The findings of this study reveal the importance of understanding literacy and learning from the micro perspective, whether in Canada or Sweden, as a basis for long term effectiveness in public policy. It is hoped that discussion of the results will play an important role in adult literacy policy development and implementation.
The conceptual framework under which this study was conducted was informed by the New Literacy Studies and Guba's typology for policy analysis. The proponents of the New Literacy Studies (Gee, 1990; Street, 1995) argue for the importance of understanding individual interests and motivations with respect to literacy and learning. This perspective encompasses multiple literacies and recognizes that the sociocultural context helps to determine and support what literacy is valued. Freire and Macedo (1987) defined literacy as "reading the word and the world" by which they meant that different contexts require different skills. For example, the skills required in mainstream urban society are not necessarily those needed to survive in an isolated rural community.
While educationalists and psychologists hold to a technical model of literacy, New Literacy Studies scholars see literacy as embedded in social practices and conceptions of reading and writing (Street, 1993 p. 1). From this perspective, comparisons between countries would examine the relative percentages of people in the mainstream and how countries facilitate access to the dominant literacy. The concept of discourse (Gee, 1990) extends beyond literacy to include social and cultural knowledge that is acquired in the home and the school.
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