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EPALE - Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe


EPALE Prison Education Week - what type of approach is taken in your country?

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EPALE Editor
Low education levels affect prisoners’ employment prospects, and impact reinsertion into society and the likelihood of reoffending. To discuss prison education, we’re holding a text-based discussion here as part of EPALE Prison Education Week.

Prison Education.


Europe’s prison population is around 640,000 and it’s estimated that only 3-5% are at a level that would allow them to progress into higher education. Low education levels affect prisoners’ employment prospects, and impact reinsertion into society and the likelihood of reoffending. To discuss prison education, we’re holding a text-based discussion here as part of EPALE Prison Education Week.

This discussion is based on a Norwegian report, “Learning Basic Skills while serving time”, which describes a specific pedagogical approach used for the provision of basic skills training in prisons. You can acess it here. Relevance, motivation and contextual learning are important issues for all adult learning in Europe today. Is this type of approach implemented in your country?

The discussion is now open, so comment or 'react' to a post to have your say. (Log in or sign up to EPALE here to take part). Follow live highlights of the discussion on Twitter and Facebook! Look out for updates via #epale2016.

** Summary of the discussion

The topics in this discussion cover:

  • Basic literacy and numeracy, including accreditation, length of sentence and embedded learning
  • Pre course assessment and motivational issues, including assessment methods, tools for motivation and the differences between basic and key skills
  • Training of service providers, such as basic prison rules and guides that have been introduced through projects
  • Evaluation of success, through analysis of recidivism rates, employment and skills acquisition

For a more comprehensive summary of the discussion on the first day, see Dr Joe Giordmaina's summary post in the discussion.

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Themes addressed


Profile picture for user Sylvie LE MOËL.
Mon, 02/15/2016 - 15:42

Pour information : c’est la Résistante Germaine Tillon, panthéonisée en Mai 2015 ( et qui avait une maison en Bretagne dans le Morbihan à Plouhinec où elle résidait souvent, entre 1974 et 2004) qui a crée en 1963 le premier poste d’enseignant en milieu pénitentiaire en France.

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Joseph Giordmaina
Wed, 02/03/2016 - 11:29

VALMOPRIS project are running an online questionnaire adressed to professionals teaching in prison.

If you have a minute it will be good if you can help the partners of this project by filling in the QA on the following link.

Thank you 


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Dear all,

This is a very interesting space to share educational practices of adult education. We were reading and learning from the contributions and wanted to share the experience conducted in several women prisons in Spain. Actually, the following is the abstract of a publication in which explains the life experiences of a female Moroccan inmate participating in Dialogic Literary Gatherings. We encourage you to read the article to find detailed information on this successful educational action. 


Abstract: Amina is a female Moroccan prison inmate who has participated in Dialogic Literary Gatherings (DLGs) in a prison in Catalonia for 2 years. As a woman and without basic studies, she encountered many obstacles that led her into social exclusion, drug addiction, and involvement in the activities that in turn led to her incarceration. Sharing ideas with her fellow inmates about the works of Kafka and Brecht has had a significant impact on her own thoughts, allowing her to reconstruct her past and anticipate a new, hopeful future. This biography describes the transformative elements that empowered Amina to recreate her history through the literary interpretations she shared in DLG. The biography also highlights Amina’s new challenges and dreams, such as pursuing secondary education during her incarceration and going to college once she leaves prison.


Pulido, C. (2015). Amina, Dreaming Beyond the Walls. Qualitative Inquiry. vol. 21,  doi:10.1177/1077800415611691

Thank you,

FACEPA’s team

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Hi all,

Great that you are having this event on here this week and some very useful information posts, well done all!

It would be great if we, prison educators, had a permanent forum that we could share ideas etc. Is there such a thing or could/would EPALE consider setting up such a forum? I hardly have the time this week to review all this material and user contributions and it's a shame that, as I presume it will, this thread will disapear at the end of the event? 

A permanent home for prison educators around Europe would be a fantastic recourse for all and I'm sure well used.


Thanks for what you have done this week!




A humble prison teacher of Maths and IT in Wheatfield Prison, Dublin, Ireland.



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Dear Paul, go raibh maith agat!

I think you have the honour of being the last (but most absolutely not least) of our contributors to this discussion. Yes, we have come to the end of this three days event and the discussion will now be closed. But it will not disappear. Make a note of the URL and come back to explore the many issues and links you will find here.

