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Literacy in Canada Essay

Abstract Literacy is a very important topic in Canada. It affects every part of society as well as our economy. Canada has a high literacy rate among highly developed countries despite not have a national, standardized literacy program. The literacy movement really began in Canada in 1920 when programs were introduced by Dr. Frank Laubach but really began to pick up steam in the 1980s. It is a continuing process that must be monitored and improved as we try to increase higher literacy rates in this country.

Currently Canada has many issues with literacy from vast differences in different regions, the effects it has on this countries labour force, funding for programs, and barriers such as poverty that constantly lower literacy rates. Solutions for these problems are plenty and come from different sources based on social, political and regional of the area which they are derived. The three levels of governments play a key role in the creation and maintaining of literacy levels and their programs but they still have much more to do.

Immigration has a major effect on literacy levels and changes must be made so that people coming into this country have a fair chance to compete and excel in Canada like everyone else. Costs for increasing literacy are high but the benefits of doing so greatly outweigh those costs. The future of literacy in Canada is bright but more must be done to improve levels so that Canada can compete with countries around the world. Recommendations have been made to improve rates and they must be taken seriously.

Literacy in Canada The concept of “literacy” has evolved. Literacy now means more than the basic ability to read and write. Literacy skill levels now also reflect a person’s ability to understand and use information, a key function in a world where daily living requires higher communication and information processing skills. Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying context.

Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society (Statistics Canada, 2006). Increasingly, you will often hear the term “Essential Skills”. Essential skills are the foundational skills required to learn all other skills. Everyone needs literacy and essential skills to be able to function effectively at work, at home and in the community. Essential skills are adaptable to all situations. Essential skills help people to be more productive and to more easily learn new tasks.

In its basic form, literacy is about learning to read and write reading and writing to learn, and developing these skills and using them effectively for meeting basic needs. Definitions of literacy commonly refer to the skills used in everyday life or to those that allow one to function competently in society. Rather than seeing literacy as a fixed set of generic and technical skills. Literacy and basic education services should be available to any adult who needs them to achieve the goals they set for themselves at work, at home, and in the community.

It also means that we accept the notion that literacy and learning are lifetime concerns. It is also important to link literacy to the development of other skills and knowledge by, for example, ensuring that there is a literacy component in apprenticeship programmes and in job-related training. This should be the case in terms of both formal and non-formal skills and knowledge development. Many trades have specialized vocabularies and those need to be taught along with the skills required to work effectively and well in those jobs.

This paper will discuss Canadian literacy. Its history, current issues, government’s role, immigration, cost vs. benefits, the future of Canadian literacy and recommendations going forward (The Advisory Committee on Literacy and Essential Skills, 2005). Jonathon Hatcher, former payroll coordinator for Laubach Literacy Council of Newfoundland and Labrador, states “Literacy is one of the biggest concerns we face as a nation. There must be processes, procedures, standards and methods of testing put in place as we increase literacy as a nation.

The time to act is now as it affects both us and the next generation, someone finally has to get the ball rolling and improve situations for all Canadians” (Jonathon Hatcher, Personal Communication, September 26 2010). I am writing this report as I am interested in literacy in Canada, its history and I am curious about the effect literacy has in on all aspects of our lives. I believe literacy is a very important topic because I worked firsthand in the industry this summer and found that it was both personally and professionally gratifying, as well I noticed the effects that it can

have on children, adults, staff, tutors and especially on payroll coordinators The topics written about in this report are Canadian literacy, its history, Issues which include regionalism, barriers/challenges and solutions, the role of all three levels of government, the effect of immigration, the cost vs. benefits of increasing literacy, the future of literacy in Canada, and some recommendations going forward. The types of research i have used in this report include online journals, papers and magazines as well as websites. I used books, conducted interviews and used some personal knowledge in the creation of this paper written for Mr.

Michael Crant. Canadian Literacy Figure 1 Literacy Scores in Canada Canadians are an educated lot. More Canadian Council of Learning. (2006). Proportion of adult prose literacy at level 2 and below, ages 16 and under, across Canada. Canadian literacy levels mapped online. Retrieved from http://www. cbc. ca/canada/story/2009/09/08/interactive-literacy-map. html. Canadians have a university education than any other developed nation, and only five countries have a higher percentage of high-school grads. Fifty two percent of Canadians aged 16 years of age Canadian Literacy and Learning Network. (2010).

