You thought Canada was a literate country? Think again

May 26, 2011

In 2003, the International Adult Literacy Skills Survey (IALLS) tested more than 23,000 Canadians in four areas:

  • prose literacy
  • document literacy
  • numeracy
  • problem-solving

Proficiency was rated on the basis of levels one to five, that is, lowest to highest. Level 3 corresponds roughly to high school completion.

In case you’re wondering what this test was all about anyway… IALLS is the Canadian component of the “Adult Literacy and Life Skills” study, which was a joint project of the Government of Canada, the US National Center for Education Statistics and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The larger study was an international undertaking, involving thousands of people from numerous countries. In the literacy world, it’s a big deal. The results are a big deal for all of us Canadians. We have more work to do to raise the bar for all Canadians.

Literacy isn’t a black and white issue. It’s not a matter of “You can read” or “You can’t read”. There’s a continuum. Skills can be built at any time over the life span. They can also decline if we don’t use them.

Sad blonde girl with bookThere is an idea out there at literacy is “an immigrant problem.” Well, folks, it’s a myth. While it’s true that about 60% of new immigrants to Canada scored below Level 3 on the IALSS test, there are tens of thousands of people born right here in Canada who lack sufficient literacy skills.

One shocking result of the test?

2% of Canadian born university-educated individuals scored at the lowest level of prose literacy.

We have to ask ourselves: How are we allowing these people to slip through the cracks, grade after grade and year after year? How is it that someone born in Canada can graduate with an undergraduate degree when they score at the lowest level possible on an international literacy test? Although those results are troubling, some might argue that those people are the exception, that they are the outliers on the bell curve of test results.

Before you write off the stats as being an exception, think about this result:

About 37% of the total Canadian-born population scored below Level 3 in prose literacy.

In other words, about 9 million Canadian-born adult citizens lack sufficient literacy skills to function in the workplace.

Let’s put that into perspective for a minute.

9 Million people…

That’s the entire population of Nova Scotia. Multiplied by 9.

The number of people killed during the Russian Revolution over half a decade from 1917-1922.

The number of people in the UK who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

The number of people who follow Justin Bieber on Twitter.

Just under the total number of people in the entire world who suffer from hunger.

However you look at it, 9 million is a lot of people.

What can we do, Canada, to raise the bar for literacy?

References:

http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/051109/dq051109a-eng.htm

Related posts

Canada’s 9 Literacy and Essential Skills http://wp.me/pNAh3-qi

Literacy and Essential Skills (video) http://wp.me/pNAh3-y

“The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read” http://wp.me/pNAh3-H1

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

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OECD Report: Doing more with less

September 3, 2010

Check out this new report OECD that will be presented at the upcoming OECD conference in Paris:

Higher Education in a World Changed Utterly: Doing More with Less – Discussion Paper

by Mary-Louise Kearney and Richard Yelland

OECD/IMHE Conference, 13 – 15 September 2010, Paris, France

This is an insightful and timely paper that covers issues of post-secondary education during an economic recovery, post-crisis world.

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Share this post: OECD Report: Doing more with less https://wp.me/pNAh3-j1

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Formal, non-formal and informal learning: The case of literacy and language learning in Canada

February 16, 2010

This new research report is freely available in e-format (.pdf).

Executive Summary

This research report investigates the links between formal, non-formal and informal learning and the differences between them. In particular, the report aims to link these notions of learning to literacy and essential skills, as well as the learning of second and other languages in Canada.

Philosophical underpinnings of this research are:

  • There is value in learning of all kinds.
  • Learning is a lifelong endeavour.
  • An interdisciplinary approach is valuable.

Notions of formal, non-formal and informal learning may be briefly outlined as:

Formal learning – This type of learning is intentional, organized and structured. Formal learning opportunities are usually arranged by institutions. Often this type of learning is guided by a curriculum or other type of formal program.
Non-formal learning – This type of learning may or may not be intentional or arranged by an institution, but is usually organized in some way, even if it is loosely organized. There are no formal credits granted in non-formal learning situations.
Informal learning – This type of learning is never organized. Rather than being guided by a rigid curriculum, it is often thought of experiential and spontaneous.

– (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development / Organisation de Coopération et de Développement Economiques (OECD), n.d.; Werquin, 2007)

Examples are given for literacy and essential skills, as well as second and other languages for each of the categories mentioned above.

Finally, the examples of systems developed value different types of learning using asset-based approaches are given. The tools developed by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada are explored for the case of literacy. The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages developed by the Council of Europe is considered for second and other languages.

Copies of the report may be accessed through:

National Adult Literacy Database (Canada)

http://library.nald.ca/research/item/8549

or

European Association of Education for Adults (Helsinki, Finland)

http://www.eaea.org/news.php?aid=17397&k=2088&%20d=2010-02

or

National Library of Canada – Online Archives Collection (Canada)

http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/003/008/099/003008-disclaimer.html?orig=/100/200/300/eaton_intl_consulting/formal_non/Literacy_languages_and_types_of_learning.pdf

or

The Encyclopedia of Informal Education

http://www.infed.org/archives/e-texts/eaton_formal_nonformal_informal_learning.htm

or

Global Literacy Foundation

http://globalliteracy.org/Eaton

or

Centre for Adult English Language Acquisition (CAELA) (United States)

http://www.cal.org/CALWebDB/ESLResourceDB/ (Resource #0274)

New! August, 2010 – Check out the companion report: Formal, Non-Formal and Informal Learning in the Sciences.

Related posts:

Formal, non-formal and informal education: What Are the Differences?

Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning (Infographic) https://wp.me/pNAh3-266

Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning: A podcast

Breathtaking Impact of Volunteers’ Contribution to Non-formal and Informal Literacy Education in Alberta

Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning in the Sciences

The many faces of non-formal learning

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Formal, non-formal and informal learning: The case of literacy and language learning in Canada http://wp.me/pNAh3-C

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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