Literacy is a very broad and far-reaching topic, the importance in the field of education of which can never be underestimated. Literacy can be categorized into many different areas, although it has two general models: basic literacy and functional literacy. Basic literacy, as the name implies, refers to the basic skills of reading and writing, although it could also refer to knowledge and learning in other skills, thereby bringing about terms such as mathematical literacy, linguistic literacy, musical literacy and artistic literacy. Functional literacy, on the other hand, refers to higher order skills such as being critical and analytical to information that you gather from your basic literacy skills. Another critical factor of functional literacy is how it enables learners to develop their potential and to function well and contribute to their society.
How literacy is categorized is a very important factor in education assessment, particularly in the assessment of the effectiveness of the mode and method of education. Whereas before, students were assessed only in terms of their basic literacy skills (hence many countries would have very high “literacy” ratings even though they experience negative development and economic growth), there are calls for literacy assessment more in terms of functional literacy, in order to give a better picture of how learners are able to use their literacy in terms that are rooted in their ways of life, and which could in fact bring about an improvement in how they live.
Which goes to looking at the importance of basic and functional literacy assessment in the classroom. There are two perspectives of this education assessment: one is at the side of the learners, and the other is at the side of the methods of education itself.
The methods and delivery of assessment would depend on many factors such as the size of the group being tested, the level (elementary or high school, etc), and the particular skills being tested (linguistic, mathematical, scientific or physical). The most popular forms of literacy assessment would be standardized testing methods, especially for large groups of learners.
What would be the elements that a well-constructed education assessment bring into light? One of these would be whether the methods of teaching are indeed effective in bringing about learning. Another is whether the teaching done can be considered formative teaching and a promoter of formative education; that is, the daily lessons being undertaken are cumulative and whether they adequately prepare the students to meet the learning goals for the quarter, semester or year. Also, assessment of literacy in education would also serve to assess teacher performance, since of course how the teacher facilitates the classroom activities and delivers the lessons would be a major factor in her students’ performance.
Apart from the more obvious performance-based, classroom competency reasons that literacy assessment should be conducted in education, there are more latent and underlying elements that should also be taken into consideration. Is literacy being taught in the classroom truly functional, or does it only entail mere rote memorization that inhibit a learner’s creativity and analytical thinking skills? Is it relevant to the culture and the society of the learner, or is it so far removed from their reality that they are only being taught literacy skills for the sake of them receiving their diplomas? Literacy must be constantly assessed to see whether it truly is a tool towards the development of the society where it is being taught, and whether it is relevant and meaningful to the learners’ lives.