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Adult literacy and numeracy in Aotearoa New Zealand: How does current research and organisational reporting align with the Living Standards Framework?

Literacy and numeracy are foundational skills that are important in everyday life. Dominant western perspectives of literacy and numeracy focus on skills attainment for economic benefit and international comparison; this is a neoliberal approach that influences policy development in developed countries worldwide. However, there is growing recognition that high rates of economic productivity do not provide an accurate indicator of success for either individuals or nations. In support of this position, this thesis favours a sociomaterial approach to literacy and numeracy, prioritising people’s abilities to communicate and navigate their world effectively, while engaging in meaningful social practices that allow them to participate in family and community. This master’s research sought to understand the connections between adult literacy and numeracy learners, wellbeing outcomes, and the Living Standards Framework. The New Zealand Treasury’s Living Standards Framework (LSF) was developed to provide a view of intergenerational wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand; it underpins the government’s wellbeing focus for budgetary and policy decisions. A community psychology and Kaupapa Māori lens was applied to critically evaluate whether the LSF aligns with community psychology values and principles in Aotearoa New Zealand, and, most importantly, whether it reflects Māori cultural views and values. The value of the LSF in the adult literacy and numeracy education context was also examined, with particular emphasis on similarities between the LSF, literacy and numeracy learning opportunities, and learner outcomes; and whether the use of the LSF in adult education programmes and policies would complement the existing approach. The study involved a document analysis of six key LSF documents and six literacy and numeracy research reports. Each document was analysed using deductive and inductive means, which enabled the identification of themes and subthemes that reflected underlying values, approaches, and outcomes. To augment the document analysis, six interviews were held with report authors and key personnel from relevant organisations; these added value to the research by exploring the values that underpin literacy and numeracy research and reporting in Aotearoa New Zealand. The findings conclude that the 2018 LSF was based on sound international principles, but lacked a genuine perspective of wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand. A recently-launched 2021 LSF has undergone an ‘evolution’ and is presented in a much more holistic style, acknowledging its previous shortcomings in addressing concepts of wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand. Two accompanying Māori-led documents: An Indigenous Approach to the Living Standards Framework, and He Ara Waiora, both offer a holistic, te ao Māori perspective of wellbeing. The document analysis highlighted a sociomaterial, values based approach to adult literacy and numeracy education that prioritised holistic wellbeing outcomes for learners and their whānau. These findings were supported by the interview data. The final discussion and conclusion posited that the 2021 Living Standards Framework provides a welcome update and potential for genuine, Aotearoa-specific wellbeing considerations in policy-making and governance; however, it remains to be seen whether this will translate into changes in policy-making and programme delivery for the literacy and numeracy sector.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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