The editors of Adult Literacy Education: The International Journal of Adult Literacy, Numeracy, and Language have dedicated the forum section of the current issue to the topic of COVID-19 and how it has impacted adult literacy and how the field moves forward.
In “Adult Education: A State Director’s Perspective Where Are We Now? Where Are We Headed?" Trenia Miles, the Arkansas state director of the Division of Workforce Services, Adult Education Section, looks at how the field of adult education has a history of adapting to learners’ needs at the times. In that regard, the events of the past year, with the COVID-19 pandemic, presented programs with a new challenge to adapt to. While they did what they could to get through the worst, now programs must again take a look at how to rebuild the low levels of enrollment left behind by the pandemic.
Read an excerpt of Miles’ article here:
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the increasing economic and physical vulnerability of many Americans. We have also witnessed a surge in poverty, housing insecurity (e.g., evictions and homelessness), food insecurity (e.g., hunger and food access issues), long-term unemployment, and challenges with health care access and use. While these hardships transcend demographics (e.g., age, race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, etc.), workers without a high school diploma or from a lower socioeconomic background are often the ones most adversely impacted. This is partially due to the tendency of this population to work in service industry jobs (e.g., food service, delivery, hospitality, retail, etc.)—many of which closed to minimize or stop the spread of COVID-19—where instability and unpredictability are common. Just as employment access can be problematic for this population, especially during the current pandemic, education access can also be challenging. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, competing factors, such as family, work, and school, routinely played a role in adult learners frequently starting and stopping their educational journey. With the presence of COVID-19, many parents made the difficult decision to leave the workforce for generally either safety reasons, to help their children with remote learning, or because childcare was not available. Many adult learners were also unable to attend class, especially during the day, for the same reasons. Overall, it is understandable that the priorities for much of this population has shifted increasingly from education to basic survival.