GATINEAU, QUÉ. – June 22, 2012 – The seven francophone participants from PEI at a recent forum staged by the national francophone literacy and skills development network (Réseau pour le développement de l’alphabétisme et des compétences or RESDAC), in Gatineau, Québec, agree that all Island partners should adopt the « learning communities » concept to help adult learners in their life and career paths.
Like many other forum participants, some of the Island delegates, who represented various sectors of society, were surprised to learn that 42 per cent of Canadians of working age (16-65 years) only have a literacy level of 1 or 2, according to the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey.
This means they are only able to read, write and understand very basic texts. The survey also revealed that certain regions and certain segments of the Canadian population have lower literacy rates than others. For example, an astounding 56 per cent of Islanders who have French as a first language have difficulty understanding what they read, compared to only 39 per cent for Islanders who have English as a mother tongue.
Specialists consider that level 3 (the skill level required to graduate from high school and to start college) is the minimum needed to meet the requirements of today’s modern society and economy, which is based primarily on knowledge. The higher an individual’s literacy level, the more apt he or she is to get fully involved in the development and fulfillment of his or her community. Literacy levels also have a direct impact on employment, income levels and health.
The Island participants agree that all community organizations and employers should be concerned about this problem and should invest resources to improve literacy and skill levels within the Acadian and francophone population. Over the next few weeks, the PEI participants will meet to figure out appropriate follow-ups to the forum, including asking all francophone organizations to include in their annual action plans an objective geared specifically towards training and learning. This global community support approach clearly reflects the RESDAC forum’s theme – “Learning Communities: United to Develop Literacy!”
The RESDAC and other organizations working in the area of literacy and skills development believe that real “learning communities” require active involvement from five sectors: civic, economic, public, education and voluntary.
Colette Arsenault, the RESDAC’s national outgoing president who happens to be from PEI, says the traditional approach of inviting people from levels 1 and 2 to register for traditional courses to obtain their Grade 12 equivalency certificate (GED) simply does not work. In fact, less than five per cent of people from these levels take advantage of such upgrading courses.
The approach that seems to work best consists of determining the skills already possessed by specific individuals and supporting them in acquiring additional skills they may require to attain career and life goals. In most cases, people from levels 1 and 2 have negative memories about school so they are only interested in learning opportunities that touch them personally and directly, such as the development of skills related to their job or their hobbies.
The best ways to reach these people are through personal contact and through interest groups. Those who deliver training must be more willing to work to meet the specific needs of learners rather than expect learners to adapt themselves to existing programs.
Arsenault personally believes that the Grade 12 requirement for many jobs “is not realistic nor justifiable since getting a high school diploma does not reflect the true work skills that an individual possesses.”
She instead feels that a greater number of jobs should be given based on people’s actual skill sets. The majority of adults from levels 1 and 2 have developed a series of skills during their years of work but often, in spite of the knowledge and skills they do possess, they aren’t allowed to move to a higher level because they haven’t finished their Grade 12.
Often, to have greater success, all they would need is the acquisition of a few more technical skills, rather than having to learn skills in mathematics, grammar and science as would be the case if they were studying for their GED.
For the past 21 years, the RESDAC – formerly known as the Fédération canadienne pour l’alphatébisation en français (FCAF) – has been mobilizing its partners around strategies aimed at improving literacy and skill levels among francophone adults in Canada.
The Island delegates at the forum represented the Collège Acadie Î.-P.-É., RDÉE Prince Edward Island and the Acadian and Francophone Chamber of Commerce of PEI (CCAFLIPE), adult learners, Cap enfants and the provincial government.
CUTLINE: Island participants at the RESDAC forum and annual meeting in Gatineau, Qué., the second week of June, were, from left, Maurice X. Gallant from XO Consultants, participating on his own behalf; official PEI delegates Giselle Bernard, representing the provincial government; Simone Arsenault, representing adult learners, Colette Arsenault, outgoing national RESDAC president; Jeannine Arsenault from Cap enfants, representing the early childhood sector; Raymond J. Arsenault from RDÉE PEI and the Acadian Chamber; and Donald DesRoches from the Collège Acadie Î.-P.-É., representing the postsecondary education sector.
For more information:
Raymond J. Arsenault
Communication and liaison officer
RDÉE Prince Edward Island.