The finding that mothers' education may lead to higher aspirations for and education of girls is significant because of recent research on education, gender and economic developments This cross-national research in 96 countries "found clear evidence that in less-developed countries, especially some of the poorest, educational expansion among school-age girls at the primary level has a stronger effect on long-term economic prosperity than does educational expansion among school-age boys." All of these positive effects of women's education offer compelling arguments for greatly expanding efforts to include women in literacy and adult education programs.
GOALS 2000: The Educate America Act and Adult Literacy Education
In most industrialized nations adult literacy education is a marginalized, underfunded and poorly appreciated component of national education activities. However, data presented above argues for a more centralized role for adult literacy education in national education reform activities. The following shows how adult literacy education is related to the eight national education goals of the Goals 2000 legislation in the United States.
Goal 6 of the National Education Goals listed in the GOALS 2000 legislation is called "Adult Literacy and Lifelong Learning." It states that every American will be literate and will possess the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in a global economy and exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. While Goal 6 is the only goal that focuses directly upon adults, most of the other seven goals also rest largely upon success in achieving Goal 6 if they are to be achieved.
Goal 1, "School Readiness", calls for all children in America to start school ready to learn. This places direct responsibility upon youth and adults, both parents and parents to-be to provide proper planning for the conception of children, the prenatal care of babies, and the post-natal, preschool care and stimulation that produces children with the oral language skills and experience with literate environments that will prepare them to enter the culture of the school ready to learn. Under-educated youth and adults whose literacy skills are low will likely find it difficult to contribute to the achievement of Goal 1 unless they achieve Goal 6 - literacy.
Goal 2 calls for the high school graduation rate to increase to a least 90 percent, while Goals 3 and 5 call for greater achievement in learning by students across the grades, with an emphasis upon science and mathematics. Goal 8 calls for greater parental participation in promoting the social, emotional, and academic growth of children.
All these goals presuppose, in the general case, the literate youth and adults called for in Goal 6. The recognition that the education of youth and adults is not an incidental, marginal activity, but rather the key to accomplishing the remaining education goals offers a challenge for adult literacy education in the new millennium. It places great responsibility upon policymakers to increase their attention and resources to create a system of adult literacy education that is not a marginalized, piecemeal collection of services but is rather an integral component of the educational commitment of the nation. It places further responsibility upon adult literacy educators to develop effective programs that produce demonstrable, sustainable, useful gains in literacy and a commitment by adult students to continue their learning beyond the classroom walls.