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close this bookAPPEAL - Training Materials for Continuing Education Personnel (ATLP-CE) - Volume 2: Post-Literacy Programmes (APEID - UNESCO, 1993, 112 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentFOREWORD
View the documentINTRODUCTION
View the documentChapter 1: Post-Literacy - Principles and Rationale
View the documentChapter 2: Post-Literacy as Part of Continuing Education
View the documentChapter 3: Curriculum Framework
View the documentChapter 4: Design and Development of Materials
View the documentChapter 5: Validation - A Case Study of Post-Literacy Curriculum Development
View the documentChapter 6: An Infrastructure for Post-Literacy
View the documentChapter 7: Implementation and Delivery
View the documentChapter 8: Training of Personnel for Post-Literacy
View the documentChapter 9: Evaluation and Feedback
View the documentAnnex: List of Participants
View the documentBack Cover

Chapter 1: Post-Literacy - Principles and Rationale


This volume deals with post-literacy programmes within the context of continuing education. Continuing Education per se is defined under ATLP-CE as «a broad concept which includes all of the learning opportunities all people want as need outside of basic literacy education and primary education» (ATLP-CE Volume I Chapter I). Post-literacy programmes are defined as «programmes which aim to maintain and enhance basic literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills, giving individuals sufficient general basic work skills enabling them to function effectively in their societies» (ATLP-CE Volume I Chapter 1).

The term «post-literacy» has come to have different meanings in various educational systems. In some Member States the term is used very loosely to include all forms of education which follow on after the achievement of basic literacy. This is a perfectly logical use of the term since it is consistent with the strict meaning of the prefix «post-». In practice, however, it is not very useful as it is too all embracing to enable educators to find a place for post-literacy in an educational hierarchy or structure. In other Member States post-literacy is defined very narrowly to simply consolidate basic literacy skills to a level equivalent to that which would be achieved by the end of primary schooling in the formal system. It is intended, as so defined, as a «bridge» between primary schooling or its equivalent and further study (mainly secondary schooling or its equivalent). In this case, it is frequently a little different in objectives and scope from BASIC Literacy ATLP level 3. (See ATLP Volume I).

The definition given under ATLP-CE lies somewhere between the two extremes. As a part of continuing education, post-literacy programmes attempt to give any interested learner an opportunity to harness and develop his or her learning potential after having at one time, successfully completed a course in basic literacy but who may have regressed, or is in danger of regressing, to only partial literacy, and who thus may be only semi-literate in a functional sense.

The aim of post-literacy programmes is to consolidate the basic literacy skills of speaking, reading, writing, numeracy and problem - solving while at the same time overtly or covertly transforming the learner into an educated «whole person» who is a productive socioeconomic asset to the community - able to participate actively and productively in a nations’ processes of development.

Because of the range of definitions which have emerged, and because post-literacy is closely related to other aspects of education such as basic literacy, functional literacy, semiliteracy and so on, this chapter briefly reviews some of these related definitions. Most have been reviewed in other volumes - notably ATLP Volume 10 (Chapter I) and ATLP-CE Volume I (Chapter 1). This present review is provided again here for two reasons. The first is to clarify the nature of «post-literacy» and the second is to ensure that readers have a common ground as they study the subsequent volumes in the ATLP-CE series.


In education many terms are used and many, such as the term «post-literacy», have acquired a range of meanings. Some of these terms refer to «concepts», some to «systems» some to «processes» and some to «programmes.» By «concept» is meant a general ideas or notion; and by «process» is meant a method of operation or a state of carrying on a procedure. By «programme» is meant a structured series of learning events designed to develop concepts to foster the development of process skills and to achieve specified outcomes. Programmes may be available through the formal, non-formal or informal education channels.

a) Related Educational Concepts and their Expression in Programmes

Relevant concepts to be considered in relation to the term «post-literacy» include the following:

i) Literacy. This is generally to mean the ability to read, write and apply numeracy skills. Vagueness in the definition relates to some disagreement about what level or skill should be acquired before an individual can be said to be literate. Modern definitions tend to focus on competency and a literate person is perceived to be one who has sufficient reading, writing and numeracy skills to be able to continue to learn alone without the continuing guidance of a teacher.

