CAD.20.010 – The fall and rise of literacy in the Netherlands

Route: Child and adolescent development, upbringing and education

Cluster question: 065 What should education be like in the future?

Literacy levels of Dutch high school students have dropped dramatically during the last decade. Currently, nearly 25% of 15-year old children do not reach minimum standards of literacy, and are unable to understand and reflect on even the simplest of texts. Low literacy levels may lead to poor academic achievement, school dropout, economic adversity and health problems. Poor literacy also impedes active participation in an open and democratic society — a society that relies on its citizens to, among other things, communicate and interact through (digital) text. This project aims to flip the current trend, and has at its goal increasing the literacy levels of Dutch students.
Literacy is a multi-faceted and dynamic construct. In order to achieve a change in literacy levels in the Netherlands, an interdisciplinary perspective on both the problem analysis (why is proficiency deteriorating?) as on possible interventions (how to improve literacy levels?) is necessary. Development and ultimate proficiency of literacy is influenced by different factors, such as home context (genetic traits; availability of books); school context (didactics; quality / quantity of teachers); type of text (complexity; genre; medium); type of skill (reading / writing); motivation to read/write; and linguistic factors (oral language development). In the current project, a multidisciplinary team of experts from cognition, linguistics, hermeneutics, didactics and pedagogy and experts working with the target population (e.g., teachers; librarians; publishers) will address these factors. We will perform a problem analysis (within an international context), based on which we will propose, test and implement sustainable solutions both within the family as in the school context in order to achieve a higher literacy proficiency in the Netherlands.


Education, literacy, society, youth

Other organisations

Leiden University (LEI), Stichting Lezen, Utrecht University (UU)


Organisation University of Amsterdam (Uva)
Name Prof. Dr. Judith Rispens