Your point about the need for a permanent home for practitioners in your sector is very interesting. Yes, EPALE is just the place for it! I will convey your suggestion to both the EPALE Central Support Service and to EPEA and I am pretty sure you will see your wish become a reality.

If you are interested in Basic Skills in Prison Education, which was the focus of this discussion, I can tell you that the EBSN (European Basic Skills Network) will shortly be launching an EBSN SIG (Special Interest Group) It will be mostly at policy level but the voice of practitioners will most certainly be welcome as well. Stay in touch, and again: thanks!

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Moltes grácies, companys del CFA Jacint Verdaguer! :-) This looks like a very interesting project and we will study your results. Thank you for participating here!

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CFA Jacint Verdaguer is the school of the Men’s Prison in Barcelona. One of its objectives is to provide students the tools that will help them to rejoin society once they have accomplished their sentence. But... is it really this way? Are the syllabuses we offer appropriate? What does “school” mean for students?


Trying to answer these questions, we ended up with the idea that it would be interesting to carry out a research in order to find some clues and answers. The “Second Chance” project was the result of all these thoughts. This was an European project framed within Grundtvig program (Lifelong Learning Program) where six countries participated: Italy, Turkey, Romania, Estonia, Poland and Spain, as the coordinators. All of us work directly or indirectly for education of imprisoned people.


The duration of the project was two years, from September 2013 until August 2015. It was divided in two stages:

  • During the first year, we collected data from our students in order to analyze our work as teachers in Penitentiary Centers and make proposals for the improvement of our task. The methodology was based on a qualitative type of study meaning interviews, life stories and discussion groups.
  • We implemented some of these proposals during the second year and we wanted the Penitentiary Centers to be a Second Chance.


This experience has been the start of a great project and new strands of work, and a different way to approach adult schools. Thanks to reflection, communication and shared work, we have enhanced and renewed our task. This challenge has meant a “Second Chance” for our personal and professional lives.


Webs of the project:

Oficial web:

Our project bolg:

Results of the project:


Discussion groups:



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Thank you EPALE for organising this online discussion that is so inspiring. It will hopefully stay available for participants ánd those that cannot be actively present. I can see many faces that are known to me and our organisation : the European Prison Education Association. But one of the purposes of the online discussion is also bringing new faces together. You have succeeded in that part as well. There is a lot of content that I would certainly have a further look into, once I will be back from the meeting I'm in now. This also explains for the participants that I cannot be as active as I would want to. But it is comforting to see that so many of the people I spoke or mailed earlier are active!! With a EPEA Steering Committee member I'm, as we speak in a meeting of the INGO Conference of the Council of Europe. Today, yesterday and tomorrow we listen to and speak with representatives of the many INGO's of Europe and we were present in meetings and working groups on Education and Culture, but also about Human Rights. As you might understand there is a lot of attention for recent European developments and migration, that brings a merging of different worlds, the necessity of communication and new needs of understanding the experiences of both worlds that meet. There is a lot said about a safe anvironment, both for the migrants as for learners. 

But, I'm being a 'not so attentive participant' of the current presentation on Social Teaching in the AIEJI project. So, as a teacher, I feel I need to focus on different thing than this online discussion now. I'll do my best to join you whenever I can.

Good luck with the discussion today!!! 

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Dear Annet,

On behalf of the European Basic Skills Network, EBSN, which has taken the responsibility for arranging this online discussion on Basic Skills in Prison Education, I would like to thank you and the EPEA network for your extremely valuable contribution to the event. I thoroughly agree with your comments on the need to continue the dialogue and the cooperation with all the participants that have been active in the discussion. We also know that many European stakeholders have been following the discussion in a more passive way, without adding their comments. We will find the way of including them as well in the future! Thank you again for your comments and for taking the time to join us despite your heavy schedule in the Council of Europe's conference.

To all other participants: the discussion continues! :-) We're looking forward to more input and comments!

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Joseph Giordmaina
Thu, 01/28/2016 - 10:06

A Summary of the Discussion so far:

Theme 1: Basic literacy and numeracy.

