Update

Hi there tout la gang,

We don't have much to say about research in practice at the Café right now

but we are talking policy and practice over here now: Literacy Enquirers.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

who benefits?

In a few weeks I will be in Belfast at the annual conference of Research and Practice in Adult Literacy (RaPAL). I've been pondering how to convey the realities of literacy work on this side of the Atlantic.

I've also been reading Valuing Literacy: Rhetoric or Reality (Detselig, 2006). This book reports on research by Veeman, Ward and Walker comparing adult literacy in Canada and Sweden. I like the succinct summary included in their conclusion:
In Canada, adult literacy is an individual rather than a community problem and it is dealt with as a charitable cause. There is no universal publicly-funded system of adult basic education to provide compensatory education for adults in any jurisdiction. Instead, undereducated adults must avail themselves of a patchwork of volunteer programs or projects offered by community-based organizations. There is no reliable schedule of adult learning opportunities, nor do all Canadians have access to funding for study at the basic level. The charity nature of literacy and the name literacy itself are disincentives – and often a disservice – to adults who might lack self-confidence or need special help in addressing learning needs. (p.102)

The aim of the research was to explore why Canada and Sweden fared so differently in the OECD's 1994 International Adult Literacy Survey, which found that "adult literacy levels in Scandinavia were significantly higher than those in English-speaking countries." What did the researchers conclude?

The social democratic approach of Northern Europe sees adult education as a public investment that helps raise the educational level of the whole society for the benefit of all. This is in contrast to the economic and social policies of Anglophone countries, where the emphasis has been on sustaining meritocracy rather than on producing social equity. Literacy in countries such as Canada is seen as the individual’s problem to be solved, and the rampant individualism that has damaged trust, fairness, and social bonds has not served to raise literacy levels. (p. 105)

I've often thought that adult literacy programs in the UK had enviable levels of infrastructure and sustained support. At RaPAL I'm sure I'll learn more about how conditions in Ireland, England and Scotland might be similar to Canada. I'll use this space to share what I learn!

8 comments:

mmoriarty said...

It's good to know that the real story of literacy in Canada will be told at RaPAL - hope you like Belfast - it's quite an amazing place - maybe you'll have time to get to Dublin - another amazing place - my home town. Thought you might be interested in seeing how literacy is described and how the rationale for paid learning leave was presented by the National Adult Literacy Agency in Ireland during the recent general election. Here's a link that worth looking at.
(if it doesn't work just go to http://www.nala.ie)

http://www.nala.ie/press/pressreleases/20070521141951.html

literacies editor said...

Thanks for the excellent link, Maria!

Nancy said...

Hi Tannis,

Last Fall we at AlphaPlus received a request from Fergus Nolan from NALA, the National Adult Literacy Agency in Ireland. Fergus was and a I quote from his email "trying to get into contact with someone who has expertise on "hard to reach learners - how to get them into the adult literacy service". We are hosting a forum for adult literacy organisers in Ireland in late March 07 and we are considering this as a theme for the event. If you know of anyone who has done research or spoken on this subject, could you pass me their details on to me please."

"By hard to reach I mean, people who may be in need of literacy tuition, but they aren't going to their local scheme for help. We're not sure why they're not attending - maybe it's because they don't know about the existence of the local literacy scheme or perhaps they've heard of it, but because they haven't met anyone from the scheme, they feel it would be something like school, so they don't approach."

"You may be interested in our new TV programme 'The really useful guide to words and numbers'. Click on http://www.rug.ie/ It's on national television (RTE 1, the main national channel - it's the 6th year of the programme - used to be called 'Read Write Now') here in Ireland and there's a learner support book/pack to go with the programme, plus 5 tutors to take calls on a free-phone number and explain points to learners/answer questions."

"Also, you might be interested in our adult literacy learning and tuition website 'Literacytools' - click on http://www.literacytools.ie/

Both the 'The really useful guide to words and numbers' and 'Literacytools' are for independent learners."

We sent Fergus information about the Ontario Distance Delivery Pilots research coordinated by Matthias Sturm and conducted by Paul Porter. http://distance.alphaplus.ca/

Perhaps you'll run into Fergus and learn more about the forum they had in March on this topic.

Have a great time in Ireland!

Nancy

Wendell said...

"I've been pondering how to convey the realities of literacy work on this side of the Atlantic."

I thought "Chapter 3 The State of the Field" in Horsman & Woodrow's Focused On Practice (2006) provided a nicely up-to-date picture of some of the challenges and priorities. My personal favourite description of adult literacy in Canada comes from HRDC's 2000 report on Adult Literacy: Policies, Programs and Practices (SP-AH113E-03-00). There read that we as a field know what works, but "conditions do not always exist to allow that to happen consistently or systematically."

literacies editor said...

Hi Wendell

Yes, I was hoping to take copies of Focused on Practice across the pond with me...if they arrive in time! The information in the chapter you mentioned gives great details about exactly what the conditions are! I think that information is so vital that the next issue of Literacies is going to include excerpts from, or a synopsis of, chapter 3...

By the way, thanks for the formatting in your message. I'm very new to blogging, and this message is the first time I've used HTML tags!

literacies editor said...

Well, the HTML didn't work.

I get the message that the tag is not closed, yet I have put the < > brackets on either side of the i, and the tag on either side of the word, with and without spaces. Hmmm.

literacies publisher said...

Hi there Tannis,

Are you trying to italicize something?

The tags should look like this:
< i > italicize < / i >

with no spaces of course.

T

literacies editor said...

Oh, thanks. Yes, I was trying to italicize...and the note in the "Leave your comment" box told me I could use some HTML tags, but not HOW to do so.

I thought it would work to just put the i in brackets before and after the word.

Thanks for the asynchronous online tutorial!

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