Beyond IALS: Engaging others in conversation

Dear Literacy People Who are Sick of Counting Stuff that Doesn't Matter - go here: Welcome to "Beyond IALS"
- via Twitter

There's a new web discussion happening, maybe, that wants to get beyond (or maybe beneath) the "literacy-work-as-testing-and-reporting" paradigm.  In particular, they say they want to see literacy funding and efforts go into meeting needs in our community, rather than into yet another nation-wide survey:
Our goal is to insert into the discussions and proceedings of the [IALS Institute in Banff, Alberta from October 23 – 25, 2011] critical perspectives on IALS and its impact on adult literacy in Canada.

Tracey's tweet about it sent me over to the website, but it's still pretty beta, and missing some relevant information.  That least, that's what I was thinking when voiced my reservations in this commment:
Yeah, well… okay. I, too, think it’s time to give less attention to “expensive, macro-level literacy surveys.” Which raises some interesting questions about this blog. First, I suppose, is this one: who are you, and where do you live and work? (If being anonymous is importsnt, I understand, but I still need to know something about the context of your work, experiences and intentions.) Are you hoping to present a pan-Canadian vision, or an assemblage of local visions? Is your goal a multitude of well-funded adult literacy programs and supports, or an “adult learning system”? Why are you concerned about the “uncoordinated” state of the “adult learning system in Canada”? Isn’t “uncoordinated” just a negative word for “locally organized and managed according to local needs and priorities”?

For 10 years now, I’ve watched trans-Canadian and international groups pop up, ask for my thoughts and opinions, and then offer to better “coordinate” my work. Give me a reason to hope this effort is any different.

P.s., IALS and the OECD aren’t much of a problem, really, except for those people who choose to take them seriously. It’s the diversion of money allegedly intended to help adults with very poor literacy skills into Workplace Essential Skills (job prep) programs and GED (college prep) programs … a diversion largely driven by the provinces’ (and provincial groups’) dual reliance on the federal government and business groups for funding. Anyway, we could all help out if we stopped citing IALS numbers in our papers, funding proposals and press releases, refused to discuss them with the media, and insisted on talking about local, on-the-ground literacy needs and programs.

By the way, another comment came from Margerit Roger, who had a lovely op-ed in Literacies #9, the issue devoted to barriers, on the hidden assumptions that hinder too much of our work, and the ways we can choose to change this.

I particularly liked when she wrote:
For example, hiring or entrance criteria are often based strictly on academic credentials, which creates barriers to some individuals and ultimately affects the workforce or economy.  A more holistic process suggested by someone with an understanding of literacy-related inequities might include recognition for prior learning, to acknowledge the fact that people can acquire skills and knowledge outside educational institutions.

Of course, these types of systemic changes require individuals in positions of authority to challenge their own assumptions and beliefs, potentially requiring a change of mind and heart.
"Seeing the forest and the trees" Literacies, #9 fall 2008, p.42

But she also wrote this: "Engaging others in conversations and projects thus becomes an act of community-building, a chance to improve literacy about literacy.  This engagement of new people and energies also feeds the eternal hopefulness of literacy work."

So, there.  Don't take any wooden nickles.  But do go visit them, and get engaged.

Note: they've already updated some information.  See, Who and what is “Beyond IALS”?

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