  • Various participants explained in some detail what constitutes Basic literacy and Numeracy in their country.
  • In some of the participating countries, digital skills are considered a basic skill as well – this seems to be the area that offers challenges in terms of IT equipment in prison. The tension between security (computers/internet) and education was discussed.
  • An alternative is the use of a Virtual Campus to teach in prison on a closed platform. This can be part of a blended learning approach.
  • The issue of certification was raised: mainly whether there ought to be certification issued by an official authority or the prison or some other entity.
  • The challenges in teaching basic skills in prison were mentioned, including the fact that most inmates have compounded difficulties, such as dependencies, psychological and general health problems as well as the environment one is teaching in.
  • The length of sentence varies considerably– most sentences are shorter than a year. The discussion centred on the importance of providing education in ‘small packages’, attainable in a relative short period of time.
  • Short courses should also be accredited for, for example, through the awards of certification.
  • Certification, it was pointed out, is important for the inmate. In some countries, this is awarded by an official outside body, in other countries it is awarded by the prison authorities themselves.
  • Embedded learning is highly motivational for inmates and pedagogically effective.
  • The teaching of literacy and numeracy can be done also through Art, which brings in the human dimension to learning.
  • For embedded learning to be possible, it is important that all education providers (teachers/officers/tradespersons etc.) have the opportunity to meet and discuss the inmate’s study plan.
  • Embedded learning is highly relevant to the inmate – hence the motivational factor of such an approach to teaching and learning.
  • The eight key competencies to lifelong learning should all be present in an educational programme in prison.


B.    Pre-course assessment and motivational issues.

 In some cases assessment focuses on one of the various basic literacy and numeracy skills – such as reading. It should be more holistic.

  • Initial assessment is crucial for the implementation of an education programme.
  • In some countries inmate assessment is covered by outside agencies, while in other cases it is in-house
  • Art too can be a tool that motivates inmates to read and write – particularly if these are integrated.
  • The difference between basic skills and key skills was made – key skills are important but not as fundamental as basic skills.
  • Basic skills and priority languages were discussed in relation to foreigners, migrants and irregular immigrants
  • Assessment of inmates may be a motivational factor for inmates to follow courses on offer in itself  – it brings about an awareness of what is available in prison in terms of education programmes
  • In some countries, assessment is mandatory. In others, it is not.
  • Data and research are crucial for the implementation of all education programmes in prison.
  • Various examples of assessment tools were provided throughout the discussion.

 C.Training of service providers.

  • Teachers come from various backgrounds – including those coming straight from the state school system and those directly employed by the prison.
  • Teachers are familiarised with the basic rules of the prison as well as the characteristics of a prison.
  • Various guides for the training of teachers working in prisons have been produced through European Projects (e.g. PEPPLE, CLAP, EIS-ALP).

D.Evaluation of success.

  • Securing employment is one factor of success
  • Acquiring skills (a measurable component) is another gauge of success
  • A lower recidivism rate
  • Inmates in most prisons are assessed using the same assessment as the public education system.
  • Other forms of assessment and records of success are in-house: in-house certification based on commitment, effort, attendance etc
  • Non-formal learning is difficult to assess – but seems to be the more popular with inmates
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Jan van Nuland
Thu, 01/28/2016 - 08:56


Bastoy prison is a very special setting. As an ambassador of literacy improvement possibilities of people with dyslexic like traits, I appreciate the basic skills training mentioned in the article. It uses interest in the subject and gives the oppertunities to experience success in practical challanges. This is valuable for every "student", but especially for people who may have enough intelligence to learn but for whom "regular education" didn't fit. As being a dyslexic myself, I think this could be part of the problem. It struck me that in literature it seems people with likewise traits are over representated (3x more) in prison.

In many Dutch prisons, both the work setting is different and the education possibilities are different. In 2012 we have done a pilot in 3 prisons to implement a 6 sessions course to introduce the idea that learning basic skills can be fun. Because we didn't have the oppertunities to be as close to the daily life as in Bastoy, we introduced a Multiple Intelligence test to look at the better sides of a person; this helped people to come up with a subject they think they are good at and have interest for.: their passion. This subject is than helping to make them to stay involved in the following steps in looking at reading and writing in a different way. Giving them success experiences in this. And working to a final presentation of 3 minute on there subject of passion was maybe likewise inspiring like the daily challanges in the Bastoy case. For all of them doing a presentation gave them great pride.

In 2014, we have dissiminated this experience in a Grundtvig workshop ALIPPE. The 16 prison teachers from 10 countries have appreciated our approach. Some of them have even translated the student book in their language (Swedish, Italian, German). More information on this:


kind regards,

Jan van Nuland

the Netherlands

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Jan van Nuland
Thu, 01/28/2016 - 08:55


Where a high percentage of prisoners have learning difficulties, it may be a good thought to promote a course about a different way of learning for prisoners. Not always the reason behind bad results in primary school is low intelligence or bad social backgrounds. Maybe half of those with learning difficulties who end up in prison, became frustrated in school because of a misfit of teaching and learning style.

