Alfabetização Solidária

Country Profile: Brazil

Population

190,132,630 (2008 UN estimate)

Poverty (Population living on less than US$1 per day):

7.5%

Official Language

Portuguese

Total Youth Literacy Rate (15–24 years)

97% (1995-2004)

Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 1995-2004)
  • Total: 89%
  • Male: 88%
  • Female: 89%
Sources

Programme Overview

Programme TitleAlfabetização Solidária (AlfaSol)
Implementing OrganizationAssociação Alfabetização Solidária
Language of InstructionPortuguese
FundingNational and municipal governments (particularly the Ministry of Education), private companies, institutions and private individuals through the “Adopt a Student” campaign.
Date of Inception1997 –

Background and Contextual Overview

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With its rapid economic growth and relatively high GDP per capita, Brazil is one of the world’s high-potential economies. However, Brazil still suffers from sharp socio-economic disparities, an unequal distribution of wealth and unequal access to basic social services such as health and education. The rapid exploitation of natural resources, irregular land occupation patterns, social exclusion, unemployment and poverty are often cited as the main reasons for the high levels of illiteracy among the poor.

As such, while Brazil has a net school intake rate of 97.2% among 7 to 14 year olds due, in large part, to the policy of compulsory free education for this age group, the country has an average adult illiteracy rate of 13.6%. This suggests that many people fail to proceed beyond primary level education. The adult illiteracy rate is not only higher than in most Latin American countries, it also exceeds global averages. In addition, rates of literacy vary sharply between the different regions and between urban and rural areas. Thus, while the illiteracy rate varies from 7.7% in the south to 26.2% in the north east, the disparities between urban and rural settings further complicate the pattern. As in many other developing countries, illiteracy in Brazil is closely associated with other forms of social, economic and cultural injustice and exclusion. For this pattern to be broken, a concerted and nation-wide campaign against illiteracy is imperative and, indeed, it is this fundamental principle that drives Alfabetização Solidária (AlfaSol).

The AlfaSol Programme

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AlfaSol is one of the first long-term, nationwide youth and adult literacy programme to be established in Brazil. Before it was launched in 1997, national campaigns and educational reforms concentrated primarily on formal education, and thus excluded more than 16.2 million illiterate adults and youths. Furthermore, existing programmes were highly centralised and did not take learner's previously acquired knowledge into consideration. In 1998, the Associação Alfabetização Solidária (AlfaSol) was officially registered as an NGO. It established its own statutes, and undertook to manage and implement the AlfaSol programme.

AlfaSol concentrates on the poorest rural and urban communities with the highest illiteracy rates. It has mobilised an efficient network of partners, consisting of international organizations including NGOs, universities, private enterprises, government institutions and private citizens. This network of partners contributes towards the sustainability of the programme through generous financial and technical contributions as well as a remarkable capacity to mobilise youth and adult learners. As a result, AlfaSol is now a well established organization and has managed to reach out to over five million youth and adult learners around the country since its inception.

Programme Objectives

The programme endeavours to:

In pursuit of these programme objectives, priority is given to out-of-school youth and adults. Learners are mostly recruited from communities with the highest illiteracy rates and lowest Human Development Index (HDI).

Principles

The implementation of the AlfaSol programme is guided by four main principles:

Programme Approaches and Methodologies

Organizational Structure

A notable and innovative feature of AlfaSol lies in its organizational structure, which consists of an extensive, nationwide network of different actors, institutions and partners. The strategy is to share ownership and responsibilities between the different partners in a way that enables each partner to contribute according to its respective strengths and needs.

The following six institutions are the main partners in the AlfaSol network:

Train-the-Trainer

AlfaSol is a module-based literacy programme, and each module is taught over a period of eight months. For each module, new literacy teachers are selected according to personal interests, previous working experience in the field of education or literacy, and demonstrable leadership qualities within their local communities. A further prerequisite is that all literacy teachers must belong to the community in which AlfaSol implements its activities, since they exercise a direct influence on the capacity of the programme to mobilise learners as well as to motivate the learners' continued participation in the literacy lessons. This also helps to create direct linkages, continuity and relevance between community life and the learning process.

