Introduction to the Issues

Today, as well as in the future, in the US and other countries across the globe, literacy is becoming a crucial prerequisite for social capital. The benefits for one being literate are enormous and still growing (OECD, 2014). For instance, those having low-level skills presently face the challenge of earning a decent living and participating fully in the life of a society that demands people to navigate social systems, financial retirement, and healthcare systems that are increasingly becoming complex. In other words, literacy is a crucial requirement for one to function effectively in the contemporary societal discourse (World Bank, 2014). A recent survey to determine the literacy levels of adults in the United States showed that about 50 percent of adults in the country did not perform in accordance with the required literacy levels for participation in a complex society (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2006). The researchers also projected the literacy levels in future by drawing upon the current skill levels, as well as the demographics, and reporting discouraging projections. Specifically, they reported that, as of 2030, the average numeracy and literacy levels among those who have reached the working age would have declined by about 5%, with an additional tens of millions of adults in the country reporting the bottom two levels of literacy (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2006). This implies that, with the current working population retiring, they will be replaced by those having relatively lower levels of skill and education. It is also imperative to mention that this will happen in the time when majority of the job openings will involve fields demanding relatively higher education, as well as skills levels (De Swaan, 2013). Given the increasing global importance of adult literacy, Miami Dade College (MDC) offers an Adult Basic Education (ABE) program that focuses on improving the reading, language and math skills of adults. This paper explores the impact of ABE trend on MDC and on the leadership style at the organization.

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Discussion of the Issue

It is evident that adult education is pivotal in the present society, as well as the labor market. With the evolution of technologies and people changing jobs regularly, the significance of adult education will increase with regard to gaining access to the workforce, succeeding in work, and participating fully in a complex society (Lleras-Muney, 2005). As a result, the Adult Education and Family Literacy Program created and funded numerous adult education programs in the US under various providers including local education agencies, community-based organizations, community colleges, and correctional institutions, among others. One of the most important instructional services in adult education is the Adult Basic Education (ABE), which targets adults who are incompetent in computation, problem solving, speaking, writing and reading, and are, therefore, unable to function in various domains including family, job and society (Marcus, 2006). ABE learners take part in programs with the main aim of acquiring basic numeracy and literacy skills. Other instructional services include adult Secondary Education (ASE) and English as the Second Language (ESL).

The need for ABE in the US is highlighted by the fact that the country has more than 30 million adults who did not graduate from high school. In addition, among those who graduated from high school, 20 percent have only basic literacy skills. The country ranks 16th and 21st globally in regard with literacy and numeracy respectively. Adult learners comprise of the adults searching for work as well as the working poor (UNESCO, 2014). Reports suggest that 41 percent of adults taking part in adult education programs had no employment. In addition, enrolments in adult education programs are increasing in the United States, especially due to the recent financial crisis that resulted in the retrenchments of many adults who have not been able to secure employment ever since. The youth also comprise a significant proportion of the adult learners (Scott, 2008). It is estimated that more than 3 million young people do not finish school, this is in addition to the about 6.7 million young individuals aged 16-24 who are neither in the labor market nor in school. The adult education system also comprises of a significant number of immigrants. It has been estimated that, as of 2030, 20% of the US population will comprise of immigrants (Scott, 2008). This is evident by the increasing number of English Language learners in the country. Another important demographic group in the adult education system comprise of parents as well as caregivers of children. Parents are returning to school because of the need to be good role models to their children as well as for the purpose of helping their children to study better (Snyder & Dillow, 2012).

Presently, worldwide literacy statistics project a gloomy future, with more than 785 million adults being illiterate, which translates to about 20% of the global population who have just basic or no reading skills at all (UNESCO, 2014). The increasing rates of global illiteracy have detrimental impact on communities globally. Despite the fact that, many individuals do not take literacy seriously, it is one of the most fundamental necessities for effective functioning in the contemporary society. According to Snyder & Dillow (2012), literacy is required for critical aspects of one life such as comprehending doctors instructions, making loan applications, contract signing, and job training among others. These critical moments play a crucial role in improving ones life; however, lacking the ability to write and read is usually characterized by confusion and misunderstanding that translates into illness and poverty cycles (UNESCO, 2014). In actual fact, disease and poverty burden have been associated with low literacy levels and illiteracy. In addition, low life expectancy has been reported in areas where people do not have the ability to read and write. Illiteracy also has negative effects on the economy. In the US alone, adult illiteracy has been estimated to cost the countrys economy about $ 240 billion annually in terms of social ills, poverty, crime, social welfare, tax revenues not realized and industrial productivity, among others (Shi & Tsang, 2008). In addition, illiteracy has impact on health condition. In this regard, adults having low levels literacy (reading skills) have been found to regularly succumb to health issues due to their inability to read and comprehend medical directives, prescription labels and other health-related information. Apart from that, low literacy levels hamper effective monitoring of chronic diseases among functionally illiterate patients; this results in their deteriorating wellbeing (Scott, 2008). The impacts of the illiteracy are also evident in the workplace. In this respect, businesses in the US have been estimated to incur losses of about $ 60 billion annually in terms of lost productivity attributed to employees not having the basic skills (Snyder & Dillow, 2012). Moreover, the impacts of low literacy levels are also evident in the criminal justice system, whereby the correctional systems report illiteracy rates of more than 60 percent (Scott, 2008). The impact of intergenerational illiteracy cannot be ignored. In this respect, it has been shown that children of illiterate or low-literate parents often commence school later when compared with their peers. Moreover, parents having little or no skills to read are not in a position to provide the academic support that children need to succeed in school activities.