When one focussus on this different learning style and each student's passions one could reduce resistance angainst studying an let hesitant adult learners experience success which will help them into further works.

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Hello everyone!!

The teacher profile

Prison education requires an initial specific training to get in context:

  • With inmates profiles and prisons atmosphere and special circumstances.
  • Inmates interests, their motivation, needs, etc..
  • Adapt to inmates reality, sometimes moving from one place to another. Sometimes they need access permission and it takes time.
  • Priority of security and prison rules, to avoid further problems.


For these reasons posts in prisons as teachers are voluntary and they usually have previous experience in adult teaching..

However, new teachers receive a training course on the aspects mentioned above, usually delivered by the lifelong learning school management team, who has experience in these aspects.

I would like to remark that in general the teachers who work in prisons are very respected by the inmates and they enjoy their job.

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I am Valborg Byholt and work at Vox together with Kari, Tanja and Diana.

I really do agree with your statements above on motivation. The import thing to remember is that the inmates are all individuals with different needs and interests. It is worth the effort to try to find what makes each one of them tick. It may be art, theatre, kithen work or as someone else has mentioned, foreign languages.

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The European Prison Education Association Malta Branch is currently working on a EU funded project that aims to define the skills and competences that a prison teacher should have.  As you all know living in prison is like being on another planet in spite of all the changes that evolved over the last 50 years.  Teaching in prison requires teachers to have attitudes, skills, competences that go beyond those required to teach in schools and colleges.


The competences were set in three groups namely Generic competencies, Specific competences and supportive competences.  The project partners produced a number of modules that can be provided both 'in class' and online that prison teachers and prospective prison teachers may work on in order to raise the level of competencies. You are very welcome to write to us or

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The European Prison Education Association Malta Branch was an active partner in a EU funded project that aimed to develop embedded learning in prison (both male and female).  The project was concluded in 2010.  The title of the project is Innovative Models to Integrate Working and Learning in Adult Prisons - KEYS.  The results and products of the project may be found on  

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Hello everyone!!

Firstly, as the coordinator of adult education at the provincial department of education in Cádiz, Andalusia,Spain, all your contributions are very interesting for me and very useful in my job.

I would like to emphasise how important is to continue with their learning process for male and female inmates when they finish their stay and try to get back into society.

In our province there are four prisons with an adult education school in each one, belonging to the regional integrated public network of lifelong learning school, and three centres for young offenders. When a person first comes into prison and decides to attend  school, they get a test to establish individual skills and knowledge levels. Secondly, based on the initial results from the questionnaire, they enroll in different learning formal and non formal courses, all of them official, certified and valid to the education system.

Due to most common profiles of inmates the most demanded course are those connected with basic skills, literacy and numeracy. Other courses raising inmates interest are Spanish, English and ICT. Though internet access is not generally allowed for inmates there is a pilot experience in the last two years between a centre of young offenders and the regional e-learning regional centre (IEDA through which young inmates are being attended online using secured LMS and agreed protocols. This is intended as the first step to extend the experience to the rest of prisons that fulfill the basics mentioned before.

Another important aspect of joint coordination with the adult education regional system  is the designations of specific teacher teams from public high schools who act as a bureau to test inmates preparing to obtain official secondary and post secondary certificates.

Another major issue, in my opinion, is to provide inmates with the necessary tools and advice to manage modern society daily life once they finish their stay. In that sense it is crucial for inmates to be in the right set of pathway courses, according to their profiles, possibilities and interests  to be successful in their new lives.






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Due to research of Brosens (2015) there are possibilities to realise educational activities in prisons. Based on a study among prisoners in Belgian prisons it seems that 91% of the prisoners took part in a particular activity organised in prison. Especially the library seems to gain opportunities to involve prisoners in (learning) activities, due to the fact that 85.5% of the prisoners was active in the library (Brosens, 2015). Besides, 29.5% of the prisoners joined education and 10% joined a learning activity referring to socio-cultural learning (Brosens, 2015). These results show that although their current situation prisoners still can be motivated to join learning.

This creates new opportunities for adult education providers to develop learning activities in. In order to ensure that prisoners won't be social excluded in society after their imprisonment we should consider the development of suitable learning activities. If the activities will be tailor made it is possible that prisoners can realise a significant contribution to society referring to an economic or social perspective.

