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.

Friday, October 3, 2008

debating literacy - not so much

Well, did everybody survive the debates last night? Whew!

At about 9:30, literacy and the cuts to literacy programs finally got a mention from Elizabeth May in a discussion of cuts to the arts. Stephen Harper responded that the program that was cut was not a program that taught people to read. And that was it.

They may not have wanted to talk about it last night but, as a reminder, here is what was cut:

The Adult Learning, Literacy and Essential Skills Program (ALLESP) [now Office of Learning and Essential Skills: OLES] is funded by Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC). It is a program that assists not only adult learners throughout the country, but teachers and tutors as well, in the form of training, professional development, curriculum development, research and knowledge exchange on best teaching practices. The network of literacy and learning coalitions that have been built up around this funding has enabled thousands of adults in [Canada] to continue their education by upgrading their reading and writing skills. Many literacy organizations help those from marginalized backgrounds, such as single mothers, underemployed individuals, persons on social assistance, immigrants and Aboriginal people.

As part of the $1 billion Conservative program cuts, local and regional literacy organizations that conduct capacity building initiatives, research and knowledge exchange, and promotion and awareness work will now stand to lose their HRSDC funding – a total of $17.7 million dollars over the next two years ($5.8 million in 2006-2007, and $11.92 million in 2007-2008). Although proposals have already been submitted, no funds will be allocated to current applicants of the 2006 ALLESP local and regional call for proposals. This local and regional stream of the ALLESP has been cancelled.

The government has designated the literacy cut under the heading of “Value for Money”, that is to say, “funding for third parties to further their interests or programs that are not effective, do not achieve results or are being refocused or targeted for improvement.” HRSDC plans to instead focus on its national ALLESP funding stream.

Since literacy falls into the category of education, many direct service agencies running literacy programs receive provincial funds from bodies such as the [provincial ministries] or school boards, and therefore may not see any funding cuts to their programs. This provincial money is often exhausted by agencies to provide the bare necessities in order for the program to run, such as providing a physical space, teaching materials, and instructors. However, the mounting fear is that these cuts will harm quality of service and the ability for adult learners to effectively take part in literacy programs, as those who will be hardest hit are literacy networks and coalitions. These coalitions play a substantial role in supporting direct service agencies, by providing essential services such as training for tutors and teachers, developing resource and learning materials, program development, advocacy, and research. Direct service agencies often do not have the proper resources to perform these fundamental tasks and therefore depend on coalitions for this assistance.

Because Canada is behind other industrialized nations by not having a national literacy strategy, the coalitions and networks have been acting as the string holding together Canada’s patchwork of literacy programs and services. The funding provided by HRSDC has greatly contributed to building a strong network of agencies and coalitions to help support adult learners in developing their literacy skills. The cut in funding will only erode this support network, therein isolating service providers and practitioners in our communities, hindering both knowledge exchange and the promotion of literacy in Canada.
from Faces of the Cuts: The Impact of Federal Program Cuts on Communities in Toronto - An Early Look at Selected Areas Slated for Funding Cuts Forum Convened by Community Social Planning Council of Toronto

Just to let certain political leaders know, even if you are not talking about literacy, funding for literacy teaching, research and development and literacy policy in Canada, WE are. And if your own numbers are correct and "4 out of 10 adult Canadians have low literacy levels" - that is a lot of votes.

1 comment:

Brigid Hayes said...

Since none of the NLS/OLES money ever goes to the direct delivery of literacy programs, Mr. Harper's comment made no sense at all - or perhaps it was a harbinger of things to come - will he cut what's left?

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