Literacies Required for a 21st Century Workforce:
Preparing Youth and Adults for Proficiency in the Academic, Technical and Cultural Literacies Required by a Complex Work World
Given the changing nature of work opportunities of the 21st century, a time when many jobs are being outsourced, lower paying jobs are replacing higher paying jobs, and return to investment in high school and some college seems to be declining as more and more people acquire these levels of schooling, something beyond continuing to offer the same type of education in high schools, community colleges, and adult basic education (ABE) seems necessary.
Functional Context Education Reforms Needed in High Schools, Community Colleges, and Adult Basic Education
In some high schools, community colleges, and ABE programs there is a movement towards Functional Context Education (FCE) in which basic academic skills of reading, writing, mathematics, reasoning and problem solving are being integrated with content related to coping with the needs of adult life beyond the school. For instance, high school, community college, and ABE graduates are encountering complex information about health care, financial matters and responsibilities, information search and location strategies and tactics on the internet and elsewhere, analysis and synthesis of massive doses of information from and about technology, and requirements for knowledge about how to communicate better using oral language in service occupations, and numerous other "real life" knowledge and skill domains that constitute multiple literacies for 21st century living.
FCE In High Schools
Over the years a number of organizations have taken up the banner of FCE under the label of "contextualized teaching." For instance, for more than a decade, the Center for Occupational Research & Development (CORD) Web site: www.cord.org located in Waco, Texas has been involved in developing contextualized courses for students in the K-12 system. Dale Parnell, former President of the American Association for Community Colleges in the United States and a past member of the SCANS published a book with CORD entitled Contextual Teaching Works. In a chapter on What Research Says About Contextual Teaching he presents a review of the research on FCE that colleagues and I reported in Cast-off Youth and notes that this research offers a scientific base for contextualized teaching. The book provides examples of FCE programs in various high schools in the U.S. and Canada.
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