowledge was acquired at school but forgotten due to avoidance strategies. This suggests that school education provided the individual with the necessary basics although these basics may not have been sufficiently stabilised.
Functional illiteracy: The individual’s knowledge does not enable him/her to handle literary or mathematical issues independently in everyday private or work life. Using this internationally acknowledged term we can compare an individual’s knowledge with the prevailing demands of society and assess a person’s ability to function and take part in social life as a responsible citizen.
‘Basic qualifications’ means the abilities of reading, writing and arithmetics.
The Memorandum für Lebenslanges Lernen, (Memorandum for Lifelong Learning, March 2000), broadens the definition as follows:
New Basic Qualifications are defined as competencies that enable people to take part actively in a society and economy that is based on knowledge – be it in the job market, at their workplace, in real and virtual communities or in any given democratic society.
Basic skills are those core skills which guarantee favourable conditions for any individual to attain personal well-being, active citizenship, and social, cultural and professional integration.
Around those skills, comprising language skills (oral communication, reading, writing), numeracy and reasoning skills (logical reasoning, spatial / temporal orientation, learning capacity…) other basic skills have become increasingly important as society evolves. We could take the example of IT skills, foreign languages, technological know-how, confidence in one’s own capacities and social skills.
Foremost amongst today’s concerns is the capacity to communicate, work in a team and solve problems.
In Italy the general and adopted definition of basic skills comes from ISFOL.
They are "competences mutually acknowledged as new rights of citizenship in the labour market, which are basic requirements for employment and professional development (e.g. Basic Informatics, Foreign Languages, Economy, Organization, Law, etc.)."
Italy is participating in the Education and Training 2010 work programme to develop further work and a range of activities concerning the measurements of adult skills and competences leading to the construction of the appropriate indicators in the basic skills area.
According to the definition set by the UNESCO functional illiterate can not act efficiently when continuous use of reading, writing and counting is needed. According to the definition set by the European Parliament functional illiterate is not able to do the basic operation of reading, writing and counting and as a result he/she is not able to integrate into the society as an equal part of it. According to the definition of functional illiterate, which is mostly accepted in Spain, the acquired skill for reading and writing is less and less enough for receiving and sending new information, for acquiring, adapting and handling new knowledge, furthermore for interactive communication.
Life-long learning is also extremely important. A well-developed and efficient adult education system is significant, which should be able to harmonize the labour market demands and the adult training supply.
Unlike most other European countries, where there is no common definition of basic skills and attention is still focused on basic skills in a very narrow sense, in the UK there is a much broader definition. The longstanding working definition of basic skills in England and Wales is described as ‘the ability to read, write and speak English/Welsh and use mathematics at a level necessary to function and progress at work and in society in general’.
Basic skills- there is no common definition and concept of basic skills in Latvia. Initially basic skills were defined as the ability to read, write and speak one’s native language as well as an appropriate level of numeracy skills in order to be able to perform adequate action of full value at work and in the society.
Different institutions and organizations usually add to the list of basic skills also the new basic skills included in the Lisbon European Council conclusions: IT skills, foreign languages, technology culture, entrepreneurship and social skills.
Statistical data do not detect functional illiteracy. During the research for this project, representatives of the Ministry of Education stated: "Illiteracy does not exist in our country".