Human Resource Development Canada (2001) Adult literacy: Policies, programs and practices. Lessons learned. Final report. Ottawa: HRDC, Evaluation and Data Development. ERIC Reproduction Document ED 478 431.

Examines how low literacy levels are linked to above-average rates of personal and/or learning difficulties, low self-esteem, associated social problems, and below-normal incomes. Literacy problems also appeared to cost business/industry in terms of lost productivity, health and safety problems, training, and retraining. The main lessons identified were as follows: (1) although adult literacy programs benefit individuals and society, low levels of public interest and political support have prevented full realization of their benefits; (2) experience suggests how to design and deliver good adult literacy programs, but the conditions allowing that to happen do not always exist; (3) adult literacy programs aimed at specific target groups appear to have better results; (4) adults in need of upgrading face barriers that make entering or remaining in literacy programs difficult; (5) adult literacy learners should have a say in policies and programs addressing their needs; (6) learning technologies appear to provide significant advantages when used in adult literacy programs; and (7) more systematic evaluation of adult literacy policies, programs, and practices is needed to increase accountability and improve the field's knowledge base.

Human Resource Development Canada/Council of Ministers of Education Canada (1997) Survey of trends in adult education and training in Canada. Report of Canada in preparation for CONFINTEA V, 1997. Available at

During the past ten years, Canadian adult education experienced major changes in organizational structure, responded to shifting economic pressures, and addressed new needs among learners. Approaching the end of the century, it is dealing with major challenges around citizenship, equity, and the use of new information technologies.

Participation in adult education increased throughout this period, following previously documented patterns whereby those with most previous education and highest income were most likely to become involved. With devolution of much federal funding and responsibility to the provinces, issues of equity will increasingly be debated at that level. While policies on equity have been put in place, funding cutbacks have made them increasingly difficult to implement.

Increasing and persistent unemployment has provoked much debate about the value of skills training. Public investment in this area rose in the late 1980s, but was declining by the end of this period. Partnerships involving employers, labour, and equity-seeking groups grew and then shrank with the public funds available, with the exception of some joint sectoral councils. With reductions in overall social spending, training funds became focussed on the unemployed.

Literacy work gained visibility and importance, along with a strengthened organizational infrastructure, although it remains a vulnerable part of the field. Changes in labour force and social security policy have reshaped the opportunities available to adults who complete the programs. Within these broad structural changes, many innovative smaller initiatives have occurred. First Nations groups have developed capacity for economic development; community groups have shaped special programs for women and immigrants; and governments have provided incentives to Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition. Experiments in distance education have been undertaken in schools, libraries, businesses, and homes across the country, and the needs of refugees, laid-off workers, and people with AIDS have posed new challenges to traditional content and methods of adult education.