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"Knowledge is the currency of our economy. If you want to see your workforce in
15 years, look at your children today.
"

Frank McKenna,
Pan Canadian Interactive
Literacy Forum
April 2008


Improving Literacy Levels Among Aboriginal Canadians

In 2003 Canada participated in the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey. Literacy levels were rated using a five-level scale with Level 3 considered to be the level required “for coping with the increasing skill demands of the emerging knowledge and information economy”.

Among Canadians aged 16 to 65, 42% failed to meet this standard; among Aboriginal peoples, this number was even higher. In urban Manitoba and Saskatchewan, as well as in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, the proportion of Aboriginal adults whose literacy skills fall below Level 3 is at least 16 percentage points higher than their non-Aboriginal counterparts.

Education contributes to stronger literacy skills for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples: among both groups, those with higher levels of education generally have strong literacy skills.

There are a number of reasons for poor educational outcomes among Aboriginal populations in Canada. Among the barriers to success articulated by Aboriginal students and educators are discrimination, institutional insensitivity toward Aboriginal cultures and lack of awareness of Aboriginal approaches to learning.

Addressing the educational challenges faced by Aboriginal students is a critical component of improving literacy skills. Some approaches that show promise include: early engagement of Aboriginal parents with their children’s schools, development of an understanding of Aboriginal approaches to learning, and decreasing the impact of student absenteeism and mobility.

At the Centre for Family Literacy, our Aboriginal Family Literacy Coordinator works with Aboriginal organizations and communities across the province providing training and support for family literacy programs. We have developed an Aboriginal Storysacks program that respects the importance of the culture, traditions, practices and beliefs of Aboriginal people. We have also researched and produced an extensive list of culturally appropriate Aboriginal books to support all of our family literacy programs.

Low literacy is one of many challenges facing Aboriginal communities across Canada. Addressing the underlying causes can contribute to overcoming many of these challenges.

Source: excerpts from Canadian Council on Learning, article Improving Literacy Levels Among Aboriginal Canadians

 


"Low literacy is one of many challenges facing Aboriginal communities across Canada. Addressing the underlying causes . . . can contribute to overcoming many of these challenges."


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