This article reviews current research about three short focused literacy, language and numeracy programmes designed to assist New Zealand Māori (indigenous) adult students and their whānau. Whānau is a complex Māori concept that includes physical and metaphysical dimensions based on the Māori worldview of whakapapa (genealogy) and is at the heart of whānau adult literacy programmes. The programme's success was measured by the way students grew self confidence in their own literacy and numeracy abilities that translated into positive impacts for their whānau wellbeing. For example, students who did not have books in the home prior to participating in a programme now created spaces with books in the home for quiet reading as a result of attending an introduction to the public library. Through embedding appropriate literacy and numeracy techniques, Literacy Aotearoa tutors developed a reliable baseline to capture students' progress in their formative and summative stages of the programmes against a backdrop of neoliberal ideologies. Dominant neoliberal policies impact and outweigh educational policies through the demands for more transparency, efficiency and accountability as part of a quality improvement shift to market adult education in New Zealand. Despite this shift in policy, this article focused on ways to co-opt strategies that at a basic level may counter the disconnect between factors that drive the achievement gaps for vulnerable students learning to learn and the tensions that arise in order to comply with neoliberal policies that underpin New Zealand's changing adult education sector.
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