Time to invest in literacy

Time to invest in literacy

Illustration of a man and a woman both holding a giant pencil and speaking through megaphonesSeptember 8 is International Literacy Day. CUPE believes literacy and skills training are fundamental rights for workers and for all people.

We are facing significant changes in our workplaces and in our lives. In this environment, literacy and skills will be more important than ever.

Trends such as globalization, digitalization, and demographic shifts are changing work, communities, the way society functions, and the way people interact. CUPE calls on the federal government to invest in literacy. 

Literacy is more than reading and writing. It’s about our ability to learn, problem-solve and think critically. It’s about accessing information and having the tools to understand and analyze that information. Literacy skills help us realize our life goals and meet the communication demands at work, at home, and in the community.

Literacy is about an educated and literate society. Strong literacy and essential skills contribute to civic engagement, a healthy population, and a strong economy with good jobs.

Although Canada’s literacy skills are above average, those at the lowest levels have grown over the past decade. Literacy is clearly a fundamental question of social and economic equality. We need a vision to ensure that everyone has the skills to respond to the challenges and opportunities of a complex and changing world.

With federal leadership, we can achieve success in developing policy, increasing funding, and coordinating a national conversation.

Canada needs:

  • A national literacy policy that commits to advancing literacy programming in Canada. While the provinces and territories deliver such programs, the federal government has a vital role to play in setting a national framework. The federal government can support coordination among governments and, with other stakeholders, to ensure that we make the most of everyone’s potential.
  • Federal funding for literacy to foster innovation, share best practices, and support accessible and affordable literacy programming for all adults who need it. The current federal government has taken steps to negotiate with the provinces and territories to provide literacy and essential skills training to the employed and unemployed. But much more must be done.
  • Implementation of Canada’s international commitments on adult education including UNESCO’s Education 2030 Framework for Action (2015), Recommendation on the Development of Adult Education (2015) and Bélem Framework for Action (2009).
  • Conversations about lifelong learning to enable all adults to learn in a safe and supportive environment, to reduce stigma and ensure success. We must increase access to technology and to the learning tools to use technology. Workplace literacy programs, family literacy activities, community-based programs, and financial and social supports will give everyone the opportunity to learn.


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