Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Literacy and Numeracy

FLG hears often that literacy and numeracy are key for economic growth of a country. He objects, on general principle, to the emphasis of education as economic activity, but has somewhat acquiesced to it. Nevertheless, FLG wondered if there were any studies done to determine how much increased literacy and numeracy help with employability. Also, he was interested how they defined literate and numerate.

Well, found an article and checkout this abstract:
The employment effects of participation in adult literacy and numeracy courses are assessed, one year after participation, using a matched comparison, longitudinal design, with difference-in-differences analysis. Employability improvements, but no employment effects, are found. Effects on employment may result in the longer term from an increased likelihood of subsequent training.

Translation:
These classes didn't do shit as far as we could tell empirically, but we're convinced it has to, so we probably aren't looking in the right place and didn't have time to search more.

Actually, I'm sympathetic to that view in general. With adults it's very difficult, I think, to translate training into better jobs. That's the fundamental problem with retraining programs for displaced workers. If a guy or gal was a factory worker for 10 years, then goes to school for 6 months or a year to learn a new trade, then how is an employer in their new field supposed to know what they've learned and whether or not they'll even like their new career?

In the job retraining case, the programs have to add an internship or other hands on component and also work closely with the local employers in the field to shape the curriculum.

Well, when you are teaching people basic skills, like reading and adding, it's difficult to make much headway. Employers usually expect those things. The people who are unable to read or add probably had a poor job history and taking one class isn't going to convince most employers that they've all of a sudden become great potential employees.

1 comment:

The Ancient said...

[W]hen you are teaching people basic skills, like reading and adding, it's difficult to make much headway.

1) State and federal agencies have been attempting to retrain workers in redundant industries since the collapse of the steel industry in the mid-1970s. (Or more precisely, the collapse of the unionized, non-mini-mill portion of the steel industry.) No one knew how to do it then, and now, decades and tens of billions later, we're not much better, if at all.

2) Imagine how this problem plays out in Afghanistan, where we're trying to train army personnel and policemen. (Imagine Detroit, but with bigger guns.)

 
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