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Programme Director: Multi-faceted literacy

18 May 2022

During the last few days, there has been discussion in media about literacy and its multiplicity (e.g. Ahola, Helsingin Sanomat 16 Jan 2022). The discussion highlights both literacy as an essential and fundamental pillar of civilisation and the concerns about reducing reading and literacy, especially among children and young people.

The Finnish national literacy strategy aimed for 2030, was published in November 2021 (Finnish National Agency for Education, 2021). The strategy describes the actions that should be taken in Finland to strengthen literacy. It examines literacy through the term multi-literacy, which is an umbrella term that includes different forms and definitions of literacy. The term is also used in the Finnish national core curriculum for basic education (Finnish National Agency for Education, 2014). Multi-literacy means the ability to acquire, combine, rework, produce, present and evaluate information in the many forms, environments and situations it takes, with the help of different tools. The idea is that all literacies from traditional literacy that covers the ability to read and write to the so-called new literacies (such as media, digital and data literacy) are equally valuable and necessary. The literacy strategy envisions Finland as a society where the importance of literacy is widely recognised in all sectors and where literacy is strengthened throughout life.

Information literacy is also at the centre of the SRC programme Information literacy and evidence-informed decision-making (LITERACY, 2020–2026). Information literacy refers to the skills and methods used to process information. The increasing amount, fragmentation and multiplicity of information are challenging the skills and methods used in receiving and absorbing as well as processing and using information.

The LITERACY programme approaches information literacy from multiple perspectives

The aim of the LITERACY programme is to find solutions for using information critically and constructively to support decision-making and action, both individually and on a societal level, which is why the projects collaborate closely with stakeholders and end-users.

The CRITICAL project explores the development of critical literacies among young people and the factors that influence literacy skills, and develops technological and social innovations that can support skills used in critical reading. The FINSCI project researches and increases the Finnish science capital by developing new methods that improve scientific literacy and inclusion in science. The DATALIT project develops practices and tools to utilize Finnish social, health and wellbeing data and to promote data literacy. The PROSHADE project studies literacy in public health care and develops practices to strengthen patient agency and to utilize information produced by patients in decision-making. The SILE project aims to promote responsible legislation that acknowledges silent actors: those, who are not included in the drafting of legislation that concerns them and who have limited means to participate in producing the information used in the drafting.

The LITERACY programme has been limited by the Covid pandemic from the start, which has naturally made it difficult to get the projects started, especially with regard to data collection. Now, the situation seems brighter. During this year, the projects will publish several research results that we can use, among other things, to influence reaching the goals of the literacy strategy. In addition to research publications, the projects will present their solutions to literacy challenges and other problems of societal importance in the digital Solution Cards on the Solutions from Science service.

As the programme director of the LITERACY programme I have actively promoted the programme and its research for the representatives of the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Finnish National Agency for Education and different political parties whenever the opportunity has arisen. In December 2021, during Finland's largest digital education and learning event, the public and the main speaker, Minister of Education Andersson, familiarised themselves with the LITERACY programme and the Solutions from Science service.

The projects in the LITERACY programme are directly connected to the information and the information end-users, the citizens. That is why I hope that both individual citizens and organisations will contact the actors in the programme and become involved in interesting research projects and in the utilization of research-based knowledge. Information literacy is an essential requirement to becoming an active citizen and taking part in our society.

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