Details
Study title
Modernity and illiteracy: surveys in Switzerland and Geneva
Ref study 1549
Study language French
Contributing institutions
Authors
Keywords
  • Evaluation
  • Qualité de l'éducation
  • Adulte
  • Connaissances
  • Analphabétisme
  • Sociologie de l'éducation
  • Changement social
  • Niveau de connaissances
Disciplines
Period
Geographical space
Canton de Genève et Suisse
Country
  • Switzerland
Abstract
The aim of this study is to try to understand how it is possible that, in modern societies where the ability to read, write and calculate at least about correctly seems indispensable for living and working in a normal way, so many adults who have nevertheless attended school for years, often well beyond primary education, are so weak in these basic branches.
In this study on illiteracy two aspects are to be distinguished: lack of functional competence, lack of basic education. In both cases, it is a level of literacy or numeracy that is considered insufficient. The difference lies in the nature of the exercises used for the evaluation.
Functional competence and lack of functional competence refer to the results of exercises involving basic forms of reading, writing or arithmetic in the performance of quite common utilitarian tasks: counting change, consulting a telephone directory, filling out an order card, for example. Surveys 2 and 3 concern only the functional competence thus defined.
Basic instruction and lack of basic instruction refer to the results of exercises that target literacy or numeracy skills in themselves rather than in their application to practical tasks.
Two of the surveys used for this study took place in Geneva. The first (survey 1), quite detailed, covered a sample of 1401 respondents (population aged 20 and over, Swiss and foreign, from the canton of Geneva). The exercises used in this survey consist of reading simple texts and answering questions about their meaning and also doing some simple calculations (basic instruction). They are of a modest level, i.e. the capacities to read information intended for the general public, not to commit too many mistakes when using verbs forming part of a letter of a few lines written in quite common terms, to have an idea of what a percentage means, for example. It is basic education, primary education or something like that, and nothing more.
The second survey (survey 2) focuses on functional skills by focusing on two fractions of the sample interviewed in survey 1: on the one hand the 100 people whose performance in the exercises of the first survey are the least good, and on the other hand a sample of 100 people drawn from the rest of the sample of the first survey.
The third survey (survey 3) covered a representative sample of the Swiss population (population aged 15 and over, Swiss and foreign). It included only a small number of exercises, chosen on the basis of the results of the Geneva surveys. These few exercises seemed appropriate for estimating the order of magnitude of the proportion of cases of particularly marked illiteracy.
Results
Voici trois exemples de résultats: 90,9% des répondants ont su additionner 4 fr. 30 plus 2 fr. 85; 79,5% ont su trouver dans l'annuaire le numéro de téléphone d'une agence locale d'une banque et la noter (enquête suisse). Près de la moitié de la population genevoise titulaire d'un passeport suisse n'a pas réussi à comprendre un graphique simple illustrant les explications adressées par le Conseil fédéral aux électeurs et électrices (enquête genevoise).
Selon les résultats de ces enquêtes, les semi-illettrés – autour de 5% ou de 10% des adultes, ou plus encore suivant les critères utilisés – se recrutent en majorité hors des catégories sociales les plus nettemement défavorisées. La plupart sont des Suisses. Généralement, leur scolarité a été, d'après ce qu'ils disent, normale. A Genève, la moitié des répondants des degrés de performance inférieurs ne se souviennent pas d'avoir doublé à l'école obligatoire. La plupart de ces personnes estiment en outre n'avoir pas été des élèves particulièrement faibles.
Il n'y a toutefois pas que les illettrés et semi-illettrés qui ne lisent pas. Cela permet de supposer que, dans de nombreux milieux, il n'est pas trop difficile de se tirer d'affaire sans avoir à lire, écrire ou calculer, et ceci même lorsqu'il s'agit de faire face à des tâches dont l'accomplissement nécessiterait normalement la maîtrise de ces compétences.
Methods (description)
Tests, interviews (enquête suisse: N = 1041; enquêtes genevoises: (1): N = 1401 échantillon représentatif; (2) N = les 104 personnes au rendement le plus bas de l'enquête genevoise 1; groupe-contrôle de 100 personnes choisies parmi le reste de l'échantillon total.
Methods (instruments)
Publications
  • Girod, Roger; Sjollema, Frederik. 1992. Modernité et illettrisme: enquêtes (Suisse, Genève). In: Cahiers du Centre d'étude de la politique sociale, Réalités sociales, Lausanne, septembre 1992.
Financed by
Study type
Data availability
Source (Updates)
Date created 24.04.2018
Date modified 24.04.2018
Start - End date 01.01.1989 - 28.12.1991