Monday, November 21, 2005

More on the Literacy Stats

Hey folks - two pieces of interest today. First about the literacy stats and the need for material relevant and appropriate for adult learners and the fact that one needs to assist adults as well as children because when parents are more literate their children tend to be as well.

Second piece on Claudette Bradshaw (The Federal "Literacy Minister") and the national literacy strategy that should be coming at some stage... A second story about her, also in the Nov. 19 Moncton Times and Transcript, profiled her because she isn't running again.



PUBLICATION: The Fredericton Daily Gleaner
DATE: 2005.11.19

Educational texts not relevant to adult students

Almost half of all Canadians are undereducated and an internationally recognized educator says it's because educational materials are not relevant to students.

Tom Sticht, the first adult literacy specialist elected to the U.S. Reading Hall of Fame and recipient in 2003 of UNESCO's Mahatma Gandhi medal, addressed educators and students Friday at the St. Thomas University Conference Centre on Forest Hill Road.

Referring to Statistics Canada figures released last week, Sticht said 42 per cent of Canadians are undereducated.

"There's a discrepancy in the number of adults who need literacy education and the less than 10 per cent of those who realize they need more education," he said.

"There is little awareness on the part of undereducated adults for basic-needs education."

There are programs designed to address literacy needs, he said, but educational materials don't appear to be relevant to those being taught.

Sticht said he studied more than 100 years of academic research related to teaching. He said he found some educators who consider relevance and context.

"Professional wisdom provides support for functional context education," Sticht said.

That means there's enough supporting evidence to show literacy education has to be designed with a view to being relevant to students' lives.

"Lately there has been a tendency by educators to shift away from addressing the needs of the people with the lowest education level," he said. "People who are undereducated, including those who don't have a high school education, have been ignored."

Sticht said the focus has been put on people with high education levels.

"So the functional context has been torn apart," he said.

"We have to remember there are people with low levels of education, and when we design courses and programs, we have to make them relevant to real life rather than treating adult learners as children."

Sticht said the need for more education has never been greater.

"When they (adults) are educated that improves the chances that their children will pursue more education," he said.

Traditionally the problem of under-education has been tackled by improving programs in schools "but we've been ignoring their parents," he said.

Sticht said educators need to look at education in terms of a life-cycles perspective.

"If we ignore the lowest educated people then we will perpetuate existing problems," he said.

"We just have to start doing things differently if we want different results," said Jan Greer, executive director of the Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick.

Greer said Sticht pointed out the need to adopt a new mindset for educating the under-educated.

"We have to make learning materials a part of the goals of the learner," she said. "It has to be relevant."

Greer said the level of education directly impacts an individual or family's ability to work and acquire wealth.

"It's a matter of economy and productivity," she said.

Greer said in the past 10 years the literacy abilities of New Brunswickers in the post secondary education bracket diminished by four per cent.

"We should examine what we are doing and why it isn't working," she said.

There are 12 million Canadians with low literacy levels and 325,000 of them live in New Brunswick and are over the age of 16, Greer said.

She said the majority of them are unemployed, receiving social assistance benefits or earning low pay.

"There should be some shame in that," Greer said. "New Brunswick has the highest number of people with low literacy skills," she said. Newfoundland is next followed by Prince Edward Island.

With a low-literacy skill level of 40 per cent, Nova Scotia ranks lowest in Atlantic Canada and is also lower than the national average of 48 per cent of adults over the age of 16 with low-literacy skills.


PUBLICATION: The Moncton Times and Transcript
DATE: 2005.11.19
BYLINE: Jorge Barrera Times & Transcript staff

Poor literacy numbers, an old story says MP ; Claudette Bradshaw hopes to work to reverse province's low performance

Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe Liberal MP Claudette Bradshaw said she is not surprised by New Brunswick's weak literacy rates and is hoping to work with the province to reverse the trend.

Bradshaw, who is minister of state for literacy, said a national literacy strategy is currently being crafted, and needs the provinces onside to make it work.

But the dismal numbers have been around for years, she said.

"I have been in the business of community and non-profit organizations for 36 years and it doesn't surprise me at all. We have to go out now and the numbers are there and we have to work with these numbers," said Bradshaw.

According to Statistics Canada, 56 per cent of people in New Brunswick over 16 years-of-age have sub-par reading levels. Bradshaw said she has received data that shows 62 per cent of English-speakers in the province have reading problems and 58 per cent of French-speakers have sub-par literacy skills.

There needs to be more data, however, to adequately gauge the situation on the ground, said Bradshaw. There are no numbers to measure how many people have a Grade 12 education but an elementary school reading level or how many people in New Brunswick suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effect.

Bradshaw said the literacy file has put her in familiar terrain.

"What I have been doing is near to my heart. Literacy is my people," said Bradshaw, who recently met famed Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Demers, who admitted he could neither read nor write.


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