Building the foundations: outcomes from the adult language, literacy and numeracy search conference

By NCVER Research report 9 March 2011 ISBN 978 1 921809 68 2 print; 978 1 921809 67 5 web

Description

The importance of adult language, literacy and numeracy for greater workforce participation, productivity and social inclusion are well recognised, with both national and international research demonstrating the benefits of increasing proficiency for both individuals and communities. But there are still more questions to be answered, such as what is the extent of adult language, literacy and numeracy provision in Australia, and whose responsibility is it to fund such provision in the workplace? In September 2010, NCVER hosted a forum on behalf of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to explore these questions and what needs to be done to find the answers. This paper presents a summary of those discussions and recommendations for future action.

Summary

About the research

Adult language, literacy and numeracy are essential ingredients for greater workforce participation, productivity and social inclusion. Both national and international research demonstrate the relationship between increasing levels of language, literacy and numeracy proficiency and positive outcomes for individuals, as well as for communities and the economy.

Yet, even with this knowledge, there is still much that is unknown or requires broader debate. For example, what is the extent of adult language, literacy and numeracy provision in Australia? Whose responsibility is it to provide language, literacy and numeracy training in the workplace? Is there a need for targeted funding? What are the longer-term outcomes of literacy and numeracy programs? What programs work best for different types of learners? How can we quantify the civic and social benefits of improved literacy and numeracy?

Following on from the May 2010 announcement of a $120 million investment by the Australian Government in adult literacy and numeracy activities, the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) hosted a forum on behalf of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations on 13 September 2010 to explore these questions and to determine what needs to be done to find the answers.

This paper presents a summary of those discussions and recommendations for future action. Background papers prepared for the forum are also provided in chapters 1–6. Forum participants emphasised that, while literacy should be everyone's business, for those concerned with public policy the focus should be on:

  • targeting those most in need
  • finding sustainable funding models
  • measuring success.

To do this will require further effort to better understand what is currently being done to address literacy and numeracy problems across the country and how to make adult literacy and numeracy a more prominent issue in the community and, in response, to devise sound strategies to implement and measure the impact of new activities.

Tom Karmel
Managing Director, NCVER

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