Local Viewpoints
6:10 pm
Tue October 8, 2013

New Mexico Coalition For Literacy Responds To International Report

Santa Fe, NM - According to a new International report, low basic skills in literacy and numeracy are more common in the US than on average across participating countries.  One in six adults in the US have low literacy skills and nearly one third have weak numeracy skills.  Adults in the US fared less well with “problem-solving in technology-rich environments” than the cross-country average.

These findings are from the much anticipated Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Skills Outlook 2013 Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) Report released in Brussels today by the OECD.  The Survey of Adult Skills is an international survey conducted in the US and 24 participating countries.  It measured the key cognitive and workplace skills needed for individuals to participate in society and for economies to prosper.

Martin Finsterbusch, a former adult education student and president of the National Coalition for Literacy and Executive Director of VALUEUSA, stated that, “This report underscores the importance of investing in adult education in the US.  We must give adults in our nation the opportunity to improve their literacy and English language skills.  Research demonstrates that investment in adult education pays …For America’s Workers…For Global Competitiveness…For Bridging the Digital Divide…For Stronger Families and Future Generations…For Educational Attainment…For Safer and Healthier Communities…For an Informed Citizenry…and…For Fully Integrated Communities!”

Heather Heunermund, Executive Director of the New Mexico Coalition for Literacy said, “It seems that the US is on its continued trajectory of decreasing literacy and numeracy skills.  This is likely true of New Mexico, too, and we will know when the small area estimates are released.  If New Mexico does nothing more to improve the skills of its workforce, it will continue to see a decline in the earning power of its residents and the solvency of its economy.”

The report reads in part, “The technological revolution that began in the last decades of the 20th century has affected nearly every aspect of life in the 21st: from how we “talk” with our friends and loved ones, to how we shop, and how and where we work.  Quicker and more efficient transportation and communication services have made it easier for people, goods, services and capital to move around the world, leading to the globalization of economies.  These social and economic transformations have, in turn, changed the demand for skills as well.  With manufacturing and certain low-skill tasks increasingly becoming automated, the need for routine cognitive and craft skills is declining, while the demand for information-processing and other high-level cognitive and interpersonal skills is growing.”

Finsterbusch said, “Local adult education programs across the US report waiting lists.  We must address the shortage of available resources to meet the instructional needs of these adults.  In the meantime, the National Coalition for Literacy and the US Adult Education and Literacy field eagerly await the release of the US Country Report containing more specific analysis of the skills of adults in the US.”

Established by First Lady Katherine Carruthers in 1987, the New Mexico Coalition for Literacy (NMC) began as an effort to gain support through the State Legislature to provide modest operating expenses, training, and technical assistance to community-based adult literacy programs and has grown in both stature and capacity to support these programs, all while maintaining a small and efficient staff of three.  The NMCL is funded by the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs/State Library through the State Legislature and also relies on fundraisers and community support to increase the number of students served.

For more information about adult literacy, schedule an interview, donate, volunteer as a tutor, or refer a potential student, call the NMCL’s literacy hotline at 1-800-233-7587 or email info@newmexicoliteracy.org.  You may also visit the NMCL’s website at http://www.newmexicoliteracy.org.