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Impact of Issues on Your Organization

The prevalent rates of illiteracy and low-literacy in the US and across the globe do not only affect the society but also the providers of adult education programs including MDC. Educational institutions have the responsibility of addressing the problems facing the society. Providing ABE instructional services is one of the ways, through which MDC can help address prevalent issue in the society this is one of the motivations for the ABE program offered by MDC. Given the increasing role of enrolments in ABE programs in the US, it is expected that MDC will also report an increase in enrollments in its program (Mezirow & Taylor, 2011). This has significant impact on the various aspects of the organization. The first notable impact relates to an increase in operational costs for the program in order to ensure its effectiveness. For instance, numerous technologies have been incorporated in the delivery of ABE instruction including computers used in operating educational software; Internet for facilitating distance education, as well as information retrieval; audiovisual equipment, among others. Other technologies used in ABE instruction include instructional software that targets particular adult learner populations and video series (OECD, 2014). The use of technology in the delivery of ABE instruction is costly albeit necessary to ensure positive outcomes associated with the program. Another organizational aspect that requires sufficient resources for the ABE program to run effectively relates to program staff. The majority of ABE programs in the US are often staffed by a mix of part-time staff, full-time staff and volunteer staff having diverse responsibilities in instructions and providing counseling services, support and administration (Mezirow & Taylor, 2011).

In addition, there are impacts associated with specific challenges that ABE instructors face. Open enrollment is a significant challenge for ABE instructor at MDC, especially with respect to organizing instruction. This relates to the difficulties associated with handling students different skill levels who enter and exit the program at different times. This raises concerns regarding the feasibility individualized instruction and whether it can yield optimal outcomes. In addition, the adult education system in the US lacks convenient and informative evaluation processes, which results in significant challenges with respect to planning and organizing instructions depending on the learners entering levels of skills and monitoring the achievement of these goals (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2006). At the organizational level, a number of challenges experienced in the ABE program include insufficient staffing in the wake of increased enrolments (MDC cannot use volunteers since it is not structured like other providers, such as local education agencies and community-based organizations); balancing social responsibility while, at the same time, ensuring that the program is sustainable. With regard to the latter, it is evident that adult education is a costly affair for learners including tuition expenses, supplies and books, among others. Adults are not provided with student loans. This implies that they face significant challenges in paying for tuition (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2006).

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Impact of Issues on Leadership Style

The growing trend in illiteracy in the US and across the globe has considerable impact on my leadership style. In a typical organization, not with the challenges that come with open and increasing enrolment of adult learners amidst resources constraints, a transactional leadership (managerial leadership) style would be effective (Mezirow & Taylor, 2011). Transactional leadership focuses on enhancing efficiency and effectiveness of already established procedures. This approach would be effective if the adult education system in the US is structured, which currently not the case since various providers use different approaches. However, the current case requires a different approach to leadership, which primarily involves a shift towards the transformational leadership style that focuses on the identification of the required change, development of a vision, and inspiring people to achieve the change. In the current adult education environment, transformational leadership is required. First, owing to the fact that there are no proper guidelines for adult education, an institution requires transformational leadership to develop and enhance its approach to adult education. In addition, the constraints faced by the adult education sector such as teachers working in suboptimal conditions, lacking support, and limited resources, requires a transformational leader to motivate the teachers to work though the challenges. In fact, issuing structured instructions amidst challenges is not an effective approach (Mezirow & Taylor, 2011).

Conclusion

The global prevalence of illiteracy and low-illiteracy in the US and across the world is an issue of concern. The impact of low-levels of literacy on society is deleterious in various aspects including health, economy, workplace, and criminal justice system. This trend significantly influences providers of adult education instruction services such as MDC, especially with respect to resource requirements in terms of staffing and technology. In addition, adult education teachers often face a number of challenges associated with open enrollment, and planning and organizing instructions. Amidst these challenges, transformational leadership can be employed as a solution to work around these challenges.

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