Literacy and English language instruction are quite separate policy jurisdictions. Adult literacy is an educational issue and constitutionally falls under the jurisdiction of provincial and territorial governments. On the other hand, language training is federal and falls under the control of the federal government through Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). At the same time, provinces may provide language instruction with funding from the federal government through institutions such as school boards.
Canada’s adult learning policy environment is complex with diverse provincial and territorial policies and provision across Canada. Different ministries take the lead in different provinces and territories. In some cases, there may be more than one ministry involved. In addition, the federal government has a long-standing involvement in various aspects of adult education. In practice, adult education is supported by both provincial and federal funds.22
Most provinces provide options for adults who do not have a high school diploma that include the ability to pursue either a regular secondary diploma or a special diploma that has been modified to meet the specific needs of adult learners. They can also write a General Educational Development (GED) test in order to obtain a high-school equivalency certificate. They can also join a literacy and basic skills program that goes roughly up to Grade 10. Research shows that there are a variety of different options, costs, and frameworks across provinces and territories.23
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22 CPRN (2006). Too many left behind:
Canada’s adult education and training system. Retrieved August 2007,