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Research Domain: Group Four - Learning and Work Transition

Title of Project: Learning Needs of Adults Without Secondary School Diplomas

Start Date: April 1, 1997
Academic Co-Investigator: Dr. Harry Smaller (York U.)
Partner Co-Investigator: Rosemary Clark (OSSTF)

Prior to 1996, access to the secondary schools in the province of Ontario was age-blind. All people, regardless of age, who met the residency requirements, and who had passes Grade 8, were eligible, without discrimination, to enrol in secondary schools. Between 1982 and 1996, formal learning in adult day schools, with a well-developed system of prior learning assessment recognition, saw explosive growth in Ontario/The Ontario adult day school system allowed Ontario to have the highest high school completion rate in Canada (Statistics Canada, School Leavers Follow-up Survey, 1995).

In the spring of 1996, the Ontario Government changed the Education act and regulations 1) to reduce educational funding by over 60% for adult students over the age of 21, and 2) to allow Boards of Education to force adult students out of the system and into a seriously underfunded continuing education system. At that time, OSSTF commissioned a research study by Fay Mombourquette, Robert McEwan and Andy McBride which survey over 7000 adult students in daytime secondary school programs across Ontario. Results of that study have given us valuable baseline data on demographics and perceptions about the learning needs of adults without secondary school diplomas.

OSSTF now wishes to do a follow-up study of adults in a range of post-cutback learning situations. We propose to examine in detail five diverse school boards across the province. WE will compare the situations for adults in each board as it exists in the spring of 1997 in comparison to the situation in the spring of 1996. First, we will collect a range of information pertaining to the organization of formal or non-formal learning programs available to them and information given to them as students/learners. Where possible, this information will be collected form Ministry of education documents and school board publications. In some cases, interviews with school board personnel will be conducted.

Secondly, we will administer a questionnaire to all students over the age of 21 who presently occupy a variety of learning situations in each of the five target school boards. This survey will further examine the demographics of the target population (adults without high school diplomas), their perceptions about informal and formal learning opportunities and needs, the availability of certain educational services, as well as human rights issues that may apply to the student, and the student's knowledge of his/her educational rights. Using standard descriptive and comparative statistics, the results from this questionnaire will be compared with the findings of the 1996 baseline survey.

As well as sharing the findings by print and by electronic posting on the OSSTF web site, the authors intend to submit the findings to a recognized Canadian educational journal for possible publication. We will also search out opportunities for publicizing our findings through presentation at conferences or wherever it is appropriate.


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