Comparison of prose literacy levels in Canada (by percentage) between 1999 and 2008. Literacy information. Retrieved from http://www. literacy. ca/? q=literacy/literacyinformation. Table 1 Literacy levels, Canada, 1999 and 2008 (percent) and over had literacy scores in the Level three category or above. Level three is generally considered to be the minimum level of literacy required to function well at work and in daily living. This means that nearly half of Canadians had low levels of literacy. The Table 2 Following chart shows the percentage of Canadians that reach the specific prose levels.

Literacy levels, Canada, 1999 and 2008 (percent) | | Level 1| Level 2| Level 3| Level 4/5| 1999| 22| 25| 34| 20| 2008| 20| 28| 35| 17| Canadian Literacy and Learning Network. (2010). Comparison of prose literacy levels in Canada (by percentage) between 1999 and 2008. Literacy information. Retrieved from http://www. literacy. ca/? q=literacy/literacyinformation. About one in every seven Canadians, 15 percent scored the lowest performance level, meaning that a large number of Canadians have problems dealing with printed material and identify themselves as people who have difficulty reading.

The two youngest age groups demonstrated the highest literacy levels. Those aged 26 to 35 ranked highest with a literacy level of three or above (66 percent), and those aged 16 to 25 reached 62 percent. Proportions were lower for each of the older age groups, reaching a low of 18 percent for the group of Canadians 66 years of age and older. The flip side is that about 58 percent of Canadians aged 16 to 65 score in the top three literacy levels in prose. This means that they can meet most everyday reading requirements (Canadian Literacy and Learning Network, 2010).

Literacy is central to the well-being of both individuals and nations. While there has been little change in the literacy profiles in Canada in the past five years, new graduates from Canadian secondary schools since 1989 are generally more literate than the older cohorts ahead of them. However, the report also shows that literacy skills are the product of complex social and economic forces which go beyond the simple linkage with the educational system. All Canadians have the right to develop the literacy and essential skills they need in order to participate fully in our social, cultural, economic and political life.

Every person must have an equal opportunity to acquire, develop, maintain and enhance their literacy skills regardless of their circumstances. Literacy is at the heart of learning. A commitment to learning throughout life leads to a society characterized by literate, healthy and productive individuals, families, communities and workplaces (Statistics Canada, 2006). Each year of education is worth approximately 8 percent increase in salary. Canadians with higher literacy skills earn more income, are more likely to have full-time work, are less likely to be unemployed and spend shorter periods of time unemployed.

Employees with higher literacy skills help company competitiveness. Literacy also increases individual productivity; a rise of 1 percent literacy according to international standards is equated with a two and a half percent increase in labour productivity, and a one and a half percent increase in gross domestic product per person literacy in Canada has been perceived as a personal and social good, although the precise meaning of literacy and the understanding of what individuals are expected to get from their instruction in and possession of literacy is unclear.

Nevertheless, many individuals exert great effort to become literate, even later in life, and societies with sharply contrasting political systems promote literacy through widespread popular education (Tuinman, Jones and Bailey, 2010). Canada is one of the few industrialized countries without a national system for adult basic education. The following information will help you understand how literacy services are currently funded and delivered. Like most of the social issues (welfare, health, education, training) fall mainly under the jurisdiction of provincial and territorial governments.

However, the federal government plays a role in developing policy directions and in delivering some funds for literacy initiatives through provincial transfer payments, the delivery of literacy training programs is mainly funded and coordinated by the provinces and territories and their educational systems. This is often done in partnership with not-for-profit organizations, formal educational institutions (e. g. school boards and community colleges), business and labour. However, provinces and territories are under no obligation to designate specific funds in support of core literacy programs.

