Time for National Renewal: Australian adult literacy and numeracy as ‘foundation skills’

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Stephen Black
Keiko Yasukawa


Those working in the field of adult literacy and numeracy are currently anticipating changes in the near future as the federal government has flagged the development of a National Foundation Skills Strategy (Australian Government 2010). ‘Foundation skills’ is a term that has recently been suggested as a way of simplifying discussions about literacy and numeracy (Perkins 2009:8), and it has gained traction in various Australian national policy environments (e.g. Gillard 2009, Council of Australian Governments [COAG] Reform Council 2009, Australian Government 2010). Foundation skills appears to encapsulate adult language, literacy and numeracy, and more broadly, it may also include so-called employability skills such as communication and teamwork (Roberts and Wignall 2010:1). In this paper, our main focus is on the adult literacy and numeracy dimensions of what is needed in the policy renewal.

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Author Biographies

Stephen Black, University of Technology Sydney

Stephen Black is a researcher in the Centre for Research in Learning and Change at the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia. He is currently working on a national project with Keiko Yasukawa on integrated literacy and numeracy in vocational education and training. He worked in TAFE NSW for more than 20 years as a head teacher of basic education, and he has been an active researcher in the adult literacy field since the 1980s. His email is stephen.black@uts.edu.au.

Keiko Yasukawa, University of Technology Sydney

Keiko Yasukawa is a Lecturer in Adult Education at the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia. She teaches and researches in adult numeracy and literacy. As an active member of the Australian Council for Adult Literacy and the NSW Adult Literacy and Numeracy Council, she has been involved in advocacy for a national literacy and numeracy policy renewal. Her email is keiko.yasukawa@uts.edu.au.