Literacy As Freedom

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Literacy As Freedom

Literacy As Freedom

'Literacy as Freedom' is the theme of the United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012). While societies enter into the information and knowledge society, and modern technologies develop and spread at rapid speed, 860 million adults are illiterate, over 100 million children have no access to school, and countless children, youth and adults who attend school or other education programmes fall short of the required level to be considered literate in today´s complex world.

International research draws a direct line of cause and effect between government policy and a nation's literacy capabilities.

Evidence is emerging that the co-ordination of policies over a range of different policy domains can have significant impact, directly and indirectly, over a nation's adult literacy and numeracy levels.

The paper traces recent literacy and numeracy policy in Australia, as a basis for evaluating how and where the new formulations should occur. It puts this in an international context by outlining where other countries are placed in terms of literacy across different tasks. It calls for new policy to fill the void that rapid changes have brought about in Australia and scans other OECD members' progress in the past few years for possible models.

Finally, the paper indicates a need for a new national policy on adult literacy, building on successful efforts, and discusses specifically what aspects this policy should embrace.

Such a policy would provide a national framework for addressing the literacy and learning needs of the adult Australian population into the 21st century.

Key elements of the future policy agenda include:

· developing of a new national comprehensive whole-of-government adult literacy and numeracy policy;

· establishing an integrated national coordinating agency, the Australian Commission for Adult Literacy and Numeracy, to be responsible for the strategic implementation of the new comprehensive approach to literacy, numeracy and lifelong learning;

· holding of a national adult literacy and numeracy summit to assist in setting the future directions of the Australian Commission for Adult Literacy and Numeracy;

· funding for adult literacy and numeracy to be increased by 20 percent in real terms over the next three years;

· establishing a Learning for Life Strategy to develop a culture where people value learning;

· working to eliminate the digital divide;

· establishing a national adult literacy professional development strategy;

· implementing a rigorous evaluation, performance measurement, and accountability and reporting mechanisms.

Advances in information technologies and other effects of cultural and economic globalisation are bringing about remarkable changes in how people go about their daily working and personal lives and all of these changes have implications, at times not recognized, for adult literacy policy and provision.

Workers are required to be flexible about when, for whom, and how they work. They are increasingly being expected to present to employers with a portfolio of skills while often having limited access to education on the job.

Low skilled workers are disadvantaged in these contexts while OECD research shows that low skilled people are over-represented among the unemployed, particularly amongst the long-term unemployed.

Meanwhile active labour market programs have limited effectiveness when the great majority of people ...
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