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6th April 2001 at 01:00
No one said that social inclusion would be easy. Wendy Alexander, the Enterprise Minister and one of its progenitors in Scotland, admitted to an adult literacy conference (page 28) that only one in six of the 800,000 adults with the lowest levels of attainment saw that as a problem. Yet we are repeatedly told, especially by ministers, that ours must be a knowledge economy.

There can be no learning without motivation. That applies to adults even more than to school-age pupils. A large number of people in employment must think that they can do their job - and get by in life generally - without needing to upgrade their basic skills. Form-filling is no doubt a bane, but, self-assessing for the Inland Revenue, it is to us all. There are manyjobs that do not need advanced literacy and numeracy skills, and there are many people who accept that they will not progress to posts that would be more demanding.

When people go out of their way to seek help with reading and writing, it is usually from a sense of frustration. They are being held back and feel embarrassed. Then, although they lack confidence, they are in the right frame of mind to learn. Encouraging people to become involved in learning when their experience at school was probably unsatisfactory is a major challenge. No one has yet made it cool for men in blue-collar jobs to take up education. Getting to grips with information technology, which demands literacy skills (even to text-message), may be one lure.

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