Adult LiteracyA Review of International Experience Mae Chu Chang The World Bank 21 June 2011, Jakarta
Outline • The Current Situation and History of Adult Literacy • How Effective are Literacy Programs? • Why are Literacy Outcomes still Modest? • Issues, Recommendations and Lessons Learned
Who is illiterate? • Over 793 million adults (15+) worldwide. • Over 500 million of these are women. • Nearly 70 percent are in E-9 countries. • Most are unschooled, some illiterate because of early drop-out or poor schooling. Source: UIS Literacy database as in June 2011 History of Adult Literacy
Government spending on adult literacy programmes is low Source: CONFINTEA VI report, Education Sector Plan, MoF Budget.
A tiny fraction of Gross National Income is devoted to adult education and literacy
Adult Literacy: Important…but disappointing history • Analysis of 32 World Bank and non-World Bank Literacy projects… • Reveals that progress in last few decades has been uneven and inadequate. • In these, 50 percent participants dropped out, of the remaining, 50 percent dropped back into illiteracy. • Overall, lots of government-led, top-down, brief courses without follow up… Efficiency rates = 12.5% History of Adult Literacy
New Strategies in 1990s based on past experience History of Adult Literacy
Outcomes of the 90s projects Effectiveness
Findings from the 90s projects:Drop out/Graduation rates Effectiveness
Findings from the 90s projects:Reading Achievement + Social Benefits Effectiveness
Findings from the 90s projects:Cost of Adult Literacy Programs Effectiveness
Why are literacy outcomes still modest? Some insights from research on cognitive neuroscience
Literacy participants are usually poor and femalewho face significant social and family problems • The neuro-cognitive basis of reading • The importance of reading speed • Instructional time use But children become literate under similar circumstances. What else may account for the outcomes? Research
How does reading and comprehension work?Complex Biology To decipher and understand a message we need: • The brain pathways controlling fluency to function • Enough language knowledge to match letters and sounds • A sense of where words start and end (phonological awareness) • A good enough short-term memory to keep the message that has been read Research
How Do We Remember? Short-term (working memory) What is in your mind right now Entryway 12 seconds at most About 7 items, 4 pictures Long-term memory All you have stored, Infinite capacity Research
What are the implications for Literacy? To understand a sentence we must read it within the 12 seconds deadline of our working (short-term) memory. Read too slowly and you forget by the end of the sentence what you read in the beginning. Research
How are you managing to read this, with only a 12 second short term memory? • Your brain creates larger chunks(words or phrases instead of individual letters) that pass as one through the working memory • Initially, learners process small syllables, then words. • With practice comes automaticity Research
Practice in Youth configured your brain for Automaticity • Can you read this? • Why? Research
A learner may see just jumbles of letters, some incorrectly… T h e g r o u p c o m m i t e e w i l l w o r k h a r d t o d e v e l o p n e w p r o d u c t s a n d s e l l t h e m t o t h e m a r k e t a t g o o d p r i c e s w i t h c r e d i t f r o m t h e s a v i n g s b a n k Research
Letter-by-letter readersfill the working memory with letters.They run out of working memory! To be literate: it is necessary to work within the limits of the working memory. Research
Adults learning to read seem to have difficulty attaining automaticity • The brain “cuts off” unneeded circuits at various times until maturity • “critical” periods for acquiring some skills • During adolescence we may lose the ability to recognize new letters within milliseconds • We may all become dyslexic as adults in terms of learning new languages! • Issue not well researched Research
So, what are the requirements for Functional Literacy? • To read an average sentence in an ‘average’ language roughly.. • 7 items in 12 seconds… • Students must read at least a word per 1-1.5 second • 45-60 words per minute • with 95% accuracy • Minimal criterion to reach in literacy classes Research
What we need to be fully literate: Automaticity! Fluency!A miracle state A special brain pathway gets activated: • The brain identifies entire words rather than single letters • Each word or phrase becomes an item • Letters are recognized within milliseconds • Speed easily rises to 200+ words per minute • People can’t help but read • Pay attention to message rather than the print • Automatized reading is not normally forgotten Research
Adult Literacy Instruction should focus on: • Increasing speed and accuracy, objectives that are usually not central in literacy courses. • Literacy tests should be timed.
How is instructional time in literacy classes used? Class cancellations • Teacher absenteeism • Late arrivals, early departures • Student absenteeism • Dropout and re-enrollment • Limited engagement in reading practice in class • How much time do learners really spend reading? Research
A lot of time is wasted… students don’t spend enough time reading Class time as allocated by a government or NGO program (e.g. 900 hours or 9 months). Time remaining after class cancellations (teacher absence, weather, extra holidays) Time remaining after delayed teacher arrivals. Time remaining after student absenteeism. Class time devoted to any learning task (e.g. listening to others read). Time students engaged in reading Research
Instruction and Information ProcessingThe Forgotten Variables • Peculiarity of human memory may be at the root of limited performance of literacy programs. • More attention required for instructional variables, quality and effectiveness issues. • More scientific research is required. And Governments and Development agencies need to work with researchers. • Adult literacy experts worldwide typically lack training in cognitive science. Issues
Better targeting for improved outcomes Different classes for different levels of readers Emphasize individual needs Low quality primary education implies need for more targeted approach.
Lessons Learned Achievement undermined by dropout and poor instruction. Stand-alone projects more likely to work. Attention to scientific research is necessary.
Lessons Learned Long term financial commitment is required for success. Better Monitoring and evaluation. Government training, NGO supervision and Community Participation