Illiteracy and literacy

Barriers to training


Despite the numerous advantages associated with undertaking literacy training or basic training, illiterate individuals face barriers that often prevent them from going ahead.

For those deciding to take the necessary steps to change their condition, sometimes following several months or even years of deliberation, that does not mean they are there yet. They have to face other difficulties which all too often lead them to drop their plans to return to training.

  • Problems concerning the program and its policies, such as a resource-person who does not call back, long waiting lists or inconvenient schedules
  • Family constraints and imperatives
  • Individuals’ own disposition, in line with past learning experiences (doing badly at school, etc.)
  • Pessimistic outlook and low self-esteem
  • Lack of confidence in their ability to learn
  • Lack of money (precarious situation, barely enough money for the basic needs)
  • Schedule conflict with a paid job
  • Distance from training site
  • Concerns with the program itself: duration, level of difficulty, anxiety about being able to work at their own pace and the relevance of the content
  • Difficulty dealing with change
  • Shame at having their problem revealed to others


Observations taken from research on users calling the Literacy Foundation’s Referral Department:

    • A high proportion (87%) of them said they were satisfied with the service received through the Info-Alpha line and the Adult Learnline.
    • 80% approach a training centre after calling the Foundation’s Referral Department.
    • 50% of those who approach a training centre register in a class.
    • Those who do not register in a class describe various personal barriers or obstacles associated with the institutions:
      • not obtaining the information they needed;
      • not being called back;


Selma Vorobief, Parcours des apprenants potentiels à la suite d’un appel aux lignes de référence Info-Alpha et Info Apprendre (Path taken by learners following a call to the Info‑Alpha and Adult Learnline reference lines), Literacy Foundation, Montreal, April 2009, 81 pages.