Adult literacy provision and social class: Australian contexts

Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Studies in the Education of Adults, 2018, 50 (1), pp. 92 - 110
Issue Date:
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Adult literacy provision began in Australia during a radical education era in the 1970s, and yet in recent decades, social class as a construct has been largely absent in the academic literature on adult literacy. We argue however that social class is essential to understanding adult literacy provision and furthermore that working class people have not been well served by this provision since the time literacy assumed enhanced status as human capital from the 1990s. We make our case through asking and responding to questions relating to the social class backgrounds of students and their teachers, how people are assessed to need literacy, what is taught, who undertakes research and who influences adult literacy policy. At the macro, structural level of analysis, we discuss the influence on adult literacy provision of the ruling class agendas of international agencies (i.e. the OECD) and national agencies representing capital. At the meso level, we discuss how the main adult literacy provider, technical and further education (TAFE) has failed to meet the adult literacy needs of working class students due to neo-liberal reforms. And at the micro, classroom level, we discuss some implications of class disparities between adult literacy teachers and their students.
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