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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 2: Post-Literacy as Part of Continuing Education


Post-literacy is a part of the continuing education process. Post-literacy programmes are designed to strengthen the literacy skills so that the learner can follow meaningfully other opportunities offered by other continuing education programmes. The diagram below clearly shows the role of post-literacy in the education process (Figure 2.1).


Figure 2.1 A schematic representation of Continuing Education

The central column of the diagram (Figure 2.1) shows how educational programmes can be planned and sequenced by an individual throughout life. The programme can be formal, or non-formal in nature. Any educational activity after childhood is considered as continuing education. The target group may be semi-literates, neo-literates or autonomous learners.

ATLP for continuing education offers six programmes. Post-literacy therefore is one of the integrated continuing education programmes. Other types include Income-Generating Programmes, Quality of Life Improvement Programmes, Equivalency Programmes, Individual Interest programmes (see ATLP-CE volume I). All six programmes are functional. All involve functional knowledge. The functional knowledge is used as a delivery technique with the objective of making learning relevant to living and working. However there is a major difference between post-literacy and other programmes. The basic difference is that in the case of post-literacy programmes, the advocator must stress rehabilitation activities. This is because it is possible for neo-literates and semi-literates to regress to even complete illiteracy. This is less possible in other programmes, especially among equivalency learners.

This difference in «holding power» is mainly due to the more structured nature of an equivalency programme. Equivalency programmes assume a consolidated effective primary school background (or its equivalent) and in fact provide for most an alternative form of secondary education, either in general or vocational education (see ATLP-CE Volume 3). Students proceed through a step-by-step progression with carefully defined standards to achieve specified grades which are equivalent to those in the formal system.

In post-literacy programmes the situation is less well-defined as there is no «equivalent» standard against which progress can be compared. The structure of the programme is very flexible and its goals are less well defined.

The following table (table 2.1) summarises some of the key differences between post-literacy and equivalency programmes.


A post-literacy programme should be open to everybody who takes reading and learning as a way to enrich life. However post-literacy programmes should be specifically designed to serve certain groups of individuals. Broadly, this clientele can be classified as follows:

a) Semi-literates

A semi-literate is a person at a stage of literacy development where he or she is able to meet the technical requirements of the final grade of a literacy training but beyond which progress is inhibited. The failure to proceed further may be motivational or it may be because of some inherent ability problem. Semi-literacy are almost always functionally illiterate. That is their literacy levels are inadequate for them to function adequately in the day-to-day life of our modern communication-based society.






May be open-ended

Usually limited to 2 to 3 years


Not Academic
Not for Certificate

Some elements
academic with the view of
obtaining a recognized certificate



Structured but varied


Regression to completed
illiteracy possible.

Strong and Solid.
Learning habit consolidated


Mainly Self-Directed

Directed Centralized.

This group is present in every society. They are found in both developed and developing countries. Even a country as rich and developed as the United States has its share of semi-literates. In 1985, a survey was made in America, and it was found that among adults between 21 and 25 years of age many were only semi-literate in functional terms. For example, four per cent could not write a simple description of the type of job they would like to have; 28 per cent were unable to write a letter to explain an error that had been made in a billing charge; 63 per cent failed to synthesize the main argument from a newspaper column; 43 per cent could not follow directions using a street map to travel from one location to another; and 62 per cent were unable to look at a menu, work out the cost of a specified meal and calculate the correct change from a specific amount. Such people while meeting the formal definition of literacy as defined by the United States Census Bureau were in fact semi-literate. Most could read, write and calculate at technical levels equivalent to U.S. school grade VI, but they had not continued to learn beyond that level. They were functionally illiterate.

The key to helping semi-literates proceed further is to give them skills needed for advanced reading so they have the confidence and the skill to continue to study. These skills involve the following:

Vocabulary development
Development of general knowledge
Skill in establishing mental schemes to integrate concepts
Critical reasoning
Problem solving

The learning habits of this group can be addressed by making them accessible to well-designed advanced reading materials. To motivate them and encourage them requires reading materials which are interesting and inspiring, and relevant to work and daily life. Availability of enlightened facilitators and change agents can hasten the process towards inculcating the learning habit.

b) School Drop-outs

Not everybody in the formal schooling system can excel and graduate no matter how strongly the diploma disease may engulf a society. In almost every society a large number drop out of the system. Some drop out much earlier than others. The group that is rejected by the formal schools at early stages must be given immediate attention. Since their learning skill is still weak, it requires special care. Failure to attend to the needs of this group will cause a serious problem for society.

Drop-outs may need further work in basic literacy, may be qualified to enter equivalency programmes or may be best served by taking post-literacy programmes.

c) Special Target Groups

The following communities may be considered as special target groups. They are as follows:

i) Hard core poor in urban and rural areas;
ii) Slum-dwellers;
iii) Women, especially rural women;
iv) Aborigines;
v) Immigrants;
vi) Geographically isolated communities.

These groups are found everywhere in Asia-Pacific. Post-literacy programmes should be localized. They should be sensitive to local value systems and local needs. This principle should be adhered to under all circumstances whenever we plan, implement and evaluate post-literacy programmes for these specific communities. These communities have peculiar value systems and peculiar social practices. Their particular world view is only understood among them. Yet to survive, they most also understand the world view of the wider community.


Some major functions of post-literacy programmes include the following:

a) To Consolidate Basic Literacy Skills

A literate who has just completed a basic literacy course is not guaranteed retention of that skill. As for any other skill it could become diffuse and fade out in time unless it is systematically strengthened. A well-designed post-literacy programme may be able to save the situation. With material designed to suit the interests of the target group, post-literacy skill should be able to reinforce and consolidate basic literacy skills both cognitively and affectively.

b) To Make Life-Long Learning Possible

Post-literacy is a bridge towards autonomous learning. To reach the stage of autonomous learning means to be within the grasp of being a life-long learner.

