Literacy and numeracy skills definition
Literacy has been achieved when a person has the ability to speak, read and write in such a way that effective communicate can take place and which enables the person to have an understanding of the world. Numeracy involves the skills and knowledge that students have acquired so that they can use mathematics effectively in many different situations.
In Australia, as in many other countries, there is a constant drive to improve numeracy and literacy so that the population has equal access to communicating in the world in many and varied situations. Improving language literacy and numeracy (LLN) and basic literacy and numeracy skills depends on the availability of teachers who are well qualified, experienced and determined to improve the literacy and numeracy outcomes of their students.
The importance of literacy and numeracy skills
To be able to make the best decisions in one’s life requires a high level of literacy and numeracy whether it is to make a spur of the moment decision at a workplace or when going shopping, understanding written instructions regarding a health problem, making a decision about a financial matter or understanding the potential outcome of taking up gambling. Studies have shown that there are simply millions of adults and teenagers who don’t have basic skills in literacy and numeracy which means they aren’t empowered enough to be able to play an active role in things that matter. If an adult has accumulated a high level of proficiency in literacy and numeracy she or he is more likely to be in good health, have a job, have high earnings, and is confident to play an active life in the community.
In Australia today there are just two VET accredited qualifications that offer courses in literacy and numeracy. These are the following:
- TAE80113 – Graduate Diploma in Adult Language, Literacy & Numeracy Practice;
- TAE80213 – Graduate Diploma in Adult Language, Literacy & Numeracy Leadership.
The TAE80113 qualification is only offered by five providers in the country while just two are permitted to offer the TAE80213. As a result there are very few participants on these courses who have completed either of them. Currently, there is a need for more trainers to offer these qualifications who also need the specialist training required for adult literacy which is not the same as school based programmes offered for young people.
The LLN program
There are a lot of challenges when trying to make decisions on what support programmes are best suited to adults who have poor LLN skills. This is because this group is not uniform so approaches when teaching LNN skills may vary making it difficult to offer LLN skills programmes that suit all learners.
To improve outcomes for adults who lack LLN skills programmes should be implemented, like vocational, community and workplace programs or family literacy programmes.
The vocational and workplace programme
Providing training in literacy and numeracy within the workplace should be able to benefit employers and employees. Research reveals that LLN provision linked with workplace and vocational training is best delivered within the specific environment if it is possible to do so. Skills Australia has revealed that linking LLN provision to students’ core VET programmes gives the student the opportunity to address their deficient LLN skills in a relevant and meaningful context and helps to prevent them feeling stigmatized.
The community programme
People who have literacy problems often are not keen to ask for help so providing community-based LLN course providers which would take place in houses in the neighbourhood, community colleges and even in men’s sheds is vital for those who need better LLN skills so that they can play a more active and meaningful role in everyday Australian life.
An adult & community education (ACE) literacy programme is often successful because it can improve literacy skills using informal learning around personal, local and community-based activities. It could also offer a more formal learning programme which could lead to a pathway into an accredited vocational program. This type of community-based programme is often best used when trying to solve LLN problems amongst First Nation Australians.
The family literacy programme
The family literacy programme has not been promoted sufficiently in Australia, but research has shown that it can bring about successful outcomes. The OECD says that a family literacy programme engages adults while they are involved in parenting which leads to improvements both in their parenting and their literacy levels which helps in developing better literacy outcomes for their children.
If literacy and numeracy rates aren’t lifted there is going to be a proportion of the population who isn’t going to benefit to the fullest from what is available to them.