Audio: 40 per cent of adults struggle with reading. Adult Literacy Auckland manager Pete Davis talks to Chris Lynch.

People slipping through the cracks of the education system are being blamed for a high level of illiteracy in adults.

Surveys by the Book Council have found 40 percent of Kiwi adults can’t read at a day-to-day functioning level, including understanding instruction manuals and bills.

Adult Literacy Auckland manager Pete Davis told Chris Lynch the organisation is having to cope with adults aged between 25 and about 60.

“And if you look at when they went to school, something has happened. Either they weren’t in tune with school, or school just didn’t work for them or some other thing happened.”

The news is not a surprise to the Employers and Manufactuers Association.

CEO Kim Campbell told ZB that employers often have come across employees who have been good workers for many years, who are suddenly not up to the job because they’re functionally illiterate.

“Typically we will invite them to do night school courses. Some jobs you just can’t stay. If your in pharmaceuticals for instance, and aviation and so on, you just can’t continue to work in those places unless you have a high level of of comprehension.”


Source: Newstalk ZB


  1. Or, it could be that adults have not used these skills for years. We all know what happens when skills aren’t used.
    Victim blaming you may say. No, just the experience of a teacher who watches the literacy skill loss over the summer holidays in current students.

    • Certainly as a teacher, you would know that reading, like riding a bicycle is a fundamental skill – not one to be ‘forgotten through disuse’. Besides, to say that as adults we do not read enough to remember how to do it is absurd!
      No, I’m afraid that apparently, up to 40 percent of the population is falling through the cracks – apparently, one can assume, from a lack of diligence by their instructors and a system that refuses to reform an outdated educational philosophy.

      • Agreed, sounds absurd. But so would be the assertion that up to 40% of students leaving our primary or secondary schools have little or no literacy. In our family of teachers we agree that few if any students cannot read or write as they leave these institutions. So the only explanation left is that these skills rust. Agree also that our educative process need change. What sort of change is the debate.


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