Adult education providers should use their competencies in order to analyse the learning needs of adult prisoners and to develop a tailor-made learning activity, which can be attractive for prisoners. This learning activity should include transfer of the learned knowledge, skills and attitude of the prisoners into society in order to have a surplus value for the prisoner him- or herself and the society.

The challenge will be to develop the most suitable learning activities. Due to the results of the study of Brosens (2015) non-formal learning activities seems to be more attractive. But on the other hand formal learning activities can be helpful to increase the level of education and chances on the labour market. Question which should be answered is how to find a balance in these two different kind of learning activities in order to attract prisoners and to ensure an impact of the learning activity for functioning in daily society and on the labour market.

Reference: Brosens, D. (2015). Participation in prison programmes: Profile of (non-)participants, encouraging and discouraging factors. Brussel: Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

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Maurice thoughts made me reflect on the Hungarian situation. With a tradition inherited from the period of socialism prison education primarily focused on formal education, making elementary education obligatory for those missing the completion of the 8 grades. Since the second half of the 90-s inmates could join voluntarily to education programs, with a broadening range of possibilities in vocational, general secondary and more recently even higher education. But teachers of literacy and maths in prison education were predominantly recruited from elementary and secondary schools without having proper preparation for teaching adults, and especially doing it in the prison environment. In Hungary the prison population was 18042 inmates at the end of 2013, out of them 2069 took part in education.

In the last couple of years more and more initiatives were funded from the European Social Fund developing specific non-formal courses for prisoners with a strong focus on the social inclusion perspective.

The main characteristics of these programs (TAMOP 5.6.1, 5.6.2, 5.6.3, from 2012 - 2014) were:

- comprehensive approach to promote social inclusion, focus on complex, tailor made interventions, learning is integrated;

- strong emphases on developing social skills, conflict handling and communication skills, involving also family members, or sometimes affended citizens, or by doing volunteer work in the local community;

- literacy and numeracy learning tailored to individual needs and relevant contexts, provision of individual support to ensure progress;

- developing basic skills embedded in developing skills for the labour market, personal efficacy and citizenship (using ICT in job search/writing job application, using e-platforms for managing official affairs, managing personal finances, household economy, relevant legal issues etc);

- continouos mentoring and counselling after release from prison (supporting application of learned skills and competences after serving the time).

It will be interesting to see the impact of the learnings from these pilot initiatives on the mainstream practice of prison education.


László Huszár: Competence development possibilities in the prison environment - project experiences - (

Csukai Magdolna: Oktatás a büntetés-végrehajtási intézetekben / Education in correctional facilities / in Hadtudományi Szemle 2014/4


ZÁRÓKIADVÁNY a TAMOP - 5.6.1A-11/4-2001-0009 pályázathoz (





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Hi, Zoltán - thank you so much for this valuable insight into Hungarian developments! I'm impressed with the wide range of themes these programs took up. The family learning perspective is also very interesting! Thank you as well for providing us with the references! Well done!

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Profile picture for user Sylvie LE MOËL.
Wed, 01/27/2016 - 14:18

Hello everyone,

It will may be sound a bit out of the place here, but allow me to share my experience here.

I went to do a presentation in Prison on January 14th, in Saint Brieuc, Brittany , France and the inmates wanted to know more about the Greek language. They were intrigued by the shape of the letters, intrested in the pronounciation and could not stop asking me what this or that word translated into Greek. They wanted to know the alphabet. So I started writting the 24 letters of the Greek Alphabet, they also wanted capital letters. One participant came up to the blackboard and showed me how he had written the letters and some words. It was actually quite good.

Some time later, the person who organize the logistics at the Prison concerning the organisation of the presentation and education programmes told me that this participant could not write any french!

This I could not have imagined because , along with the others he has discovered a new language and started at the same level as the others. So he had all his chances to do just as well as the others!

I know teaching a lesser used language is not a priority in the  prison education curriculum, but thought I might share this information with you. There is a programme ( with EU funds) concerning the teaching of Greek ( greek as a vector for linguistic and Cultural Diversity): The person responsible is Ifigenia GEORGIADOU ( The participants in prison want now to have a full week of learning Greek. I will of course contribute along with the Greek teacher that we have at the MJC (Maison des Jeunes et de la Culture:

We are also going to organize other language classes not only of less-spoken languages indeed.