Post-literacy programmes ensure that participants who have at one time reached such a level of competence, but have not adequately accepted the challenge to continue to learn, or even worse, may be in danger of regressing to partial literacy, in fact consolidate their literacy skills and advance to higher levels of competence.

ii) Functional literacy. There is a general consensus about the meaning of this term. Programmes concerned only with reading, writing and calculating for their own sake have little meaning. Functional literacy includes the development of these traditional literacy abilities, but it ensures that such development occurs in areas reflecting the socioeconomic and cultural needs of the learners. The emphasis is on directly usable knowledge. Reading, writing and numeracy skills develop with these goals sharply in focus.

Basic literacy programmes should build both technical literacy skills and functional knowledge. What people learn to read, write and calculate becomes equally as important as technical literacy skill, and the development of one aspect adds to the development of the other. All continuing education seen through this definition is functional. It is functional because all programmes involve functional knowledge. Seen in this light functional literacy is not a programme. It is a concept signifying a technique of delivering knowledge so as to make learning relevant to living and working. Just as functional literacy is a key concept in any basic literacy programme, so it is a key concept in post-literacy programmes. In fact in post-literacy it is the functional aspect which is the main point of entry. Post-literacy programmes which are specifically vocationally oriented, for example, are likely to be more successful than those with a more generalized educational approach.

iii) Level on grades of literacy. The traditional way to define “level” of literacy has been in terms of functional measures and grade equivalents, using the formal educational system as a standard. There is little international agreement, however, about what should constitute the levels or stages of achievement in developing literacy skills and functional knowledge from illiteracy to the achievement of basic literacy. This is partly understandable because of the contrasted problems posed by different languages and cultures. For example, the Chinese language cannot be taught in terms of an alphabet whereas Thai can, and the functional knowledge required by Chinese and Thai people may be very different. There is general agreement that developmental stages exist in the growth of both technical literacy skill and functional knowledge. These stages proceed slowly at first and then more quickly. But how to define each stage must be left to the linguists of each language and the educators who understand cultural parameters of a given society. (See ATLP Volume 1).

Levels or grades may be also considered within programmes of post-literacy, if this is seen to be desirable, but the situation is more complex for post-literacy than for basic literacy. This is discussed in Chapter 2 which presents a curriculum framework for post-literacy.

iv) Semi-literacy. This can be defined as a stage in literacy development, which may meet the technical requirements of the final grade of a literacy training programme but beyond which progress is inhibited. The failure to proceed further may be motivational, an absence of willingness to continue to learn without the guidance of a teacher; it may be because of some inherent ability problem or because of some gap or block in achievement. Semi-literacy is a major problem in many societies, including those of developed countries such as Australia, U.K. and U.S.A. Semi-literates are usually functionally illiterate. That is while being basically literate in a technical sense, they cannot apply their literacy skills in everyday life. Many adults, for example, cannot effectively use the classified section of a telephone directory, or use a map to find their way around a city.

Many cannot read a newspaper article and explain its content. Many cannot write a simple letter to a business firm or fill out a government form.

Semi-literates are in fact key targets for any programmes of post-literacy, the aim is not only to make such people more capable and efficient members of society, but also to give them the motivation and skill to continue with self-motivated learning.

v) Neo-literacy. This term is well-known and fairly non-controversial. A neo literate is an individual who has completed a basic literacy training programe and has demonstrated the ability and willingness to continue to learn on his or her own using the skills and knowledge attained without the direct guidance of a literacy teacher. It is important to stress that technical achievement is not sufficient for an individual to be classed as a neo-literate. He or she needs to have the ability and willingness to continue as an independent learner. Post-literacy programmes are not only for semi-literates, but also for neo-literates who do not proceed beyond formal primary schooling or its equivalent.

vi) Adequate functional literacy. This is clearly a relative term, which is very difficult to define using precise criteria. By ‘adequate’ we could perhaps consider levels of competence and functional knowledge that facilitate an individual’s personal development and his or her development as a member of society, and which help to maximize his or her contribution to the positive development of society. In other words, adequate functional literacy represents a «taking off» point from which an individual can grow and increasingly contributes to an improved quality of life.

