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New qualification tackles low adult literacy

New qualification aims to address low adult literacy

One in five adult New Zealanders are struggling to cope with the demands of everyday life and work due to poor literacy skills, with Counties Manukau particularly affected as the region’s literacy rates lag behind the national average, according to an international report.

However, a new national qualification offered at Manukau Institute of Technology – which is the first of its kind in New Zealand – is set to improve the literacy and numeracy skills of adults by delivering more adult literacy educators.

MIT’s new National Certificate in Adult Literacy Education, which begins on 28 July, is aimed specifically at lecturers and tutors involved in the literacy development of adults.

The certificate is offered by MIT’s School of Foundation Studies and forms part of the government’s adult literacy strategy to develop a highly skilled literacy teaching workforce. The strategy was developed after the 1996 International Adult Literacy Survey found that 20% of New Zealand adults have very poor literacy skills.

Poor literacy is a major issue for thousands of New Zealand adults, as it affects their ability to gain employment, communicate and contribute fully to their communities, says head of MIT’s School of Foundation Studies, Kirk Sargent.

“Communities with low literacy rates tend to have more social issues. Higher literacy rates lead to economic stability and empower communities, as individuals can become economically active and improve their future prospects.”

Teaching literacy skills to adults requires specialised training, which has not been provided in a nationally accredited qualification before, says Kirk. “Most literacy education programmes are aimed at primary education. A course hasn’t been offered like this one before, which specifically targets the literacy education needs of adults.”

MIT’s National Certificate in Adult Literacy Education is unique as it is specifically designed to meet the training needs of such tutors and ultimately their students, says Kirk. “Literacy teaching requires a different focus. This certificate will provide models of successful delivery of literacy to adults.”

The new certificate will be offered on campus at MIT’s School of Foundation Studies in Manukau and, from 2007, will also be provided through distance learning, which will make it available to adult literacy tutors from across the country. “Down the track we will also look at developing the programme in other regions.”

The course is studied over two years on a part time basis and is aimed at tutors in private training establishments, polytechnics and wananga, as well as whanau and home-based tutors.

Subjects covered include the history and development of adult literacy in New Zealand, Maori literacy, teaching and learning theories, assessment, adult numeracy teaching, and the design and delivery of literacy skills to both individuals and groups.

A limited number of full-fee Tertiary Education Commission scholarships are also available for the programme which, combined with the certificate being provided part time and through distance learning, makes it accessible to a wider number of people from around New Zealand, says Kirk.

In the future, MIT also plans to offer a National Diploma in Adult Literacy Education, which will provide students who have completed the certificate with a pathway for further study.

In addition to the certificate, MIT’s School of Foundation Studies is also running a programme where literacy skills are delivered by literacy specialists in the vocational training provided by other MIT departments. “The aim is to embed literacy training in our vocational courses,” says Kirk.

A professional qualification to support embedded literacy practice is going to be offered in 2007.


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