What’s the problem? Socio-economic factors


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There is a range of socio-economic factors associated with low levels of adult literacy and numeracy.

This includes things relating to education, income and occupation that have a negative influence on someone’s position in relation to others in society.

Sometimes this relates to the kind of home environment that a person grew up in. For example, the following kinds of home life are associated with low levels of literacy and numeracy.

A home environment:

  • That is chronically stressful. For example, if parents are distressed.
  • That is characterised by low literacy and numeracy. An example would include a home where there are few books or reading is not valued.
  • Where parents may be unable to afford resources such as books, computers, or extra tuition needed to create positive literacy and numeracy experiences.
  • Where parents have less time available to read to their children at younger ages or provide academic support as they get older.

The kind of school environment someone grew up in has an impact too. For example,

  • Schooling that doesn’t meet the needs of learners who struggle for various reasons.
  • Poorly trained or inexperienced teachers.

In terms of income and occupation, these factors below are often associated with low levels of adult literacy and numeracy.

  • Poverty or low incomes
  • Unemployment or underemployment.

Other factors sometimes include poor physical or mental health, or discrimination because of culture, religious or other reasons.

Some questions to think about

Again, it’s good to stop and think about the impact of these on your own learners. The questions below are not assessed, but thinking about your answers to them will help you with the assessment task.

  1. Can you identify any socio-economic factors affecting your own learners?
  2. If you think about your learners, is any of this their own fault?
  3. Make a list of what factors you can positively influence versus what is outside of your control.

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