A recent HECQO report, republished in the Globe & Mail suggests that 25% of students in higher education settings do not have the literacy skills required by employers and the economy. Problematically, this study uses population level data to infer actual everyday capacities of young Canadians, suggesting that those who don’t attain a threshold of Level 3 in numeracy and literacy skills are a ‘drag’ on the economy. Even though the OECD rejects this ‘threshold’ argument of literacy, it persists in some Canadian policy circles. You can read the original HEQCO study here, the G&M article here and then read a critique of the study by Christine Pinsent-Johnson.
As literacy educators we should be mindful of the methodological and interpretive claims of large scale literacy measurement studies and how these are translated into popular media. When studies create simplified constructs of ‘productive’ vs ‘non productive’ citizens, this can create social divisions that undermine the project of inclusive literacy education.