Literacy Crises and ESL Education

By Hammond, Jennifer | Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, June 1999 | Go to article overview

Literacy Crises and ESL Education


Hammond, Jennifer, Australian Journal of Language and Literacy


Introduction

The last couple of years have been particularly significant ones for literacy education in Australia, with the release of three major reports on surveys of literacy abilities and the release of a major policy initiative, the Commonwealth Literacy Policy. While the major focus of this article is the nature and consequences of the last-mentioned, it is useful first to look briefly at the reports of literacy surveys, as they contribute directly to the context which shaped the policy and provide, at least to some extent, justification for its nature.

The first of these reports, Survey of Aspects of Literacy (SAL), released in September 1997, provided information about the national survey of literacy abilities of Australian adults, assessed on abilities in prose, document and quantitative literacy on a scale of 1-5. A major finding of the survey was that about 47 per cent of Australian adults were assessed in the lowest two scales, suggesting that a considerable number of people experienced at least some difficulty with literacy in their lives, while only 17 per cent were assessed in the highest two scales. Since about 20 per cent of those surveyed were assessed at Level 1, the survey release was accompanied by some media claims of 20 per cent illiteracy rates in Australia. The more detailed breakdown and discussion of figures revealed other significant data, among them the following findings.

* A strong correlation between low literacy levels and older people, especially those who spoke English as a second language and those of Aboriginal descent (although due to the small sample of Aboriginal informants, the survey report cautioned against generalisations about literacy levels of Aboriginal people).

* Higher overall literacy levels for younger people (with the exception of young people aged 15-19, many of whom, as the survey report pointed out, were still in the process of completing their schooling).

* A high overall correlation between educational attainment and literacy performance.

While the survey results offered little room for complacency as far as the literacy abilities of Australians are concerned, they were comparable with results from other English-speaking nations such as the United States and Canada. From the results it is also possible to conclude that, since younger people with high educational attainment had the highest literacy levels, and older immigrants whose education had occurred primarily in countries other than Australia had the lowest levels of literacy, Australian schools have been generally successful in assisting students' literacy development. They also suggested the need for on-going adult literacy programs. Unfortunately, at the time of the survey release, funding for adult literacy programs had recently been substantially cut.

A second major report -- comprehensive, carefully conducted and having the support of teachers, unions and other educational groups -- was released a week later. Mapping Literacy Achievement (1997) reported the results of the 1996 National School English Literacy Survey, which assessed the literacy achievements of Year 3 and Year 5 students across Australian schools.

Simultaneously, at the insistence of Dr David Kemp, the Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs, a further report, Literacy Standards in Australia (1997), was released. This report applied a statistical procedure to the data contained in the National School English Literacy Survey in order to establish benchmarks and to determine what proportion of students were performing at levels judged to be adequate. The results, announced in a sensational manner on the television program `Sixty Minutes', were interpreted by the minister as indicating there were major literacy problems in Australian schools and that about one-third of Australian school students could not read or write at an adequate standard. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Literacy Crises and ESL Education
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.