It is important to re-emphasize that the discussion paper is a starting point on the dialogue looking at connections between literacy and ESL, not an end point. The limited time frame and funds available for this paper influenced where to focus, who and how many key informants to interview, and what to include in the discussion paper.
Overall, there were very few research reports that addressed the complexities of the connections between literacy and ESL. Most of the reports found and reviewed focused on programs in ESL. Very little was found on connections between settlement issues of immigrants and refugees and having low literacy in one’s first language. In addition, the literature reviewed did not tend to make distinctions between the needs of immigrants and refugees.
We were not able to make the connections with key informants in the settlement sector that we had hoped for. The lack of perspectives from the settlement sector is an identified gap in the discussion paper.
Overall, there has been very little Canadian research on connections between literacy and ESL in the last decade.4 However, there are several recent research reports. Most of the recent research has been conducted in Ontario and focuses on literacy as it relates to English as a Second Language (ESL) programs.
Feedback from key informants shows that immigrants learn literacy in both ESL programs, and literacy and ABE programs. However, there is little formal knowledge on the demographics of who ESL literacy learners are and why they end up in certain kinds of programs.
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4 The 2005 State of the Field Review: Adult Literacy sponsored by the Adult Learning Knowledge Centre, Canadian Council on Learning found that that was an absence of research on second language speakers with literacy challenges in their own language. The report identified this lack of knowledge as a serious gap in the knowledge base. See http://www.nald.ca/library/research/sotfr/adultlit/adultlit.pdf