Issues in Literacy Practice and Policy
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, literacy has been the subject
of much public discussion, many reports, and much publicity. Politicians'
speeches, and prefaces to policy documents, commonly assert the importance
of improvements in literacy. Millions of dollars have been spent on
public awareness activities. These often let the public know that some
government or organization is promoting and perhaps involved in teaching
literacy; and they likely generate some public support for that activity.
And, although the studies available show repeatedly that word-of-mouth
recruitment is central in attracting students to programs, public awareness
(sometimes even called
"marketing") must help.
In many forums, views of action for literacy have been articulated
"consultations" bringing together
members of different sectors of society; public policy forums attended
by business, labour and government leaders; provincial advisory committees;
interministerial committees; coalitions and alliances of practitioners;
literacy conferences; and others. Reports and action plans have been
developed concerning literacy and health, literacy and the law, literacy
and the public schools, literacy and social service organizations, and
so on. Most of these forums for discussion have had funding from the
National Literacy Secretariat. They have resulted in pressure on provincial
and territorial governments (not on the federal government) to increase
support for literacy programming.
Is it government policy to create a literate society?
Beyond noting that progress has been made, it is fitting in a review
of the state of literacy work actually to examine the political will
for literacy — whether creating a literate society is a serious
goal of literacy policy in Canada. To do so, we should both review the
scope of goals and plans in official policy documents, and give an accounting
of actual levels of adult literacy activity.