Why do they leave?
The reasons why adult students decide to enroll in a literacy program and then choose to either continue or drop out are multiple, complex and varied. Adult students come to literacy programs with their individual sets ofmotivations, barriers and personal needs. In this training module, Community Literacy of Ontario explores issues around the important topic of student retention.
Canadian and international research consistently shows high drop out rates from adult literacy programs. The Ontario Literacy Coalition's “Seeing the Need; Meeting the Need” found that “Various studies have suggested that anywhere between 10 to 60% of all students in adult basic education programs drop out before they have achieved their goals.”
We live in the information age where an ever-increasing level of literacy is needed. However, in Canada millions of people face literacy challenges. Surveys indicate that here in our province, four in ten Ontarians aged 15 and over do not have the literacy skills they need to meet the demands of modern life. There is simply no denying the need for literacy. You can learn more about this issue by checking out the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey at www.literacy.ca/?q=literacy/literacyinformation#litstats.
Along with the need for literacy, Ontario hasa diverse and effective range of adult literacy organizations funded by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU). Two hundred agencies at 300 sites are funded to help adult learners achieve their literacy and basic skills goals. As well, these agencies offer a range of delivery formats (one-to-one tutoring, small groups and classroom-based learning). Literacy instruction is delivered in four streams: Anglophone, Francophone, Native and Deaf. For more information on Ontario's literacy agencies see www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/training/literacy/main.html.
So with the high need for literacy and a variety of excellent programming to choose from, why do so many adult learners drop out?
The 2002 report called “Seeing the Need; Meeting the Need” (written by Yvonne Roussy and Doug Hart for the Ontario Literacy Coalition) describes recruitment and retention research conducted with 92 adult students. This research found that adults had many different reasons for leaving their literacy program. Students spoke of busy schedules at work or home that conflicted with their ability to attend. Others had money or health problems or lacked the confidence to continue. Overall, this report found that people stopped going to literacy programs because “something else in their everyday lives was more important than going to school at that time.”
This report found that learners who dropped out of their literacy programs gave the following reasons for doing so:
- Work conflicts (39%)
- Money problems (39%)
- Personal problems, health, confidence (26%)
- Other problems with program (22%)
- Childcare conflict (13%)
- Other time conflict (13%)
- Other reasons (9%)
- Curriculum not relevant/wrong level (4.5%)
- Disliked teachers and/or students (4.5%)
- Family, others not supportive (4.5%)
- Staff not supportive (0%)
(Note: Learners could cite more than one reason)
Conflicts with work and lack of money topped the list of reasons for dropping out. Personal problems, health and confidence are also key factors for adult students. This research indicates that literacy learners face significant challenges when returning to school that may be outside of their control and that are often beyond the control of literacy agencies.
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