Politically constructing adult literacy : a case study of the skills for life strategy for improving adult literacy in England 1998-2002
This thesis explores how the problem of adult literacy has been politically constructed through the policy texts that form the Skills for Life adult literacy strategy. Using the theoretical lens of Bowe et al's policy analysis triangle (1992), the political, conceptual and historical foundations of the strategy are analysed, and the processes of policy text production are explored. Theoretical recommendations are made on the need to analyse more closely the discursive nature of policy-making. The case study approach combines data collected from interviews with practitioners, policymakers and researchers, with reflections upon the researcher's own experience and networking in the field. Combining the perspectives offered by this data with tools from Critical Discourse Analysis, the wide range of policy texts and press releases that discursively construct the strategy are analysed. A model of the construction of the adult literacy strategy from its foundations in the Moser working group through to the first anniversary of the strategy in March 2002 is proposed which transcends the partiality of perspectives available from within the strategy. Skills for Life provides an example of a strategy that is a government priority, receiving substantial funding and cross-departmental support. Engaging a wide range of stakeholders, the strategy represents New Labour's commitment to modernising government. As I will argue in this thesis, the strategy is under-researched and opportunistic, driven more by wider policy concerns relating to human capital and social inclusion than by evidence of need. The emergence and amplification of these findings through this thesis validates the need to analyse the construction of the problem to which the policy responds.