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EPALE Discussion: Adult literacy – what skills do adults need and what makes for an effective policy?

létrehozta EPALE Moderator

/da/file/literacy-discussion-epale-ebsnLiteracy Discussion EPALE EBSN

Literacy Discussion EPALE EBSN


As part of EPALE’s September focus on adult literacy, we would like to hear your views on what literacy skills adults need and what the success factors are for an effective national policy in this field.

The discussion is open to everyone and will take place on this page between 4-7 September 2017. It will be moderated by EPALE’s Thematic Coordinator for Life Skills, David Mallows in collaboration with our partners from the European Basic Skills Network (EBSN). This is a very lively discussion which is taking place over several pages. To go to the second page click here.  To go directly to the third page of discussion click here. Please make sure that you have perused all the discussion.

Feel free to comment or share your opinion on any of the following questions:

What kind of literacy skills do adults need in Europe in 2017?

  • What do we mean when we talk about 'adult literacy'? How does literacy relate to other basic skills?
  • What is the place of literacy in the context of Upskilling Pathways?
  • What needs improvement in literacy teaching and learning?

What are the success criteria for effective national policy in this field?

  • What are the main challenges (in your context) in supporting adults to improve their literacy?
  • How can we ensure that adequate investment is made in adult literacy education?


**The discussion has now been closed. You can still browse and read the community's comments.

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11 - 20/204 megjelenítése
Antonella Giles képe

Yes, Graciela.  That is very true!

There are many apps to encourage Literacy but most of them are designed for school children.  Few apps are actually created to target adults.  An app used to teach various languages and which is quite popular among older students is 'Duolingo'.  

Having said that, there are many Web 2.0 tools available online which educators may use to encourage and support adult literacy. Such tools may be used to create quizzes and simple polls, encourage discussions through forums, share files for the students to work collaboratively.  These are just a few ideas how online tools can be used in an eduacational context.  And, of course, the material used can vary according to the age of your students.

In fact, I intend to explore some of these Web 2.0 tools and how they can be used to support literacy. I shall be sharing my ideas with you all in the 'Resource Section' of the EPALE platform.


Jo Dixon képe

DigLin, developed for "non-literate adult immigrants learning to read for the first time in Dutch, English, German or Finnish", might be of interest to some people here: 


The last time I looked you could still try out the activities though I think the project has ended and it's not something I've been involved with myself so I don't know what the plans are in terms of its availability for use with learners going forward. Maybe someone else here knows...

Merle KOIK képe

My name is Merle Koik, I work in library and also I am an ambassador of Epale in Estonia. I would like to mention the role that libraries can play in helping people manage different literacy problems. As members of the local community, the employees of our library have noticed that a lot of people lack the self-confidence and the courage to go to different trainings to develop personal skills. They suffer from a low self-esteem in this regard. A library, on the other hand, is an organization they are used to visit and they often turn to our librarians for help. This comfortableness with the library as an institution is a very good possibility to engage people to raise their literacy skills. One good example: we offer free individual training service to our library readers with low digital skills and this is really popular.


Merle, I completely agree with you and this is why I think that we need to provide library workers with training on how to teach people learning skills and self-directedness. 

Graciela Sbertoli képe

Tere, Georgi! That is a wonderful idea. I think there may be some examples out there of that type of training.

Any comments from other participants?

Graciela Sbertoli képe

You are absolutely right. Libraries can play a decisive role in the literacy development of individual learners. We will be happy to hear more about your work!

Ramon Mangion képe

Hello to everyone. I am Ramon Mangion, an EPALE Ambassador for Malta and Curriculum Administrator at the Malta College for Arts, Science and Technology.

Some interesting comments were posted in this discussion. I particularly noted a comment regarding the fact that there are  wise people who may be not be literate. However I would like to go beyond that, and comment on literacy as a central key component linked to many areas. 


Firstly let's go back to the basics and look at some general consequences of adult iliteracy :

  • Issues with understanding  essential information
  • Unemployment or precarious work
  • Reduced access to lifelong learning and development opportunities
  • Low self esteem


This can eventually then also link with other basic skills such as digital literacy, particularly in this day and age when everything is online. This includes government services, banking services, communication services such as internet, television and cable services and bill payments. Once again a lack of other basic skills further exacerbates the points that I mentioned above. Hence this is why I see 'adult literacy' as a fundamental component and thus every effort should be made to improve current literacy figures.

