Tag Archives: USA

Literacy in the USA

children_learning-zbbjrxIt is undeniable that being literate is one of the most important things a person needs to achieve in order to have a normal existence. From everyday things such as reading food labels, medication information, or household bills to more complex tasks such as reading and comprehending books and more difficult texts,  reading enables a person to lead an independent and, hopefully, fulfilling life.

kids_working_togetherThe US Department of Education and National Center for Education Statistics differentiate between three types of literacy, “Prose literacy is the knowledge and skills needed to perform prose tasks (i.e., to search, comprehend, and use information from continuous texts, such as paragraphs from stories); document literacy is the knowledge and skills needed to perform document tasks (i.e., to search, comprehend, and use information from non-continuous texts in various formats, such as bills or prescription labels); and quantitative literacy is the knowledge and skills required to perform quantitative tasks (i.e., to identify and perform computations, either alone or sequentially, using numbers embedded in printed materials).” As such, according to their statistics dating from 2003, 22 percent of adults (those who are 16 or older) in the USA perform below basic in quantitative literacy, 14 percent of adults are below basic in prose literacy, and 12 percent in document literacy.

200449839-003The consequences of being illiterate or functionally illiterate are overwhelming. There is a very high correlation between illiteracy and poverty, possible imprisonment, teenage pregnancy, dropping out of high school, and unemployment. For example, proliteracy.org provides the following numbers: 43 % of those who are at low literacy level live in poverty, 75 percent of state prison inmates and 59 percent of federal prison inmates are functionally illiterate, teenage girls at low literacy are four times more likely to become pregnant, $230 billion are added to government budget in health costs because of low literacy, and $ 225 billion are lost annually due to unemployment and lost taxes because of people at low literacy level.

How does the USA compare to other world countries? Total world illiterate population constitutes 16 percent with women being two-thirds of those.  There are three major regions in the world with the lowest literacy scores: Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and West Asia. However, according to 2011 statistics, the USA was the only free-market OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) country where current generation was less well-educated than the previous one. Based on US literacy levels, the USA is outperformed by such countries as Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Canada and many others.

studying_Students_gendergapIn modern world where access to information, education, and knowledge determines future success of any person, illiteracy is simply not an option. Therefore, it is truly disturbing that a country with such potential and wealth as the USA still fails to provide decent level of education for many people. Not only education budgets are routinely cut across the states, but higher education is also becoming more and more prohibitive money-wise for those who want to pursue college education. It would be highly advisable to learn from the countries which excel at providing education for their populations.


Refugees and Their Plight

refugees 2The United States of America is one the most popular countries in the world for people looking for asylum. According to US Department of State, since 1975 the USA has accepted more than three million refugees from different parts of the world; and, as The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development statistics demonstrates, in 2012 out of total number of 449 420 asylum seekers into OECD countries and Russian Federation, 68 thousand people came to the USA (next three major OECD countries for refugees are Germany (64540), France (54940) and Sweden (43890)). Who can be considered a refugee?

refugees migrantsAccording to the 1951 Refugee Convention, a refugee is someone who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” As such, asylum seekers differ from refugees in their legal status, i.e. he or she can claim to be a refugee, but unless their claim is definitively evaluated by national asylum centers and they are granted official refugee status, an asylum seeker can be sent back to their home country. To further complicate things, in modern times millions of people choose to migrate in order to seek better opportunities for themselves and their families (for example, the so-called economic migrants), while refugees absolutely have to flee their home countries because of the fear of prosecution. As such, refugees and other types of migrants are subjects to different international and national laws.

In order for a person to receive a status of refugee, there are several steps which need to be undertaken. Usually, the first step is to register with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the country to where the person has fled, which evaluates the case and determines whether a person is eligible for a refugee status. Then, depending on the specifics of the case, a person is either settled in the country to which he or she fled, safely sent to a home country, or re-settled in the third country (for example, the USA). Each year, the US government sets a “refugee quota,” i.e. the number of refugees who will be allowed into the country each fiscal year (for the last few years, the number was set at 70 thousand people).  As such, each year the USA resettles the largest number of people who are eligible for resettlement into third countries worldwide. Of course, each refugee’s case is processed thoroughly by numerous governmental agencies and can take a long time. However, once a person is granted the right to resettle into the USA, there are many organizations which help him or her to successfully integrate and become contributing member of the American society.

refugees 1The United States has always been dedicated to help those who are forced to flee their native countries because of insurmountable obstacles and often are extremely vulnerable. As such, the USA is still the country where a person can start his or her life anew without a fear of prosecution.