Friday, July 30, 2004

How not to address adult literacy problems...

Now we turn to the government's policies for adults with literacy and numeracy difficulties. Alan Wells, director of the Basic Skills Agency and a man who clearly spent many years trying to get governments to take this issue seriously, is highly critical.

According to the latest government figures, four out of five adults officially need help in improving their basic literacy and numeracy skills. 82 per cent. How have they arrived at a figure that, surely, no one can take seriously? By including "anyone over the age of 16 who has not got what is called a level 2 qualification in literacy and numeracy - in rough terms, this means anyone without the equivalent of an A*-C at GCSE" (the exams taken at 16 in UK schools). As Wells points out, this includes himself, and he's pretty sure that he doesn't have a problem.

Now, as someone with three university degrees, I am not perhaps the best person to complain that we have become obsessed with qualifications. But I would never conflate the absence of a qualification with the absence of education, literacy, numeracy or any other intellectual skills (let alone use such a confusion to formulate government policy). And as Wells says, this conflation could have serious consequences for those who are in real need of help.

Some might say it's a good deal easier to reach national targets if you increase the size of the target audience to include most of the population. It also means that you don't have to try so hard to reach that minority of adults who really have a problem...

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:01 AM

    4 out of 5. That's ridiculous! Claire


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