As a result, literacy services in Canada vary considerably in resources and accessibility from one region of the country to another (Murray et al. , 2009). History The golden age of print lasted only 150 years, 1850 to 2000. Today, people communicate most often verbally or through images. Watching TV and movies has replaced reading as a leisure activity, while phone calls and e-mails have replaced letters. In the late 1920s Dr. Frank Laubach, a young Congregational missionary began work among the Morose on the Philippines island of Mindanao. Their language, Marana, had never been written.

Dr. Laubach devised a system of writing their language using the Roman alphabet. He used key words to represent each specific sound in the Marana language. A series of charts matching key words with pictures was developed. The results were amazing. The Moros learned to read and write in two weeks or less! Soon there were those literate enough to teach others in their own and in other villages. The first Laubach tutor training workshop came to Canada in 1970. In June 1981 Laubach Literacy Canada (LLC) was incorporated as a non-profit charitable organization.

To date, there are councils affiliated with LLC in each of the ten provinces (Paziuk, & Gamey, 2003). The adult literacy issue first surfaced on the public policy agenda in Canada in the early 1980’s Politicians initially failed to act on the literacy issue because they thought that the problem would solve itself as the education system cranked out more and more educated, and literate, graduates. Subsequently, they failed to devote sufficient resources to literacy because they believed that Canada’s literacy “problem” was no worse than that of our trading partners.

In the 1980s, the Learner Action Committee of the Movement for Canadian Literacy actively lobbied to pass a Canada Literacy Act. Years of research, development and lobbying by the Learner Action Group of Canada resulted in the Canada Literacy Act, which was to be read as a Private Member’s Bill in 1996. The bill was never read in parliament. The Canada Literacy Act would have created an environment of equality in the government and in the community for all people regardless of their level of literacy skills. Under the act, the government of Canada would: •consider literacy to be a human right and a political right; (Tuinman et al.

, 2010). •recognize that an individual’s lack of literacy skills or education is not a personal failure, but a social failure; (Tuinman et al. , 2010). •enshrine equal access to information, to all forms of knowledge, and to creativity and intellectual activity for all; (Tuinman et al. , 2010). •acknowledge that people learn in many different ways throughout their lives and that lifelong education, formal and informal, should be available for every person in Canada. (Tuinman et al. , 2010). Before the late 1980s, no national surveys had been conducted in Canada to determine the degree of literacy of Canadians.

The first such survey was conducted in 1987. Sponsored by Southam News, this survey estimated 24 percent of adult Canadians were illiterate. Since the 1980s adult literacy has been the focus of several international studies. A multi-language adult literacy assessment was conducted for the first time in 1994 and repeated in 2003 by the National Literacy Secretariat, Human Resources Development Canada, and Statistics Canada in cooperation with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and UNESCO.

The International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) found that literacy in Canada has changed little in the previous years (Tuinman et al, 2010). The dictionary, an essential work tool ten years ago, is less suited to our needs now that the Internet can provide meanings and spelling of words with a click of the mouse. The printed encyclopaedia is becoming an endangered species and newspapers are facing serious problems. Issues Most children who struggle with reading, spelling, and writing do NOT get the right type of help in school.

So they grow into adults who don’t read well. 70 percent of mothers on welfare have reading skills in the lowest two proficiency levels (Barton, 2008). This fact is particularly alarming considering that a mother’s literacy level is one of the most significant predictors of a child’s future literacy ability. The average annual household income for the total population was $30,824, compared to $10,138 for Aid to families with Department Children or public assistance recipients, and $9,732 for food stamp recipients.

Canadian education is heavily text based-we read books and write tests – and that doesn’t work well for second-language students (Barton, 2008). Many gifted children are also ill-suited to the standard classroom setup. “Gifted” does not mean a person with a high IQ. Rather, it refers to the five percent of the population that have a “divergent” brain. Unlike 95 percent of us, who have a “convergent” brain and use specialized parts of the mind depending on the task, advanced students use their entire brain on every problem (Barton,

2008). They are creative and can tackle situations from multiple perspectives, but they often have trouble staying focused. Gifted kids are often bored, but a far worse problem is how the system affects their self-esteem (Barton, 2008). In Canada, young people whose parents had completed 12 years of schooling scored 24 points higher than young people whose parents completed eight years. Still StatsCan cautioned that not all young people whose parents had low levels of education ended up with low literacy scores.

