Foundation skills policy contexts and measures of impact

By Jane Newton Occasional paper 9 December 2016

Description

The Foundation Skills Literature Review Project — a research capacity building project supported by NCVER, the University of Technology Sydney and the Australian Council for Adult Literacy — provided scholarships to practitioners to develop their research skills through undertaking literature reviews focused on key topics relating to foundation skills. This review looks at policy contexts and their measures of impact, with a particular focus on foundation skills policy in Australia, implemented as the National Foundation Skills Strategy for Adults, 2012—22. In doing so, it draws attention to the lack of research into foundation skills policy implementation and its impact.

Summary

About the research

Building the research capacity of the vocational education and training (VET) sector is of key interest to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER). The Foundation Skills Literature Review Project, funded by NCVER, provided scholarships to practitioners to develop their research skills through undertaking literature reviews focused on key topics relating to foundation skills. Here ‘foundation skills’ refers to adult language, literacy (including digital literacy) and numeracy skills, as well as employability skills, such as problem-solving, collaboration and self-management.

The four main topic areas were:

  • perspectives on adult language, literacy and numeracy
  • policy contexts and measures of impact
  • context and sites — pedagogy and the learners
  • workforce development.

The literature reviews will form a key information source for the Foundation Skills Pod, a new resource hosted on VOCEDplus . The Foundation Skills Literature Review Project is a partnership between NCVER and the University of Technology Sydney and the Australian Council for Adult Literacy.

This review looks at policy contexts and their measures of impact, with a particular focus on foundation skills policy in Australia, implemented as the National Foundation Skills Strategy for Adults, 2012—22. It highlights that adult education and learning policies, both here and in other countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, have been increasingly influenced by international point-in-time assessments; namely, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) suite of adult literacy surveys. The use of these types of assessments fits with the push for a more human capital approach to foundation skills policy development in Australia in recent years; that is, a focus on the skills people have and the skills they need to develop to progress through or change jobs, undertake education and training, and more fully participate in their community.

In this review Newton draws attention to the lack of research into foundation skills policy implementation and its impact. With the National Foundation Skills Strategy for Adults having been in place since late 2012, she suggests that an examination of its impact in addressing the needs of adults with low levels of foundation skills, and also in raising the skills of the Australian workforce, is warranted.

Dr Craig Fowler
Managing Director, NCVER

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