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Adult Literacy in New Zealand

Volume 5: Chapter Six
Alice Johnson Cain and John Benseman

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In this chapter, Alice Johnson Cain and John Benseman describe the history and structure of the adult literacy system in New Zealand. They begin the chapter with an overview of the countryís political history and economic trends, which set the context for adult literacy as a public policy concern. The authors next describe the growth of support for literacy, beginning during the 1970s and 1980s. Drawing largely on the results of the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) conducted in 1997 in New Zealand, Cain and Benseman outline New Zealandís literacy needs, noting the range of population groups in need of services and literacy figures that parallel those found in the U.S. and other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. The authors then briefly review recent national level strategies developed in response to the findings of the IALS.

While acknowledging that significant progress in support of the field of adult literacy has been made, the authors end the chapter with a set of policy recommendations. First, they call for the establishment of a more coordinated system of school, community, and workplace providers who share the goal of improving literacy. Second, they point out the need for a system for measuring literacy achievement in order to answer important questions about the impact of adult literacy education services. Third, the authors call attention to the role of literacy in advancing goals within multiple sectors and recommend adopting policies that promote literacy throughout all social service and education sectors. Fourth, they note the need to increase professional development opportunities and working conditions for adult literacy practitioners. Finally, they call for increased funding for adult literacy, including special funding streams for different literacy sectors (e.g., workplace and community-based, family literacy, and Maori-focused programs). As the authors note, New Zealand has made notable progress in developing its adult literacy education system over the last 30 years, but more remains to be done in order to strengthen the field and provide services for those in need.

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Updated 7/27/07 :: Copyright © 2005 NCSALL