In some countries, including Canada and Norway, many young people scored at the highest levels of literacy despite their parents relatively low levels of education. As well, young people in this country performed better than older Canadians, the study found. The researchers sounded the alarm over a trend in the last decade where young people have actually seen their scores decline (Borzykowsi, 2009). Regionalism. Canada is made up of many different regions; they differ in size, background, immigration rates, access to programs with each one of these differences affecting the literacy rate of the area.

In 2003, performance at Level three literacy or above ranged from a low of 27 percent in Nunavut to a high of 67 percent in Yukon. In fact, Yukon fared well overall, with residents having literacy scores that were higher than the Canadian average, as well as the highest proportion of literacy scores in the Level four to five range. The Western provinces also fared well, with Saskatchewan (60 percent), Alberta (61 percent), and British Columbia (60 percent) having percentages for literacy performance above the national average and that range has not changed in seven years.

More than half of the populations of Newfoundland and Labrador (55 percent), New Brunswick (56 percent), Quebec (55 percent), and Nunavut (73 percent) had literacy scores below Level three. Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, and the Northwest Territories had shares of the population with Level three literacy or above that were not statistically different from the Canadian average. Table 3 Statistics Canada. (2006). Literacy three literacy levels, by region in Canada, in 2003. (by percentage). Reading the future: A portrait of literacy in Canada.

Ottawa, ON: Author Table 4 Level 3 literacy or above, by region, 2003 (percent) | CAN| NL| PE| NS| NB| QC| ON| MB| SK| AB| BC| YT| NT| NU| 52| 45| 51| 55| 44| 45| 52| 54| 60| 61| 60| 67| 55| 27| Statistics Canada. (2006). Literacy three literacy levels, by region in Canada, in 2003. (by percentage). Reading the future: A portrait of literacy in Canada. Ottawa, ON: Author Canadians’ literacy skills vary by region. Generally, there are larger numbers of adults with high skill levels in the western provinces, and large numbers with low literacy skill in the east.

The differences in the distribution of literacy across Canada are consistent with differences in the distribution of other characteristics of the population that are associated with it. Literacy is closely associated with educational attainment. Since regions of Canada differ greatly in educational attainment, it follows that they would differ in literacy. About 18 percent of those aged 15 and over in the Atlantic region and 21 percent of those in Quebec have less than Grade 9 education, but only 12 percent of Ontarians and 11 percent of those in the Western provinces have this level of education.

Where the demographics and geographical concentration provide a strong supportive milieu, such as in Quebec and New Brunswick, the scores are higher. Nine out of 13 jurisdictions have about 50 percent their population with numeracy below level three, or close to eight million people. This problem is particularly challenging because of our lack of capacity for adult numeracy compared to adult literacy programming. Two and a half million people had both literacy and numeracy below level three (Statistics Canada, 2006).

There are approximately four out of ten adults in Canada, or eight million people, who are considered to have low literacy and this group is twice as likely as other Canadians to be unemployed. Of the Canadians with low literacy, only 15 percent have significant problems dealing with any type of printed material, although 27 percent have only simple reading skills. Currently there are more people with low literacy in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Quebec and Nunavut than the national average.

The majority of youth in Canada age 16 to 25 achieve the minimum levels of literacy required in a modern society. However from 18 percent to 38 percent of young people do not achieve the minimum levels, depending on the region. The increase in the annual incidence of employment is particularly pronounced in Newfoundland and Labrador (24 percent), Saskatchewan (24 percent) and the NWT (Tuinman et al. , 2010). Barriers/Challenges. There are many social, economic, geographic, demographic, political barriers which decrease the chances of improving literacy.

These barriers are a major deterrent for people who are trying to attain literacy skills. Economic factors are the most significant to literacy. Money is key whether it is for funding of programs from government or poverty that infests many regions to of this country. Government funding is very important to increasing literacy in Canada. That view was not shared by Harper’s chief cost-cutter, John Baird. To him, it was a glaring example of federal waste. It wasn’t Ottawa’s job, he contended, to do repair work after the fact when the provinces weren’t teaching kids to read properly in the first place (Goar, 2009).