We are planning a week of German, a week of Italian, a Week of Spanish and a week of Russian.

But we will start with the Greek language. Should be really nice and motivating. I really look forward to it !


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Dear all, here comes a word of encouragement from Norway: the impact of this discussion of ours may be much greater than we think!

One of my colleagues from the Vox team following the developments in Norwegian prison education, has just had a very interesting phone conversation with a person from a municipal police department. They are working in criminal prevention and he was following the discussion here. He called to enthusiastically tell us how important this work is for all of them. So - we are reaching outside the educational sector, folks.

Keep up the good work!

Warm greetings from Oslo!

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EPALE Editor
Wed, 01/27/2016 - 12:34

For those interested in reading more about prison education, take a look at EPALE's summary of prison education content here

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Joseph Giordmaina
Thu, 01/28/2016 - 10:00

A summary of the discussion so far can be read at the very bottom of the page. Thank you all for participating and for your continuous participation today. 

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God evening everybody!

My name is Juan Carlos Martínez and work as school headmaster in the prison of Almería (Andalucía, Spain). I'd like to show my interest in this activity since education in prison may often be considered as minor education, but moreover, it is of paramount importance if we want to increase reinsertion and avoid reincidence.

Our school is located inside the prison, with 13 teachers currently working, and it offers exactly the same educational programmes as any adult school in Andalucía, from basic literacy and numeracy to access to secondary or vocational training certificates, as it has been stated in a previous thread by my colleague Francisco Castillo.

To answer to some of the questions initially posed in theme A, we have foreigner students who can access the basic curriculum as soon as they can reasonably manage with the Spanish language, that is why we place emphasis on this basic literacy in Spanish.

Students can use computers without an internet connection, so that they can work with the content of the courses offline.

Teaching is mainly formal, although we take advantage of more informal teaching situations that may turn out (visitors, exhibitions, non-prpfit organisations...).

As for theme B, teaching is offered to all inmates, even those on remand, although we have to face the difficulties derived from this situation of short serving. More than 60% of the inmates express their wish to follow some of the school programmes; they are then given a placement test to fulfil and, together with the academic information they bring with them, they are informed of the possible educational pathways they can follow and then registered in a suitable plan.

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Gracias, Juan Carlos! :-) Muy interesante! We are particularly interested in how you teach the literacy and numeracy classes for inmates with low levels of basic skills. Could you explain a bit more? Do you do any "embedded learning" (basic skills linked to vocational learning)?

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Graciela, there is an official formal curriculum for basic skills (Formación Básica as it's called over here) divided into three scopes of knowledge (comunication, social and scientific-technological) that develop key competences, including lireracy and numeracy at two levels and with the same structure as secondary for adults, so those who pass it feel comfortable in a silimar continuing scheme. Though adapted to the different possible contexts and profiles it's used as a reference/ goals to reach. There are also materials that develop it thoroughly, available for teachers through the web.

The work done by teachers in this context is overwhelming. On a visit to Juan Carlos' school, a former rumanian inmate in his third degree who  had attended the prison school was invited to talk about his experience to other inmates. He had  begun learning Spanish, then got his secondary and post secondary certificate and was by then studying to be a teacher, with the idea of working there as a teacher himself and help others as he had been helped not long before. Nearly a miracle, but real and possible!!!!


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Hi everyone,

I'd like to briefly share with all of you how this issue is dealt with in Andalucía, Spain, from my experience as responsible for the regional lifelong learning deparment at the regional ministry of educations in the period of 2006-2015. As you may know, the education system in Spain is decentralised, though under a national basic frame and law. There are 15 prisons spread over the 8 provinces of Andalucía,  attended by over 100 teachers (regional civil servant teachers) and 5.000 inmates. In all of them there is an adult school, with the same  course offer as the ones in any village or town of the region. Basically, and depending on the inmates starting point:

  • Basic literacy and numeracy, including Spanish for inmigrants. Because their social background, most inmmates are doing these studies.
  • Access to Secondary and post secondary official Certificate.
  • Access to vocational training or university studies  .
  • Basic ICT, English.
  • Healthy habits, Andalusian heritage
  • Others (must be previously authorized)

There are available OER online content for all the course offer that can downloaded by teachers and worked with offline ( ). Online courses are being studied with the national prison authority through “safe” LMS following agreed protocols.

This regional offer in complemented by employment courses and workshops offered by the national prison authority, together with some other socio cultural activities (flamenco, theatre, art….)