One of the questions posed as part of this discussion is 'What needs improvement in literacy teaching and learning' ?   We need to first understand the problem ( if any). Is there a problem ?  Is it an issue of access ? is it an issue of incorrect approaches to teaching literacy ? I am keeping these questions open on purpose.

Considering the Maltese context, I can surely say that a significant amount of money was spent , and is still being spent by the government and NGO's to create and improve literacy programmes. Such programmes target a wide range of adults from different walks of life, and age groups. If I had to provide a constructive comment, I would say that maybe apart from  focusing on providing literacy skills, efforts should also be made for campaigns that target awareness and which look at why literacy is important ? What programmes are available ? How can help be sought ?. This can also be done in partnership with various stakeholders such as employers,education institutions, government entitites and community groups. 


Any comments are appreciated. I tried to provide some brief points regarding this discussion. 


Laurence Martin képe

Hi everybody,

My name is Laurence Martin and I am Director of a French association (APapp) which is supporting a pedagogical label existing since 30 years : the APP (Ateliers de Pédagogie Personnalisée). Our teachnig approach is based on guided self-training to help people get needed competences in personal and professional life. Our method is highly based on humanely and attention, considering welcomed people in their global situation, giving them an active role during all the training process, as a stakeholder and not only a learner.

Showing them that they already have numerous skills and competences, giving them enough self confidence to actively involve themselves in VET actions.

In France 7 % of the active population has strong literacy difficulties and they are hidding it. As they have this difficulty, they consider themselves often as unskilled. Our role is to show them how skilled they are to find issues to face it.

Learning approach can be linked to their personal interests : cooking, travelling, helping kids for their homeworks... Limiting competences to the professional field is the best way to fail reaching everybody.


Graciela Sbertoli képe

is indeed a very good approach for some target groups. Relevance is a very important principle of adult education.

Thank you for input, Laurece! Do you have any documentation about the methods you use?

Nicoletta IOANNOU képe

Dear all,


My name is Nicoletta Ioannou and I was the Cyprus National Coordinator for the implementation of the EU Agenda for Adult Learning in 2014-15. In the framework of Cyprus’ project we organized an Information Day on the issue of how to widen access of adults to education and training and enhance their basic skills.  I am glad to mention that a member of the Executive Committee of the European Basic Skills Network participated in the event and highlighted the issue of basic skills provision from a European perspective. I could not agree more that basic skills are the foundation of highly adaptive workforce but mostly for the active participation of the individuals in the community and social life.  Among the several themes raised in the event was also the fact that experiences and know how from several European countries with advance practice of basic skills provision and teacher training facilities can be of best use for countries such as Cyprus that have limited experience on this issue.

Interestingly, in the aforementioned Info Day, a lot of challenges were raised by the stakeholders that participated in the event, such as representatives of the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance, the Human Resource Development Authority and participants of second chance schools. Below, I share some of these challenges:

  • Establishment of stronger synergies among all stakeholders involved in the sector.
  • Introduction of mechanisms to trace adults who are at-risk of social exclusion through the cooperation of Ministries, the business sector and the local authorities.
  • Provision of individual support for each adult in order to identify his/her needs, and provide appropriate guidance regarding the available programmes and other existing opportunities.
  • Motives to adults with low basic skills so as to return to education.
  • Childcare services for adults who wish to attend second chance schools.
  • Establishment of stronger links between education and labour market needs.
  • Provision of accurate and constant information on the existing education and training opportunities through information campaigns and other actions.
  • Strengthening learning in the workplace and increase the flexibility of the existing programmes.
  • Focus on validation of all types of learning (including non-formal and informal learning) and using of existing or currently developed mechanisms, including the National Qualifications Framework to enable adults to continue their educational paths. 
  • Empowering adult educators who work with vulnerable adult learners, mostly through relevant training.
  • Defining basic skills and the levels of skills proficiency in the Cyprus context
  • Development of policies that target adults with low basic skills, unemployed, elderly people, immigrants, employed adults with low basic skills and early school leavers.
  • Ensuring that individuals who participate in these programmes acquire an adequate level of basic skills.

Referring to Christiana’s post and David’s comment, I would say that many of the challenges mentioned above, can be considered as barriers of adults to participate in education. These are related to policy issues (e.g. explicit policies on basic skills provision), effective communication among the respective stakeholders, raise awareness campaigns to make available opportunities known to the adult learners, individualized support and provision of motives. In my opinion, dealing with the above in a systematic way can enhance participation of adults.