The aim of this project has been to pull together what has been learned about building accountability systems in adult literacy in British Columbia, Ontario and Scotland. Hopefully, some of the description and insights will be useful to people working in these and other jurisdictions. The findings collate the information from interviews, documentary review, previous research, and informal commentary by people involved in the field.
The findings are presented in three sections, dealing with systemic issues, how accountability mechanisms should be designed, and working with data. Wherever possible the findings reflect experience in all three jurisdictions and are selected to represent common concerns.
These issues are top level concerns, to do with the way accountability could be conceptualized and implemented.
Adult literacy education often has a huge number of expectations attached to it, such as engaging marginalized groups in education, providing language instruction to people who have moved beyond English as a Second Language, finding work for participants, or community development. It is not feasible for any one program to meet all of these outcomes. While adult literacy programs may well be a gateway to many of these outcomes, they should not be held responsible for them.
The exact outcome of literacy programs will tend to be contextual. For some programs in some sites it may be largely about employment, in others it may be educational engagement. Nonetheless, there is a need for clearly negotiated outcomes between funders and programs, including a degree of reciprocity to ensure that programs have the resources they need to fulfill the expectations.
Since the development of outcomes based management in the public sector, any program that lacks a clear rationale and a well developed logic model is in a vulnerable position. At the same time, it is important not to over-claim what literacy education can achieve. There is a need for a balanced approach to literacy programs that sets out a realistic set of goals and the ways those goals can be demonstrated to have been attained.