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Joseph Giordmaina
Tue, 01/26/2016 - 09:21

Please write your contribution about the evaluation of success under this heading.

Press the GREEN button REACT and write a comment/reaction.

We plan to focus on this issue tomorrow and the day after. But of course one can add comments/reactions today. 

Thank you.

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I had a long conversation last week about how to evaluate prison education with colleagues form all the organisations that provide prison education in England. Clearly to evaluate anything you need to agree on what its aims and objectives are. These aims and objectives tend to vary according to which stakeholder you engage with. The Government, while clearly seeing education as an important element in rehabilitation, has chosen to focus on education as preparation for work. So they would claim that entry to employment on release is a sign of success for prison education. However for many working with prisoners 'through the gate' it is clear that other aspects of life are likely to have an impact on getting a job, such as having somewhere to live, being drug-free or having a stable relationship. Education may have gone well in prison but other factors might make getting a job impossible.

The rate of recidivism is another tempting evaluation measure. Once again, however, those working in prisons would say that education is not the only factor that will affect whether or not a prisoner will go on to commit more crimes.

Then there are educationalists who see education not so much as a tool to deliver a behavioural objective but as a human right; for these people education about developing the whole person, about spiritual and intellectual growth and they might see higher education as a desirable goal for prisoners with time on their hands even if it does not lead to improved work outcomes.

This is just a flavour of our discussion last week, but it shows the complexity of agreeing on an evaluation framework for prison education, particularly when it becomes a political issue.

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Hi Brian. Coming from a UK environment I am sure you know what I'm picking on here - the relationship between funding and results. It seems that there is this constant pressure - not only in the UK - to fund only that which provides some sort of result - meaning that educators are always facing the pressure to show that what they do works. As you said the recidivism rate is often used - at least in my country for sure - as an indicator for success for rehabilitation in general - education being one of the ingredients. As an indicator I am not convinced that it is the right tool.

It is also a pity when literacy and numeracy - and most rehabilitation programmes in general - are tied to employability on release - particularly in countries where unemployment is high. Inmates need literacy also while serving their sentence. I see for example in our prison a lack of interest in reading - not even a newspaper. Some have difficulties in reading communication related to their crime (courts, lawyers, police) etc., also in reading how some newspapers reported their crime - something they always seem interested in :-)

Is education in the UK offered to those on remand?

Thanks for your insightful observations and contribution to the discussion. 

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Students are assessed the same way as they are in the public education system, since it is formal teaching; that is, the same kind of tests, rating scales... But we also assess students' interest, effort, educational achievement or attendance, and this evaluation is shared with the prison treatment team and it is taken into account for further granting of prison privileges.

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Joseph Giordmaina
Tue, 01/26/2016 - 09:20

Please write your contribution about the training of service providers under this heading.

Press the GREEN button REACT and write a comment/reaction.

We plan to focus on this issue tomorrow and the day after. But of course one can add comments/reactions today. 

Thank you.

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In our school some teachers currently teaching began as teachers belonging to the prison administration, but since 2005 there are also some other teachers from the public education system. We keep demanding for specific training, as there was before; in fact we are now participating in an Erasmus + project on specific training for teachers teaching in prisons.

In our prison there is a Coordinating and Follow-up Comittee of the education in prisons, which regularly meets to deal with cultural, educational and sport activities developed in the prison.

From the beginning all teachers are familiarised with the basic rules and characteristics of the prison and participate in many of the consulting bodies.

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I agree Juan Carlos, teachers who work in prison should have a more specialized training than ordinary teachers. In Norway the prison teachers come from the Upper secondary school, and they often teach youth from 16-18 also. I think it is necessary for teachers who teach adults in prison to have more knowledge about how grown ups learn, but andragogy is not offered at thee teacher training colleges.

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Dear Diana, thank you for your contribution. I perfectly agree with your statement that most teachers in prisons come with experience of secondary school teaching - and teach in a style that is more apt to secondary school teaching than to adult school learning. I often use the term learning facilitators rather than teachers. Of course repeating secondary school material and pedagogy is a non starter - particularly for those who failed in schools - more of the same does not work. 

What I would like your opinion about is the following questions: do you think teachers in prisons should, apart from training in andragogy, have some understanding about crime and criminals - the kind of knowledge one normally gets from the field of criminology? Thank you. Joe


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And in addition to general andragogy and the necessary insight to teach inmates and to know how to create good synergies with the prison's staff, the teachers offering training in basic skills will need specific knowledge on how to facilitate literacy and numeracy learning in adults -  a fact that is sadly overlooked more often than not...

