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The issue of adult literacy in Canada: An Introduction
The issue of adult literacy emerged on the Canadian public agenda, just before the 1988 federal election. For the first time in the Canadian history, the political parties respond positively to government initiatives to the literacy issue.
It should be noted that high rates of poor literacy amongst minorities, and disabled as well as the older people, are correlated to limited to these groups. Hence, those people with poor literacy are more probable than the others to become poor. As well, the labor force contribution rates are rather low and the joblessness rates fairly high for those with poor literacy or education background. The median earnings of the youths with less than 9 years of education are under 75% of that of the general population. Amongst the adults with less than 9 years of schooling, about 60% had income under 10,000 Canadian dollars. This earning level would put people in nearly all parts of Canada below the poverty lines.
It is particularly important to see that the employment circumstances of the illiterates are deteriorating, in contrast to other groups in Canada. These have dropped for the youths with less than 9 years of school education.
Putting literacy on the agenda
Literacy issue has been rather more significant public discourse and public agenda ever since 1985. The Canadian public understanding of this issue has been built, and it has been placed on the Canadian agenda. However, it is evident that this issue has not occurred owing to declining in literacy levels in the country. In fact, the public and political responsiveness have been created, and there have been major literacy-related changes in the labor markets and the business organizations.
The understanding of the literacy issue has been created through an intricate procedure of public discussion. The public agenda of literacy covers details of the literacy issue that is spread through the mass media, government research reports, and by means of the proposals of advocacy organizations. The Canadians strongly support strongly this discourse. It articulates diverse and generally contradictory notions of literacy and literacy program. It offers a rough idea of governmental, labor market planners, etc regarding wider issues in economic and social policies of the Canadian government. The public agenda about literacy also assists in coordinating the thoughts and activities of literacy professionals and activists, the students, companies, and the social organizations.
The public agenda of literacy in Canada is developed through the growth of advocacy and public efforts and other educational institutes, whose efforts have become coordinated and focused. This public agenda of literacy is built for growing concern for the economics of literacy as well as illiteracy.
The mainstream provincial officials Canada in have started public awareness campaigns to get political endorsement for literacy activities. Local programs and countrywide NGOs have also organized awareness events, varying from shopping mall exhibitions to the events getting nationwide media reporting.
The activist endeavors for literacy and other educational institutes have been immensely been successful by the growth of literacy as a media topic. Most remarkably, in 1987 literacy skills built the backdrop for various prominent narratives and studies on this issue in Canadian newspapers (Calamai, 1988). Besides, thousands of critiques have been written in local newspapers (Maciejko, 1990). The literacy issue being disregarded for a long time is now taken up enthusiast literary workers who have now interviewed and wrote profusely on this topic. A number of documentaries on the literacy issue have appeared in the media, affected to some extent by the US programs. Professional newspaper and magazines have featured commentaries and special editions highlighting the literacy issue (Canadian Library Journal, 1990).
As well, other methods have endorsed the rising significance in literacy agenda since the 1980s. Legal safeguards have been provided for the literary workers employing unsafe materials, necessitating that they know hazards and safety procedures. The increasing expenditures of medical services have given rise to patient education and protective medicine being noted as cost-efficient for the health care system. Both these methods and others have helped the Canadian government’s concern with the people's capability to utilize written data. Though a strong case can be made a new education policy has been the inspiration behind the governmental keenness to apply adult literacy more critically.
Literacy Programming Development
When literacy topic is on the public agenda, what in fact takes in literacy work is conditional on primarily on the governmental procedures by means of which policies are outlined and programs are created and endorsed. These procedures are explained in many governmental records.
In Canada, every province and territory has recorded some rise in literacy activities. Nevertheless, literacy work in various provinces is differently created. The Canadian Government has participated in adult education traditions by contributing financial resources. It is not the number of people with poor literacy that establishes the range of literacy programming. In fact, it is rather the financial support that government sanctions to deal with literacy, and the methods that these resources are managed.
The majority of Canadian provinces has now civil service positions related exclusively to literacy, and have definite plans, programs, policies and strategies for literacy. These plans have been created over the last several years through provincial literacy programs which include not only the educational specialists, however, also the member of business community and various government departments.
Generally, the literacy programming for the students is not provided, only by government. The government departments related to advanced education are also engaged. The government plans usually direct a ministry to coordinate government's activities for literacy. Other government ministries help it as partners.
Traditional Adult Education
The literacy development has taken place in Canada by the growth and reinforcement of the traditional adult education. Nevertheless, the patterns of literacy development are not strictly established. Sometimes, the traditions are conflicting, and are always drawn on selectively.
Much work has been carried out in developing literacy programming structure. There have been financial grants for training events, resource centers, seminars etc. Many specific resources have been created for tutor education, and primary training programs are planned that vary in time periods. Educational training is at times carried out through professionals' systems or within programs as a component of their continuing vocation. Endeavors are in progress to create training programs suited for adult literacy professionals, distinct from the conventional teacher certification initiatives and their influential historical relationships for public education. Many universities have been set up to deal with practice-based research (See Darville 30-39). Some institutions offer one or two courses, and others offer certificate programs or graduate programs in which students may concentrate on adult literacy.
The public discussion by means of which literacy has come on top of the public agenda has had mixed outcomes. It has certainly helped literacy work to be developed and reinforced. However, there are many complex issues regarding how the public discussion about literacy outlines the literacy work and how it impacts the people's lifestyles.
The educationists have generally criticized the media reports and ads to portray people with poor literacy as social outcast and inept, incapable to contribute positively in organizations or in politics. This misrepresentation of “illiterates” in the mass media does more damage than good.
It appears that the literacy discourse and the productivity are a method of censuring ordinary labors for economic ills, or criticizing the educational institute, and not seeing economic woes as the consequence of management decisions and government policies.
The literary workforce normally has a deep practical knowledge of the relationship between illiteracy and poverty, and normally recognizes literacy as a method of claim against the poverty. This perception is hardly ever presented in the media.
Such criticisms of the literacy discussion should be forcefully raised. However, it is also evident that the combination of forces driving the new discussion about literacy has created a new age of literacy activity. Though there has been no orderly tracking of levels of program and funds, there has a rise all over the country. Moreover, the new motivation in literacy has produced added endorsement for literacy programs by various organizations in the country.
These gains they have produced suggested some coincidence of interests, between literacy work as an expression of social equity and democracy, and literacy as a means to economic productivity. Whether economic interests and interests in social equity remain aligned is one major question for the development of literacy work.
Calamai, Peter. Broken Words: Why Five Million Canadians are Illiterate, Toronto, Southam Communications, 1988. Print.
Darville, Richard. "Trends in North America," in Mary Louise Kearney and Leslie Limage (Eds.), Literacy and the Role of the University, UNESCO, Paris, 1991, 30-39.
"Literacy, Learning and Libraries," special issue of Canadian Library Journal 47:3, 1990. Print.
Maciejko, Bill. "Literacy in English Canadian Newspapers," MS, Centre for Policy Studies in Education, University of British Columbia, 1990. Print.