A key aim of programmes of post-literacy is to ensure that participants become adequately functional literates. Adequate functional literacy is a pre-requisite for autonomous learning and the development of a learning society (see concepts (vii) and (viii) below).

vii) Autonomous learning. The idea of autonomous learning is a much more sophisticated concept than the idea of simply being and willing to «learn on your own», which is the concept used to define a neo-literate. The concept implies not just an autonomous learner but an autonomous person. At an autonomous stage of personal development, education is seen as leading to creativity, self-fulfillment and deeper values; it is seen as an on-going process. It is characterised by a learning style that probes for increasing complexity, complex patterns, toleration for ambiguity and development of broad views of the world and reflects a respect for objectivity. The difference between the levels of adequate functional literacy and autonomous learning is considerable: the former deals with the day-to-day basic skills of functioning in society, whereas the latter is concerned with a view that education is valuable in itself and involves the mental, physical and spiritual development of the entire person. An autonomous person perceives education as rewarding only if it helps in seeing things in a variety of ways and with true feeling and respect of the views of others.

The ultimate aim of programmes of post-literacy is to, as far as possible, help participants become true autonomous learners in the broadest and best sense of that term to imply the development of an autonomous person. Only if most members of society are autonomous persons can true democracy emerge and society can achieve the goal of being a learning-society (Concept viii). This is the real challenge for programmes of post-literacy.

viii) Learning society. This concept as defined by UNESCO involves the idea that ultimately, the educational process is the function of society as a whole not just part of society such as literacy agencies, schools, colleges and so on. All groups, associations, institutions and agencies have a role to play. To quote UNESCO’s volume, Learning to be, this implies that «every citizen should have the means of learning, training and cultivating himself freely available to him, under all circumstances, so that he will be in a fundamentally different position in relation to his own education. Responsibility will replace obligation.»

This concept clearly implies that if a learning society to be effective, the opportunities provided by it must be accepted and utilized by its citizens. Only autonomous learners can take maximum advantage of such opportunities, so that evaluation of a learning society depends on the development of autonomous learning. This is a major challenge for continuing education, and especially for programmes of post-literacy with their aim of achieving not only learning autonomy, but the development of an autonomous person.

b) Three Relevant Educational Processes

Education can be also reviewed as a process or a method of achieving educational goals.

Three well-known terms of particular relevance to post-literacy are as follows:

i) Life-long learning. In 1976, the General Conference of UNESCO adopted the following definition of life-long learning. The term ‘life-long education and learning’ denotes an overall scheme aimed at restructuring the existing educational system and at developing the entire educational potential outside the education system; in such a scheme men and women are the agents of their own education. This definition contains three basic ideas:

i) The entire formal educational sub-system should be restructured to develop life-long learners;

ii) The non-formal and informal education sub-sectors should be developed and utilized to the fullest extent;

iii) The importance of autonomous learning is stressed.

According to this view, life-long learning is a process that involves purposive, directed learning not merely incidental learning. Research surveys in developed countries have shown that where sufficient opportunities are provided through the formal and non-formal educational sub-systems, almost all adults will undertake regular ‘learning projects’ throughout life. A learning project is defined by Tough as a «series of related episodes, adding up to at least seven hours. In each episode, more than half of a person’s total motivation is to gain and retain certain fairly clear knowledge and skill, or to produce some other lasting change in himself.» A learning project is usually self-planned and self-directed but may be planned and perhaps presented by others. In societies where opportunities are provided to do so, a typical adult spends about 100 hours on each learning project and conducts five projects per year. Life-long learning in this view involves a chain of learning projects occurring for as long as adults are intellectually capable of engaging in such projects.