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Good morning everyone.

Regarding today's topic, the training of trainers working in the prison environment, I would like to share with you our experience from the implementation of the PEBBLE project (Prison Education: Basic Skills Blended Learning). As a crucial part of the organisation and delivery of the PEBBEL pilot training seminars to inmates for the development of four basic skills using the blended learning methodology, project partners organised training sessions with the educators who would undertake the training of inmates. As mentioned by other participants in the discussion the profile of these professionals is of major importance, contributing to the success (or failure) of the educational process.

The PEBBLE approach was to train them in both general issues such as Basic Principles of Adult Education, Prison Education, Basic Skills and the Role of the Educator and project specific issues such as Blended Learning, the PEBBLE Learning Management System and the Content of the E-Learning Course for those four basic skills addressed by the project. The feedback we received was very positive, reflecting the educators' need to renew their skills and competences so as to be better qualified in their work.

Project partners have developed a comprehensive guide containig all necessary educational materials for the training of educators in prisons, in case other correctional institutions decide to implement such educational initiative. The Guide was developed in English and it will be translated in the partners languages (Greek, Italian and Romanian).

If interested, you can take a look at the Guide in the following link:

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Joseph Giordmaina
Tue, 01/26/2016 - 09:17

Please write your contribution about pre-course assessment and motivational issues under this heading.

Press the GREEN button REACT and write a comment.

We plan to focus on this issue today. But of course one can add comments/reaction tomorrow and on Thursday. 

Thank you.

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The Directorate for Lifelong Learning in Malta organises a pre-test for prospective inmates. However, the levels vary considerably especially because of the different nationalities found. In Malta, we also have to take into consideration that there are various migrants who have different levels of literacy.

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Welcome to the discussion, Mahira, and thank you for your interesting contribution. Can you tell us a bit more about the migrant problem? Do you find it is difficult to identify whether they really have literacy problems or whether it is more of a language problem?

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Since, especially when it comes to adult education, it is imperative to see the needs of every individual, the language barriers as well as the literacy barrier become both important factors to consider. For instance, a person who hails from Nigeria may have excellent English as s/he is accustumed to speaking English. However, that same person may find it difficult to use a computer - for example, typing a letter or filling out an online form. Similarly, a person from Sudan may have excellent numeracy and computer skills but s/he wasn't exposed to learn the English language. At times, the problem can also be both: literacy and language. I would be interested to know what kind of assessments are done in different countries.

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In Norwegian prisons more or less 30% (2014) of the inmates are from other countries. When they have finished their sentence they are sent out of Norway. This means that it is no point for them to learn Norwegian. Many of them do not master English. As a consequence some prisons offer basic skills using English as the teaching language. The inmates will need English more than Norwegian when leaving Norway.

Here is an example how this can be done in practice:  /en/node/18137

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Thank you for this clarification. This is an interesting point, for some prisons, those in the south of Europe for sure, but also others, have a different kind of problem. Irregular migrants who end up as inmates normally do not have documentation as from where they are coming (e.g.. passport) and so on completion of their sentence remain in Malta. So we have to make sure that eventually they can enter the local labour market as well. Similar to your provisions, they prefer to learn English than Maltese - most do try to leave the island and move to the north of Europe. I wonder what the situation is in countries who are facing similar problems. 

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Joseph Giordmaina
Tue, 01/26/2016 - 10:31

In reply to by Mahira Spiteri

Good morning and thank you Mahira for your contribution. I personally know how much your work is appreciated at Malta's prison. The fact that the testing is comparable to a national scale (and not simply internally to the prison) is a plus! The results can be used by other institutions outside Malta when the inmate is released - like for example The Employment and Training Corporation and Malta College for Arts and Science. One challenge for the prison - and for you I suppose - is to work on basic literacy and numeracy with inmates coming from very different cultures - I remember the case of a Chinese in Malta's prison - he did not understand Maltese and English - but somehow he got along and learned speaking basic Maltese and English. Writing was more of a challenge!. 

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I am very curious about the assesment part of this work. After I read the report I had the feeling that the participants of these courses became more aware on their educational needs and thus thy started (or considered to start) to take over the reponsibility on their own learning. I am curious how the project group has measured this "change of mind" or has ever measured it? 

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