As we work our way through the responses
to the National Literacy Action Agenda, we are finding that in general there
was overwhelming agreement with the principles, priorities and goals. However,
in some areas there was a range of views:
bother with a federal strategy? Many respondents were unclear about the
role of the federal government when education and training are under provincial
jurisdiction. (Please refer to the Influencing Change article pgs
Definitions. In a field that values words so highly it was no surprise
that a number of people highlighted the need to fully define literacy,
stakeholder and other terms. Some of you suggested that we follow the example
of European countries who do not use the word literacy at all since it implies
a deficit approach. Some comments on the language used in the Discussion Guide
and Workbook illustrated the difficulty of describing literacy issues and
challenges in a way that is clear to everyone.
Creating a system comparable to the K
-12 system. While there was overwhelming support for this goal, many
respondents mentioned that since there are so many flaws in the current K-12
model, our aim should be equal status for adult/lifelong learning rather than
imitating the K-12 system. Also highlighted was the need for flexible, learner
Providing a range of programs. Although there was strong support for
this principle and for respecting culture and language, many people feel that
it is not practical to provide literacy programs based on every learners
first language and culture. Anglophone, Francophone and Aboriginal literacy
programs were considered a priority at this time.
Developing literacy as a profession.
While many of you noted that this was a priority for gaining credibility and
advancing the overall cause of literacy, others expressed concerns that setting
training and/or certifications standards could create rigidity or exclude
competent people including many of the volunteers on whom we depend. The
message was that literacy workers must be involved in developing the standards
and systems of applying them. This is a field that values flexibility and
inclusion. It was also interesting to note how many literacy workers wear many
hats and perform more than one role. The categories we offered on the survey
didnt cover all of you!
Creating literacy goals and standards. Many people emphasized the need
to maintain the flexibility of literacy delivery while developing our
accountability and credibility. The concern was how to walk this fine line.
People were dubious about standards set by those who dont understand the
realities of literacy delivery, and standards that are not backed by the
support and infrastructure needed to meet them. Concerns were expressed about
who might set standards, how they would be applied and who might get left out
of the process (for example, volunteers, learners, experienced literacy workers
with few paper credentials).
Supporting literacy research. There were conflicting views on how and
how much to support literacy research. Some respondents indicated that enough
research and worthwhile models already exist so that the priority should be
disseminating information rather than creating new data. Others said that
research is needed to gather more solid and coherent data to make a credible
case for support. Many see a gulf between researchers and practitioners. Some
ranked research as the lowest priority since they fear it could take funding
away from actual delivery.
Developing partnerships. This was
generally seen as an important item with huge potential payoffs but respondents
raised concerns that it was too big a job to be undertaken at the level of
individual programs. The up-front effort was seen as a huge
investment of resources that literacy programs often dont have. More
information and examples are needed on how to build our allies and partners at
local, provincial and national levels.