With over 700 million illiterate adults worldwide, governments in many developing countries have implemented adult literacy programs. Typically these programs have low rates of success partly because the quality of teaching is heterogeneous. Standardization of teaching provided by computer-aided instruction might be a solution. However, there is little rigorous evidence of the effectiveness of computer-based adult literacy programs in delivering high-quality literacy and numeracy in the developing world. Through a randomized control trial, we measure learning outcomes with individual-level literacy and numeracy tests and find statistically significant positive impacts of this computer-aided program on literacy and numeracy outcomes of women who undergo the program. The effects are statistically significant but small in magnitude for women who were entirely illiterate prior to the program. The learning impacts are substantially larger for learners who knew at least a handful of letters at the beginning of the program. We compare the improvement in learning to that of another adult literacy and numeracy program.

Every adult entering a program must be pretested to determine a beginning literacy level and post-tested before leaving to determine gain. Programs may use either standardized tests (norm- or criterion-referenced) or performance assessments with standardized scoring rubrics. Although any state-approved assessment may be used for determining beginning and ending levels, each ABE student must be placed in one of six basic education levels defined by the NRS. The first four levels cover, roughly, literacy development through the beginning of secondary education: beginning ABE literacy, beginning basic education, low intermediate basic education, and high intermediate basic education. The last two levels cover adult secondary education: low adult secondary education and high adult secondary education.

Performance standards, or entry-level descriptors, are given for each level. These descriptions of what an adult at each level is expected to be able to do are keyed to scores from common standardized literacy tests.

Nowadays, adult education has become a powerful factor of economic development, increase of productivity and competitiveness of economy, improvement of employment and reduction of regional differences in economic development. Due to these reasons, there is an increasing accentuation of the importance of continuous education. We are progressively facing the phenomenon of changing the focus from formal to non-formal education. Even though, if we assume that formal education offers adequate knowledge necessary to people for successful job performance, rapid economic,  technical, technological and social changes impose to individuals the request for permanent acquisition of new knowledge. Therefore, non-formal education has become one of the basic forms of satisfying educational needs of a human in modern age. It is often said that this type of education is aimed at complementing formal, i.e. traditional education which is unable to respond to the needs of contemporary humans due to its organizational form. In order to satisfy their own educational needs, people turn to alternative types of learning, while non-formal education actually enables them. Non-formal education entails a wide range of activities taken with a view to acquire new or upgrade the existing knowledge. The advantages of non-formal education are multifold, since they enable individuals to learn what suits them and what they need in order to improve their knowledge, techniques and skills.

In summary, a wide variety of basic reading and writing assessment instruments may be used by states and local programs as long as they are either standardized norm- or criterion-referenced tests or performance assessments with standardized scoring rubrics. Results from these assessments are not reported directly but are translated into various literacy levels, which are used for reporting purposes.


Article by: Busayo Tomoh

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