Up­set im­posed on learn­ers ‘shame­ful’

The Compass - - OPINION -

The most re­cent lit­er­acy data for New­found­land and Labrador comes from the IALSS (In­ter­na­tional Adult Lit­er­acy and Life Skills Sur­vey). This data from 2003 re­veals that over 50 per cent of peo­ple aged 16–65 in our prov­ince are still scor­ing in the two low­est lit­er­acy pro­fi­ciency lev­els.

I re­al­ize th­ese statis­tics are some­what dated. They do, how­ever, have value in demon­strat­ing a need to im­prove provincewide lit­er­acy lev­els among all age groups of our pop­u­la­tion, rather than im­pose any mea­sures which could neg­a­tively im­pact it. In my view, the re­cent bud­get an­nounce­ment raises a se­ri­ous “red flag,” and sug­gests that lit­er­acy pro- gram­ming should be re­vis­ited so that our prov­ince pro­vides ob­sta­cle-free ac­ces­si­bil­ity, for at least one full gen­er­a­tion of our peo­ple.

More than ever be­fore, our prov­ince’s in­dus­trial sec­tor is de­pend­ing on a very highly-de­vel­oped knowl­edge “econ­omy.” So, one would think that it’s time to fur­ther de­velop ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams such as Adult Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion in both the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors through in­creased fund­ing and re­sources.

An­other point, wor­thy of note, is the ap­proach taken by our govern­ment to ac­tion fund­ing cuts, and pro­gram re­struc­tur­ing. Stu­dents in th­ese pro­grams have “beaten the odds,” and have demon­strated high lev­els of courage to en­rol in lit­er­acy pro­grams suited to their needs.

They have come to know their in­struc­tors and their school. The enor­mous up­set im­posed on th­ese adult learn­ers, causes much heartache and dis­cour­age­ment for them and their fam­i­lies. This is shame­ful.

I’m per­plexed at the logic used by govern­ment to ini­ti­ate re­cent bud­getary mea­sures. Maybe I’m miss­ing some­thing, but I think not. I do not see de­ci­sions to re­duce fund­ing around lit­er­acy and school-based ini­tia­tives as demon­strat­ing wis­dom at this time.

— Der­rick Shep­pard is chair­per­son of Lit­er­acy New­found­land and Labrador

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