As a rule, ten groups of 25 learners are established for each module. Following the selection process, literacy teachers receive a forty-hour initial literacy training course conducted by partner institutions of higher education. Thereafter, literacy teachers receive ongoing training. A literacy teacher is responsible for teaching a group of 25 learners and they are remunerated with a monthly stipend for each module taught.

To support the teachers in executing their duties, AlfaSol provides didactical material. In most cases they use a teaching kit called Viver e Aprender (Living and Learning), which contains training textbooks and manuals and is recommended by the Ministry of Education. However, given the cultural and social diversity of the Brazilian communities, not every textbook or manual in the kit is suitable for every learner or community. As a result, literacy teachers and the professional programme partners from institutions of higher education normally enhance and adapt the didactical materials to suit both the local context and learners’ specific needs.

Training of Learners

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The literacy skills content is designed according to learners’ specific needs. For example, in order to tackle the educational needs of people living in poor urban communities, AlfaSol designed the Projeto Grandes Centros Urbanos (PGCU or Grand Urban Centres Project). The principal aim of the PGCU is to develop literacy models suited to urban learners. As noted above, the teaching and learning processes are based on modules produced by the Ministry of Education which are then adapted to address the specific local context. This enables the programme to be closely aligned with the formal school system.

The municipalities, supported by a partner institution of higher education, are responsible for mobilising learners to enrol.

Programme Impact and Challenges

Monitoring and Evaluation

AlfaSol is responsible for coordinating, monitoring and evaluating the literacy programme and the training processes. The partner institutions of higher education permanently supervise and monitor the literacy courses at the local level. Monitoring and evaluation is based on visits to the cities in which the courses are implemented as well as distance follow-ups. AlfaSol and the partner institutions of higher education use two important tools: the Relatório Mensal de Execução (RNE or Monthly Progress Report) and the Relatório Mensal de Acompanhamento (RMA/Monthly Follow-up Report). A final report is submitted at the end of a module.

Other programme partners, such as the private companies, also perform an important service in monitoring the pedagogical outcomes. This ongoing monitoring and evaluation system has revealed major achievements and important lessons that have enabled the programme to continue to evolve and improve.

Impact

Challenges and Solutions

Lessons Learned

AlfaSol has succeeded in developing a model in which partners share responsibilities and enable inter-sectoral learning. The fact that hundreds of committed municipalities, universities and companies work efficiently together as a network proves the potential of this approach. The outreach capacity of AlfaSol is a further aspect of note. Millions of enrolled learners and thousands of trained facilitators bear testimony to the strategy’s mobilisation capacity and efficacy. The programme’s promotion and advertising of literacy learning, with the help of widespread public relations, has raised awareness of adult literacy all over the country.

The range of partners from different sectors has highlighted the importance of clear structures and short communication channels. Experience has also shown that cooperation between literacy workers and universities is more successful if the universities are established within, or close to, the target community. Similarly, in view of the municipal education system’s efforts to institutionalise adult education, the projects that are directly linked to this system have proved most efficient, as they tend to optimise the use of resources.

Sustainability

The sustainability of the programme is dependent on the huge demand for education from many illiterate people in the country. In addition, AlfaSol’s work is based on broad and solid partnerships with private companies, international organizations and individuals. These partners provide strong financial assistance to AlfaSol. Financial assistance from non-governmental partners is particularly important as AlfaSol does not receive direct project funding from governmental bodies despite the fact that it implements literacy programmes on behalf of state governments (i.e. state governments retain full control of the funds allocated to the literacy programmes that AlfaSol implements).

Sources

Associação Alfabetização Solidária

Contact

Ana Carolina Guerra Alves Pekny
Department for International and Governmental Relations
AlfaSol
E-mail: anaap (at) alfabetizacao.org.br
Tel: 55 11 3372-4341
Fax: 55 11 3372-4339
Website: http://www.alfasol.org.br

Last update: 27 October 2011