Family literacy and unit standards: can they work together?

Anna Mosley


Straddling conventional education system boundaries between adult learners and children, and between employment-related and social benefits, family literacy programmes are not well recognised or supported in New Zealand’s policy and funding environment. In this article, I reflect on my personal experience of redesigning the Whānau Ara Mua intergenerational family literacy programme to deliver standardised qualifications and use unit standards for assessment. A lack of unit standards supporting important family learning areas, and standards that are too prescriptive in content, scope, level or assessment conditions to fit well with family literacy and learning, resulted in learning content becoming less relevant to learners and their families. This is of particular concern as Māori concepts of literacy place a whānau approach, whānau literacy and whānau wellbeing at the heart of literacy work. My investigation led to the conclusion that development of whānau-focused unit standards would both support family literacy programmes and facilitate broader take-up of family literacy elements within adult literacy work. This would give substance to government support for Māori literacy aspirations, while also supporting wider policy objectives around reaching priority tertiary learners and improving education outcomes for children.


Family literacy; unit standards; literacy; intergenerational; Māori; Pasifika

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DOI: 10.15663/wje.v21i1.251


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© Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research, Te Kura Toi Tangata Faculty of Education, 2015