A new hotline in Switzerland offers advice to people lacking basic literacy skills and provides further education options in the digital age.
The figures are surprising: almost 800,000 adults in Switzerland, around 14% of the working-age population, have problems moving past the basic functions of literacy. This is according to the Swiss Federation for Reading and Writingexternal link, which launched the hotline campaign on Wednesday, in coordination with the Inter-cantonal Conference on Continuing Education.
The number, 0800 47 47 47, is free throughout the country and offers advice tailored to callers’ specific situation. Counsellors will direct them towards further education courses in their region.
The campaign, entitled “Simply Betterexternal link”, aims to raise awareness about the importance of further education in a digital age in which rapid comprehension is increasingly important.
It follows the cabinet decision in April that the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) implement a programme by November 2017 to reinforce “basic competencies”. The hotline is part of this and is financed by SERI.
Illiteracy sits on a broad spectrum and is not a blanket inability to read or write. According to the Swiss Federation for Reading and Writing, it is measured according to a table of competence indicators, from level 1 (the ability to read basic information presented free of distractions) to level 5 (pulling specific information from dense, complex texts, as well as comparing texts).
While levels of school completion are high in Switzerland, causes of illiteracy can include health issues, family problems or issues specific to an individual (concentration troubles, learning difficulties).
Illiteracy also increases with age, either as a result of poorer levels of schooling in the past, or indeed the forgetting of under-used basic skills.
The federation said the numbers of Swiss reaching only level one or two were surprising across the board. However, most people concerned were employed in the agriculture, fishing, industrial or construction industries.
swissinfo.ch with agencies/dos