In 2007 the Harper government cut funding for local literacy group by 5. 8 million that year and 11. 9 million in 2008. What this will mean, once it’s fully implemented, is that the connections between local literacy groups will be lost; the long-standing partnership between Ottawa and the provinces will be broken; and the 3. 2 million adults who can’t read (plus the 5. 8 million who struggle to follow written instructions) will be more isolated than ever. Learn-to-read programs that used to be held at local libraries have disappeared.

Volunteers who depended on provincial literacy organizations for materials and support don’t know where to turn. National coalitions such as ABC Canada are struggling to minimize the damage. There seems no limit to the ways in which Canada’s school system is failing. Our schools are failing to engage boys, failing to serve immigrants, failing to prepare students for work, failing to prepare young children for life, failing even to fail students who don’t deserve to pass. But for all these alleged failures, Canadian students continue to outperform most other countries’ students in studies of academic performance (Goar,

2009). Poverty can be a vicious cycle when it comes to literacy. It is said that it takes education to reduce poverty but the cost of which many cannot afford. Poverty produces hunger, which can affect literacy because it hinders one’s ability to concentrate. Other economic and social ways that poverty affects literacy is Inadequate housing, disruptions in family life, systematic inequity at schools, and lack of money for special expenses all lead to lead to drops in literacy and parents feeling powerless to change it.

It affects adult literacy as well because people do not have time to join programs as they must find ways to support their families and they find it hard to get adequate and affordable childcare (The Advisory Committee on Literacy and Essential Skills, 2005). Solutions. There is no one solution to resolve the literacy issue in Canada but there some way that barriers and challenges can be overcome. However, adding non-text-based learning, field trips, discussions, pictures, into the curriculum. If a Canadian went to China and was given a text book to read, they’d be in trouble.

But, incorporate videos, the Internet and a trip to a museum, and the student will likely learn something. This way digital literacy and other methods are incorporated in both school and reading programs alike. The Advisory Committee on Literacy has derived several literacy accords as presented to the federal and provincial government. They are as follows: * The federal government, through these Accords, must invest in the direct delivery of literacy programmes in partnership with the provinces and territories (The Advisory Committee on Literacy and Essential Skills, 2005). * Provincial or territorial jurisdiction.

Since the Pan-Canadian Strategy should be able to accommodate provincial and territorial system differences, the Accords will have to be written with that kind of partnership in mind (The Advisory Committee on Literacy and Essential Skills, 2005). * The Principles Accords should be negotiated with each province and territory in order to ensure that the literacy needs of each jurisdiction can be fully accommodated (The Advisory Committee on Literacy and Essential Skills, 2005). * The Accords must be respectful of the literacy policies and programmes already in place in each (The Advisory

Committee on Literacy and Essential Skills, 2005). * Specific provincial or territorial literacy goals drawn from the Pan-Canadian Goals recommended by the Committee should be an element of each Accord (The Advisory Committee on Literacy and Essential Skills, 2005). * The Accords should have clear benchmarks, indicators and reporting mechanisms included in them to account for the expenditures of money and to monitor progress towards the 10-year goals. The Committee recommends that reporting be done on three-year intervals (The Advisory Committee on Literacy and Essential Skills, 2005).

* The Accords should contain provisions for the expansion of systems for delivery where they exist and creation of capacity where required to meet the goals established (The Advisory Committee on Literacy and Essential Skills, 2005). * The Accords should provide for the infrastructure required to coordinate programmes, train trainers, develop appropriate curriculum, and provide in-service training (The Advisory Committee on Literacy and Essential Skills, 2005). * The Accords should provide core, stable and sustainable funding for long-term delivery if the goals for literacy are to be met.

Short-term project funding has proven to be inadequate in supporting current literacy delivery (The Advisory Committee on Literacy and Essential Skills, 2005). Funding arrangements negotiated within the Accords should be based on demonstrated need supported by research and data collection on a regular basis. All of these accords give a guideline to what Canada’s governments can do to increase literacy in this nation. (The Advisory Committee on Literacy and Essential Skills, 2005). Governments Role Government has huge role and impact of literacy in Canada.

