The Role of Adult Basic and Literacy Education Essay

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The Role of Adult Basic and Literacy Education

With the passage of the 1988 Family Support Act (FSA), adult basic and literacy education was linked to welfare reform. Based on experimentation with welfare reform during the previous decade, the FSA created the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training Program (JOBS). JOBS, which requires states to make educational services available to welfare recipients, was created in response to the general consensus that welfare recipients are not well prepared to enter the work force (Cohen et al. 1994). One of its major underlying assumptions is "that a strong foundation of literacy and basic skills is critical to the successful transition to employment and self-sufficiency for AFDC
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Some of this research is based on experiments with welfare-to-work programs leading up to the FSA (e.g., California's Greater Avenues for Independence [GAIN] program), but much of it deals directly with the experiences of providing adult basic and literacy education to JOBS participants. This Practice Application Briefreviews some of these research findings and describes their implications for practice.

What Does the Research Say?

Evaluation studies of employment and training programs, including the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA), the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), and JOBS, are one body of research that can inform practice. This research has been conducted over the past 20 years primarily on demonstration programs designed to improve the basic skills and employability of disadvantaged adults. A synthesis (Cohen et al. 1994) of this research resulted in the following conclusions that have a bearing on the role of adult basic and literacy education in welfare-to-work programs:

Because they use traditional pedagogical approaches for which many adults have little tolerance, adult basic and literacy education programs have experienced difficulty attracting and retaining participants. Furthermore, many low-skilled adults see no connection between this traditional approach and their primary goal of getting a
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