University of Sussex, UK
Lorena Sanchez Tyson, University College, London
Martha Young-Sholten, Newcastle University
Abiy Menkir Gizaz &Turuwark Zalalam Warkineh, Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia
Alan Rogers, University of East Anglia
The British Association for Literacy in Development (BALID) is an NGO promoting adult and family literacy and numeracy as a basic human right, in the context of development.
Although adult education and lifelong learning are included in the SDGs and have an important contribution to make to sustainable development, education is still often understood as primarily a matter of formal education in schools, colleges and universities.
Adult literacy learning programmes are generally underfunded and often hindered by outdated understandings of literacy and traditional approaches to teaching reading and writing restricted to the memorisation of letters and phonic decoding rather than working with existing and potential literacy practices in the communities where literacy education programmes are offered.
In this symposium we address some of the challenges in developing adult literacy learning programmes in different contexts. We bring together four very different cases of literacy initiatives that address specific problems in innovative ways.
In Mexico an award-winning bilingual literacy learning programme is offered to indigenous communities. The work of the programme is analysed and implications for other contexts in the Global South are discussed. The question of bilingual literacy continues with a presentation about digital materials developed for refugees and migrants wishing to maintain or develop literacy practices in their heritage languages. The work of adult literacy facilitators (ALFs) is key to the provision of effective learning opportunities, yet a number of structural problems impact negatively on their work. Research from Ethiopia examines why ALFs withdraw from literacy programmes citing a complex web of reasons which cannot be resolved with simple solutions. A pilot adult literacy project in Guatemala enabled collaborative learning in a small team of ALFs, while the context in which the ALFs worked impacted on the development of the programme.
‘I Read and Write in My Own Language’: A Case Study of a Non-Formal Indigenous Language Literacy Programme in Mexico
This research aims to explore and analyse Indigenous language literacy practices for adults in rural communities in Mexico, targeting an innovative government-led literacy initiative called the Bilingual Literacy for Life Programme (BLLP), which was the recipient of the 2011 UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize. With over 360 distinct linguistic variants, Mexico’s cultural and linguistic landscape is one of the most diverse in Latin America. This diversity presents a significant challenge for education policymakers and practitioners when it comes to ensuring meaningful opportunities for learning in different cultural and linguistic contexts. By means of a qualitative case study, this paper will uncover the characteristics of the BLLP’s distinct Educational Model for Life and Work, and discuss the implications this programme might have for the wider landscape of international educational development studies in the Global South and for adult literacy studies more generally.
Literacy Resources for Refugee and Immigrant Adults: Addressing a Critical Need
Rates of migration of adults with limited education and literacy in their home language to a new country whose language they do not speak is increasing (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2016). Along with the challenge of developing linguistic competence in their new language, these adults need to learn to read and write – for the first time in their lives – in a language in which their linguistic competence may be at or below A1 CEFR. Typically overlooked is the importance of a foundation in home language literacy, even though researchers have documented considerably more rapid literacy progress for adult migrants who have home language literacy skills that they can transfer (Condelli et al. 2003;Kurvers et al. 2010). Providing opportunities for development of home language literacy for these adult refugees and immigrants is connected to a wider initiative, that of heritage language maintenance. Bilingualism and biliteracy have positive cognitive benefits for individuals, and maintaining one’s home language has social benefits for families and communities (see e.g. Aberdeen 2015;Bialystok &Barac 2012). Yet apart from widely spoken languages such as Arabic, Spanish, and Urdu, materials in many of the home languages spoken by non-literate immigrants are limited or non-existent. This session describes a new initiative that aims to fill the gap in access to written and other resources in the home languages of this adult immigrant population. A new international heritage language hub is being established to link users to existing resources and to support the creation of new resources. The feasibility of establishing and maintaining this hub is now much greater, due to the availability of digital resources. The presenters will provide a current update on the initiative and invite audience feedback and involvement.
Aberdeen, T. 2015. Keeping refugee famliies connected through heritage language schools. Paper presented at the LESLLA symposium, St Augustine, Florida, November.Bialystok, E., &Barac, R. 2012. Emerging bilingualism: Dissociating advantages for metalinguistic awareness and executive control. Cognition, 122(1), 67–73.
Condelli, L., H. Spruck Wrigley, K. Yoo, M. Seburn and S. Cronen, S. 2003. What Works. Study for Adult ESL Literacy Students. Volume II: Final Report. American Institutes for Research and Aguirre International. Washington, DC: US Department of Education.
Kurvers, J., W. Stockmann and I. van de Craats. 2010. Predictors of success in adult L2 literacy acquisition. In T. Wall and M. Leong (Eds.), Low Educated Second Language and Literacy Acquisition. Calgary: Bow Valley College. Pp. 47-62.
UNESCO Institute for Statistics. (2016). Literacy data release 2016. http://www.uis.unesco.org/literacy/Pages/literacy-data-release-2016.aspx
An analysis of mid-term withdrawals by facilitators in some adult literacy learning programmes
It is widely recognised that the instructors (facilitators) are key to the success of adult literacy learning programmes;yet in many programmes, a considerable number of facilitators withdraw from teaching mid-term. This has a clearly great impact for the organisers of any adult literacy programme, NGO or government, and for the adult learners. For instance, the literacy classes will be disrupted which in turn demotivates the learners. The organizers also have to replace facilitators which in many cases involves a lengthy bureaucratic process. Mostly the new adult literacy facilitator (ALF), usually with no pre-training, comes with little or no experience of teaching adults and often the new ALF receives no training or very little, which leads to demotivation of the new facilitator and a further cycle of withdrawal. For the administrator, the withdrawal of any facilitator causes disruption in the reporting, supervision and smooth flow of the programme. Adult literacy organizers need to prepare new contracts for the replaced facilitators and communicate this to finance section for payroll purposes. This creates delay in payments, creating a cycle of demotivation for ALFs. Overall, the mid-term withdrawal of ALFs, especially in large numbers, seriously affects the success of adult literacy learning programmes.
Although the issue of facilitators’ withdrawal has been noticed, no substantial research has been conducted into the reasons for such withdrawals. Based on interviews with adult literacy programme coordinators and facilitators (both serving as well as former facilitators) in a range of contexts in Ethiopia, this paper explores this issue and contributes to contemporary understandings of adult literacy facilitators. The paper concludes that as the reasons for withdrawal are multiple and aggravated by structural problem, a single action will not solve the problem;a holistic approach is needed.
Adult Literacy Facilitators’ Collaborative Learning on a Pilot Literacy Project in Guatemala.
Adult Literacy Facilitators (ALFs) working in rural communities have few opportunities to meet together and share experiences and ideas, yet collaborative learning is an essential aspect of teacher development (Avalos, 2011)
This presentation reports on the collaborative learning of a small group of ALFs working on a pilot literacy programme in the Western Highlands of Guatemala which introduced a dialogic approach to literacy learning drawing on local literacy practices and the lived experience of the participants. ALFs met fortnightly for continuing training and support which offered the opportunity to share experiences in implementing the new programme.
Using Bourdieu’s concepts of field, capital, habitus and doxa the paper explores how the wider context within which the ALFs were working impacted on their engagement with the pilot project and what situations enabled change and development.
Avalos, B. (2011) Teacher professional development in Teaching and Teacher Education over ten years, Teaching and Teacher Education,27:10-20