Policy Wonk

Brigid Hayes has posted part of a keynote speech she gave at the Saskatchewan Literacy Network's Knowledge Exchange session last November on the Saskatchewan Action Research Network blog.

If you don't know Brigid, she has over 30 years of experience working in the Canadian literacy scene. In 1989, she "joined the NLS [National Literacy Secretariat] to build literacy partnerships with business and labour organizations. Our marching orders were to engage every aspect of society in whatever ways would prove useful."

In this article, Brigid looks back on how literacy came to be part of the policy picture, discusses how accountability requirements started to shape literacy policy, and makes recommendations for the future.
We’ve won the argument that literacy matters to labour force participation. Now perhaps it is time to look out at the “margins” again and present a vision of literacy that embraces a more holistic view. One that views literacy as integral to civic engagement, equity, participation in all aspects of life. Literacy as a human right, not a privilege.
Perhaps it is time to become activists again while leaving the well-developed institutional approaches to continue. To till new fields, plant new seeds, and grow a vision that acknowledges and complements what has been created. To go beyond labour market outcomes. Canada once embraced literacy as a multi-faceted concept to ensure full participation in our society, but literacy’s focus has since been narrowed, rules have multiplied, and the locus of power has shifted.
We can’t go back, but we can take what we’ve learned over the past two decades and craft a vision rooted in today’s realities—realities that speak to the needs of all adult learners. A vision that squarely places literacy within the wider values and norms that define us as a nation.
Well said Brigid.

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