Written Answers - Literacy Levels.

Thursday, 25 May 2006

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 620 No. 92

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  10.  Mr. Boyle  Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin   if she has seen the draft report on adult literacy as recently submitted to the Joint Committee on Education and Science; if she will, in principle, at least quadruple the budget, should the Committee endorse this recommendation in the final report; the factors which would prevent her from doing so; her views on the importance of literacy skills for the benefit of the adults concerned and their families; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19969/06]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science (Miss de Valera): Information on Síle de Valera  Zoom on Síle de Valera  The draft report referred to by the deputy is currently being considered by the Joint Committee for Education and Science. The Committee has not yet adopted or finalised the report and as a result I have not seen it.

The Adult Literacy service is organised by and delivered through the VEC Adult Literacy Schemes throughout the country. The service is resourced and managed by the VECs through funding from my Department.

The White Paper on Adult Education, “Learning for Life”, published in 2000, identifies adult literacy as the top priority in adult education.

Since 1997, funding from my Department for Adult Literacy has incrementally increased from €1million then to €23million in 2006. As a consequence, the numbers of clients catered for annually have increased from 5,000 to over 35,000 in 2005.

The National Development Plan 2000-2006 committed €93.5 million and anticipated that 110,000 people would participate in the adult literacy programme over the period. This target has been exceeded.

Specially targeted literacy programmes, such as family learning programmes, literacy for non-[810]Irish nationals, programmes for people with special needs,for Travellers and for Gaeltacht people, have been provided. Family literacy groups, involving adults and their children, are running successfully. In recognition of the vital role of parents and other family members in children’s literacy development, a new family literacy project within DEIS is currently being developed by my Department.

A new intensive literacy programme has recently been introduced on a pilot basis. This is a joint project led by the Irish Vocational Education Association in partnership with the National Adult Literacy Agency and my Department. It is now on offer to people with severe literacy needs and involves six hours of literacy tuition per week instead of the usual two hours. The programme will be reviewed this summer and a report is expected in the autumn. My Department has provided funding of just over €1million for this pilot programme. The future of the programme will be considered on receipt of the report.

An assessment framework, known as “Mapping the Learning Journey” for the adult literacy service, that will be in line with best international practice is in the course of being introduced as a feature of the literacy services of many VECs. It will eventually be available nationwide. The key focus is how to bring national consistency and objective standards into the initial diagnosis of learners’ starting points and subsequent progress. My Department has provided funding of €167,000 to the “Mapping the Learning Journey” assessment framework in 2006.

It should be recognised that these initiatives would take some time to impact on the large target-group of adults with literacy problems, that is 500,000 people. For one reason or another, many people were reluctant to enrol in the public literacy services, even though they knew they had problems. To help these people, my Department commissioned the production of five TV series in literacy awareness and tuition for adults.

[811]For 2006, it is proposed to provide a new two year multi-media literacy tuition initiative. This will be done in partnership with the National Adult Literacy Agency and the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland and RTE.

Adult literacy will continue to be my top priority in adult education and I shall continue to extend the literacy service as resources permit.

I look forward to receiving the Committee’s report in due course.

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