Nipped in the Bud: Young Guyanese Adults and their Functional Literacy



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Education and Development Services


The young adults in this study were born in Guyana and went to school during a period of severe economic difficulties, which impacted negatively on the education system. This study examined the effect of this on the functional literacy of young people ages 14-25. Functional literacy was assessed by direct measurement using an objective test that included multiple-choice items. The instrument used assessed achievement in the three domains of literacy; 1) document literacy, which tested the ability to complete applications for passports, jobs, etc.; 2) prose literacy, which tested in reading comprehension and written communication; and 3) quantitative literacy, which tested the ability to do arithmetic calculation and mathematical problem-solving exercises. Of the sample of 4,634, which came from 4 of the 10 regions of Guyana considered to best represent the population as a whole, 60 percent had attended secondary school, a little over 20 percent had not gone beyond primary school, and the remainder had attended training college at the University of Guyana. A sub-sample of 1,433 persons was selected for doing urban-rural comparisons in achievement in functional literacy, and for more in-depth analysis of the relationship between functional literacy and educational attainment and employment status. It was found that: 1) the majority of young Guyanese adults (age 14-25) who were out of school were functionally illiterate; 2) although the secondary students achieved at a higher level of functional literacy than their peers who were out of school, they still did not have the skills required to perform efficiently in an increasingly complex and technological society; 3) young Guyanese adults, whether in or out of school, were deficient in written communication skills and weak in numeracy skills, especially with regard to the use of the metric system; 4) the achievement in functional literacy for young adults between the ages of 20-24 did not appear to be better than the 14-19 year olds; 5) the young adults with the lowest level of achievement in the functional literacy were those who attended primary schools with secondary departments and community high schools; 6) there were significant gender differences in achievement in functional literacy favouring young adult females.


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Functional literacy