Ideally, numeracy and adult education programs should be part of a broader human development agenda for governments at all levels, with co operation and co ordination between the different jurisdictions. For this, it helps if there is an underlying strategy or at least a set of shared values and principles. In this connection, it may be worth looking at the experience of Britain, which has developed a National Numeracy Strategy.(36)
In adult education, as noted above, goals are important in creating and sustaining motivation - and adult education is, in general, highly goal oriented. If the goals can be strengthened and kept front and centre, then this strengthens the motivation to learn and to persist in learning, even for difficult courses such as math - as long as students are convinced that math and numbers will help them reach their goals.
Some numeracy programs have had success in focusing on the goals of the students, e.g., by providing assessment and counseling services and by revisiting student goals in the light of progress (or non-progress) in their math programs. In some cases, the goals may need to be revised. For instance, students who are having difficulty with math may need to look at community college programs which do not involve the extensive use of math, while students who are more successful than they had expected in math may wish to raise their sights.
Much curriculum development is done on an incremental basis, in response to practical experience and current issues and concerns. However, in curriculum development, there are also advantages to working from a research base, with attention to the underlying theoretical and philosophical issues. This allows for examining - and possibly reconsidering - some of the fundamental assumptions, and it certainly helps in considering some basic issues more consciously and thoroughly.
In both Holland and Australia, there are extensive research programs. In Holland, the focus is on Realistic Math Education.(37) In Australia, there has been research into constructivism and critical numeracy.(38)
Attention to research and to theoretical and philosophical issues also helps in building a sense of commitment and direction for the longer term. This is true both for numeracy education and for all forms of further education and lifelong learning.
36 This is aimed primarily at improving numeracy for children.
37Please see the bibliography, especially the work by Mieke van Groenestijn.
38 Please see the bibliography, especially the work by Betty Johnston.
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