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Adult Learning and Literacy in Canada

Volume 2: Chapter Six
Linda Shohet

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In Chapter Six, Linda Shohet offers a description of the adult literacy and learning system in Canada. In providing a historical overview of the development of the field, Shohet notes key political events that have influenced the funding and development of services for adults. Through her description, the author reveals the complexity and challenges involved in accommodating the needs of different groups in Canadian society Anglo-Saxon, French, Native cultures and more recent immigrants from a range of countries. Moreover, Shohet points out the separateness of provincial education systems, influenced by geography, as well as divergent populations and learning needs.  To provide some global sense of adult learning needs in Canada, Shohet offers data on demographics and learning needs as revealed by the 1994 International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS).  

In describing Canada's responses to adult learning needs, Shohet describes institutions, such as the National Literacy Secretariat, that have played an important role in the development of services for adult learners.  In addition, the author notes challenges facing Canadian adult educators, including: the need for a redefinition of literacy; effectively integrating technology into ABE; redefining the roles and training of volunteers and practitioners; balancing support for family and workplace literacy with funding for other types of literacy instruction; promoting partnerships between educators and other sectors like health and business; reducing tensions between English as a second language, French as a second language, and literacy programs; and increasing the sustainability of existing ABE systems. As Shohet points out, Canada has made progress in building awareness of the need for literacy education, as well as in strengthening the skills of practitioners and support for research. In looking to the future, the author calls for the federal government to become permanently responsible for sustaining infrastructure (i.e., communication networks, resources and support for research). At the provincial level, she suggests the need for stronger connections between adult literacy and K-12 education systems and greater links among the education, community and business sectors. 

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