Every country plans to become a learning society. Post-literacy programmes develop reading habits while at the same time enhance writing and numeracy skill. Without post-literacy programmes, or their equivalent, a learning society cannot materialize since the neo and semi-literates will not be motivated to go beyond basic literacy skills. Post-literacy programmes provide a second opportunity for the disadvantaged to become life-long learners.

A keen student within a post-literacy programme has wide options from which to choose further education. Such a student can either enrol in an equivalency programme and so have the chance to enter the formal system again, or he or she can go to other types of continuing education such as vocationally-oriented income-generating programmes or others. In this sense, post-literacy programmes are liberating forces which provide the opportunity for participants to continue to learn throughout life.

c) To Enhance Understanding of Society and Community

Effective communication fosters understanding and promotes ties in the community.

No person is an island. Humankind is gregarious by nature. Being gregarious we must have the skill to communicate to others and to listen effectively. Effective communication, including listening, requires certain skills. These skills can be acquired through training. Communication training programmes can be designed and made available to every interested individual.

Communication skills, therefore, should be a central part of any post-literacy programme. They should be carefully developed to enhance understanding of society and of the community. (See Chapter 3).

d) To Diffuse Technology and Increase Vocational Skill

Appropriate technology transforms the development of any country. Post-literacy programmes can be an effective instrument to transfer required technologies to disadvantaged groups and to change a listless «observer» into a productive energetic member of the labour force. Reading and numeracy materials appropriately designed and properly worded may be able to diffuse the required technology even into the remotest part of the country. Instruction and developmental materials can also be modified to suit the peculiarities of any community and this can be done at relatively low administrative cost.

The most successful post-literacy programmes are associated with the work force. In many Member States, post-literacy activities are presented «on-job» in factories, on farms, in retail stores, commercial institutions and so on. The advanced skills of reading, writing and numerically required for autonomous learning are developed in association with the functional knowledge needed by participants to be maximally efficient as employees.

The significance of such an approach for the overall upgrading of technology and for improvement in individual and commercial efficiency is self-evident. This type of approach makes a major contribution to the economic well-being of individuals and of the nation as a whole.

e) To Motivates Inspire and Instil Hope Towards Improving the Quality of


Drop-outs, disadvantaged groups and low-income earners have a feeling of hopelessness. For them the future is bleak. Their children are unlikely to have a meaningful place in society. Survival is by chance. Motivation to improve and the will to excel in life is marginal if not zero. For this «unproductive» and negative group, interesting and creative post-literacy materials can act as a ‘stimulant. Creatively designed materials can Instill a fighting pioneering spirit. Feelings of helplessness and the sense of alienation can be overcome. Making such people realize that each and everyone has the same unharnessed potential and that everybody is capable of attaining the best in life, will motivate them to excel in whatever field they decide to undertake. This is possible because a post-literacy programme is an educational activity. Being educational it is an effective tool to affect changes in attitudes and behaviour towards life. Post-literacy cultivates, develops, strengthens and stimulates the power of the target group.

f) To Foster Happy Family Life Through Education

The ultimate goal of ‘development’ is to improve the quality of life of every citizen in the country. To attain this goal requires co-operative effort by government and citizen. Every individual should be active in the development process. The fruit of development will only be harnessed by active participants. Bystanders will be swept aside by the tide of change.

Beside economic opportunity, development also provides other social benefits that will improve family life. Post-literacy programmes on consumerism, environment, health and ways of leisure can contribute towards happy living. Participating in post-literacy programmes sharpens the mind and makes participants alert for all openings and opportunities. Citizens become responsive and sensitive to the changing environment.

To be alert, adaptable and able to think positively makes possible the attainment of a fuller life in a demanding society. With higher income and a healthy mind and body the post-literacy learner is able to improve the quality of life. The world becomes a happy place and there is a bright start towards greater happiness for the family as well as for the individual.


As for programmes of basic literacy, post-literacy programmes should focus on the development of functional knowledge as well as the growth of technical on literacy skills.

Which areas of functional knowledge to include, however, is a more difficult issue with post-literacy than for basic literacy. This is because the interests of participants are more varied and their backgrounds are usually diverse. Peoples’ reading interests are highly varied and this has to be taken into consideration.

One of the greatest problems with post-literacy programmes per se is the need to motivate participants. Motivation is a problem because the goals and outcomes are less well defined than for basic literacy or for alternative forms of continuing education. Equivalency Continuing Education Programmes, for example, have little problem in motivating participants because the outcome of obtaining a «certificate» at a defined standard, and the potential of reentry to the formal system is a clear goal.

To motivate participation in post-literacy programmes functional knowledge must be carefully selected to interest participants and to meet their needs. As mentioned above the most effective post-literacy programmes are those in which functional knowledge relates to the work environment. Apart from that obvious category what other areas could be included? There are several obvious possibilities such as civics and societal values, principles of economic growth, development theory and cultural aspects including religion. But whatever areas are chosen, it is important to give participants some choice and not to make all elements compulsory as hi basic literacy programmes. This issue is addressed further in the next chapter.

Also not all areas of a functional literacy programme need to focus on functionality - some of the programme should simply be recreational and cater for personal interests. There is a strong argument therefore, for the inclusion of fiction and biography among the options, and to provide sufficient variety in the materials for individuals to follow their own interests.