Post-literacy programmes are enabling forces to give participants the motivation, knowledge, skills and values required for them to undertake self-motivated lifelong learning.

ii) Adult education. Adult education programmes should be seen as a sub-set of life long learning. Adult education has been defined as engaging «in courses and other educational activities organized by a teacher or sponsoring agency, and taken by persons beyond compulsory school age». «Excluded is full-time attendance in a programme leading toward a high school diploma or an academic degree.»

Examples include courses such as diet control, football, ballroom dancing and car maintenance.

Adult education as a process, however, also refers to methodologies of teaching appropriate for adults - the idea of andragogy as distinct from pedagogy.

Post-literacy programmes can benefit from a close association with adult education programmes as defined here, but certainly all effective post-literacy involves adult methodologies as a process.

iii) Continuing education. The UNESCO Sub-Regional Seminar on Continuing Education held in Canberra, Australia in November 1987 defined continuing education under APPEAL as a «broad concept which includes all of the learning opportunities all people want or need outside of basic literacy education and primary education». This definition implies the following:

i) Continuing education is for adults;
ii) It is responsive to needs and wants;
iii) It can include experiences provided by the formal, non-formal and informal educational channels or sub-systems.

Because basic literacy education is excluded, there is a suggestion in the definition that people should be literate before they can engage in continuing education. It is also important to note that the definition is expressed in terms of ‘opportunity’. Clearly, continuing education as defined here is a generic term that subsumes lifelong learning and adult education as well as educational opportunities provided through formal and non-formal and informal education channels. The extent to which continuing educational opportunities are available to all adult citizens of a given society is a direct measure of the status of that society as a learning society.

Post literacy programmes are one type of continuing education. They are important in bridging between the attainments of basic literacy and the development of true learning autonomy.

c) Post-literacy Programes

Post-literacy is a process of continuing education. Its programme and activities are designed to prevent neo-literates and semi-literates from regressing into complete illiteracy. The programmes aim to consolidate the literacy acquired during primary schooling or after the successful completion of the ATLP basic literacy programme (ATLP Volumes 1 to 12). To clarify this idea the following comments are provided on post-literacy as a process, and on the idea of literacy regression.

Post-literacy processes. This idea generally refers to processes and activities especially developed for neo-literates, which are designed to help them become fully functionally literate and to be autonomous learners. The essential aims are to prevent regression to semi-literacy or worse and to develop those higher-level literacy skills which are essential for autonomy in learning. Such skills include context vocabulary building, increased general know ledge and its application, and the development of skills in integrating concepts into cognitive systems (schema). It is especially important to develop higher skills of critical reading and to foster skills in independent problem-solving.

Post-literacy programmes are designed for adults who want to strengthen their literacy skills. They may be immigrants, slum-dwellers or elderly rural poor. In all activities the objective is to sustain interest in learning and prevent regression. Literacy regression is common in any society and it is described as follows: -

Literacy regression. This term refers to the situation where learners, having reached a certain level or grade equivalent within a literacy programme, fail to proceed beyond that grade, lose skills and knowledge and revert to a lower grade of skill and functional knowledge. Individuals who are semi-literate may revert to almost or complete illiteracy. Individuals who are almost at the neo-literate stage may revert to semi-literacy and so on. Among school pupils, it is well documented that children who drop-out of formal education before reaching school grade V are likely to regress to almost complete or total illiteracy. Among adults, the boundary is less well-defined but premature withdrawal from adult literacy programmes inevitably leads to regression. The main problem among such people is motivation, which underlines the importance of including functional knowledge of direct and immediate relevance to the learners. Motivational aspects and the problem of regression have considerable implications for continuing education.

Post-literacy programme provide the point of «take-off» in a continuing education system. Without it, continuing education has little meaning to neo-literates or semi-literates.