They provide guidelines for programs, funding and support to agencies involved. The Federal government. Now is the time for the Government of Canada to play a leadership role to advance literacy in this country. Leadership requires vision, one that inspires all sectors of this society to work together to solve our literacy challenges. Canadian governments know that a society that is literate and engaged reaps social and economic benefits that enrich individuals, families and communities as well as the economy upon which their prosperity depends.

Literacy opens the door to increased productivity. A strong case can be made that the federal government must assume the responsibility for financing programs. The size of the economic benefits that would flow to Level 3 literacy skills are large by any measure and suggest that the investment could be re-couped through increased tax revenue in as little as a few years. The Federal government also has a moral obligation to reduce the gap in economic performance between immigrants and non immigrants, and differences in literacy.

The federal government should also take steps to ensure that the level of skill demand is adequate to ensure that the economy will be able to absorb the newly created skills. Finally, and most importantly, the federal government must become involved in the support of the direct provision of literacy training. There are parallels to be drawn to the support that the federal government provides for post-secondary education and for university-based research. It is a matter of will (Statistics Canada, 2006).

The provincial governments. The fact that low literacy scores are largely made up of native-born Canadians who either left the education system with low literacy levels, or who have since lost sufficient literacy skill to fall below level three levels, suggests that provincial governments should assume responsibility for this investment. This fact leads to many of these adults have relatively low income levels and much higher probabilities of receiving social assistance benefits (Murray et al. , 2009).

Governments should be committed to providing literacy services and training in the English, French, and Aboriginal languages. Wherever possible, learners should have opportunities to become literate in their mother tongue, and programming should be sensitive to the culture and realities of the learner (Statistics Canada, 2006). Municipal Governments. Local governments are also important with their responsibility over community resources that are often critical to the operations of community-based literacy organizations.

Libraries, at the national, provincial and local levels have also been important partners with literacy groups across Canada (Statistics Canada, 2006). Immigration Canada has a very diverse population with people who have backgrounds from all over the world. Language and cultural barriers can play havoc on these people’s ability to learn and be educated. Brian Borzykowsi says “Newcomers to Canada have it especially rough. Many aren’t fluent in English or French and struggle to understand what is going on in the classroom.

There can be curriculum gaps between their old and new schools, and integrating with other kids is often a challenge. For a few groups, high-school dropout rates are sky high: 42. 5 percent of Portuguese-speaking students don’t finish Grade 12, while 39. 1 percent of Spanish speakers and 36. 7 percent of Somali youth fail to complete secondary school. Compare that to the national dropout rate, which is less than ten percent, and it is clear there’s a problem. ” (Borzykowsi, 2009).

While new Canadians score poorly on literacy tests, most of them are more highly educated than native-born Canadians and their low scores is probably the result of the tests only being offered in English and French (Klie, 2008). Canadian regions also differ in literacy skill distribution because immigrants are not evenly distribution across the country; more immigrate to Ontario and British Columbia than to other areas. For example, 31 percent of Ontario IALS sample and 33 percent of that in British Columbia were immigrants; Alberta has the third highest proportion, with immigrants making up 21 percent of the sample.

Immigrants are over-represented at both the highest and lowest literacy levels. This presumably reflects the policy of selecting skilled immigrants that the Canadian Government has traditionally followed. Despite Canada’s success in recruiting skilled people, it must also be noted that large numbers of immigrants are at Level one, reflecting the fact that Canada has also accepted large numbers of immigrants on humanitarian grounds (Statistics Canada, 2006).

Overall, immigrants of working age performed in French or in English at a level significantly below the Canadian born population. Many of these people are highly literate in their native languages; they simply may not have had the time or the opportunity to develop sufficiently high literacy skills in one or other of Canada’s Official Languages. Solving the Official Language literacy issues of immigrants must be a key priority in any strategy.

The data suggest that as our immigration levels increase more effective measures will have to be put in place to assist newcomers in acquiring the literacy skills they need in either Official Language. Since a high proportion of newcomers come to Canada with post-secondary training, getting them integrated into the economy and society as quickly as possible should be a priority. Their professional or trades skills risk being underutilized if they are not literate in one or other of our Official languages.


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