An international dilemma: illiteracy

DESPITE the billions of dollars expended by governments, international agencies and philanthropic benefactors in support of aid-related programmes annually, hundreds of millions of people across the globe are eking out lives reeked with poverty, disease and despair.

The causes are myriad, but the overall outcome is the same – sheer misery and hopelessness.

While the individual consequences vary in their impact and intensity, there is one common, universal problem, that, if addressed nationally and internationally, could at least partly alleviate many of the other issues. That common problem is illiteracy.

There are almost 900mil illiterate adults in the world. Nearly 600mil are believed to be women. The evidence is irrefutable that in the 21st century, illiteracy has reached “epidemic” proportions globally.

Added to this frightening situation is the fact that illiteracy is a major contributor, not just to poverty and unemployment, but also to child labour, trafficking in women and children, infant mortality, the spread of diseases such as HIV/Aids and the deprivation of basic human rights.

Every nation, regardless of its economic status, has an illiteracy problem — one that ranges from being a major social issue to a plague-like situation that, year by year, remains neither contained nor abated.

Solution at hand

While the task of alleviating global illiteracy appears insurmountable, there is today a solution that other generations have not had.

In this new millennium, English has become the “international” language.

It is now the most globally used language medium in commerce, trade, industry, employment, communications, media, politics, tourism, education, law, and international relations.

Today, the English language is a ‘passport’ to employment nationally and internationally.

It is the magnet that attracts foreign investment into developing countries and is often the local job-creator in factories, on construction sites, in information technology (IT) centres, tourist resorts and hotels.

As the “new” global language, English has the capacity to be a major, if not the most crucial weapon the world has ever had to break the poverty chains that bind millions.

However, the prerequisite is that the methodology used to impart these vital language skills be appropriate to the needs of the new millennium, and not the failed methods that have resulted in millions of casualties in education systems globally over the last six decades.

Lives totally changed

As director of the International Language Academy (ILA), I have travelled to many parts of the world, particularly across the South Pacific region.

I have also travelled throughout South-East Asia, and to far-off places like inner Mongolia, and even to hard-to-reach areas such as the Pacific island nation of Nauru.

My personal objective has been to train teachers, tutors, trainers – and sometimes, parents – to effectively use the accelerated English learning methodology I created called the 4S Approach To Literacy And Language that is now used in minor and major ways in 26 countries.

The 4S stands for Symbols, Sounds, Sight and Self. They are the four main components or elements in a majority of language programmes.

Its methodology is a “bridge” between the traditional phonic systems and the Whole-Word – Look and Say methods.

Repeatedly, I have seen the lives of individuals totally changed through the acquisition of English language skills in just a matter of months. I have witnessed what proficiency in the language can achieve.

Those who work at the coal-face of poverty know the truth of my assertion.

In places like the squalid Kibera slum in Kenya, in the Karen refugee camps on the Thailand border, in the no-go areas of Dhaka in Bangladesh, there is one key that can open the door to a new life.

That is the ability to speak English well.

Language identity

While it is important for every nation to retain its national language identity, decision makers are realising that in this modern world, a nation’s long-term economic strength depends not just on its natural resources or its industrial might, but on the English literacy level of its people.

Why? Because the literacy level of the people rates as a crucial measure of a country’s human capital.

Combating illiteracy therefore is not just a social and educational imperative, it is also an economic must.

Over the next three months, thanks to the vision and initiative of The Star, I shall be presenting to the people of Malaysia proven techniques and tools that will quickly lift the bar in their personal English language skills.

I would encourage teachers, tutors, trainers, and parents — in fact, all who appreciate the importance of English as this nation’s second language — to personally master the language skills tools provided in the next few weeks.

This group of people shall then pass on the skills to their students, their friends and their family, and thus play their part in making Malaysia a prominent “secondary” English speaking country.

by  Keith W. Wright, the author and creator of the 4S Approach To Literacy and Language (4S) — a modern, innovative and proven method of accelerating the learning of English.

The 4S methodology and the associated Accelerated English Program (AEP) are now being used internationally to enhance the English language proficiency of people from a diverse range of cultures and with different competency levels.

As the head of the Australian International Language Academy and sole proprietor of Outreach Publications Pty. Ltd., he has authored more than 30 publications and developed and created 16 literacy, language, and grammar related courses.

for your free copy of the 4S chart, The 26 Symbols Of The English Alphabet.

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