Literacy Programmes within the National Qualifications Framework
Country Profile: Mauritius
|Other spoken languages|
French, Mauritius Creole, Bhojpuri, Tamil, Urdu
|Poverty (Population living on less than 1.25 USD per day)|
|Total Expenditure on Education as % of GDP (2009)|
|Total Youth Literacy Rate (15–24 years)|
|Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 2005–2008)|
|Programme Title||Literacy Programmes within the National Qualifications Framework|
|Implementing Organization||Mauritius Qualifications Authority (MQA)|
|Language of Instruction||French and English|
|Date of Inception||1986 – Adult Literacy Programme run by NWC (ongoing)|
2002 – Mauritius Qualifications Authority (ongoing)
Context and Background
Mauritius has experienced rapid levels of economic growth over the previous two decades and made significant progress in promoting and facilitating lifelong learning and literacy. With few natural resources, the country relies heavily on human capital to sustain economic growth and the main industrial sectors are sugar, textiles, tourism, ICT and financial resources. Under the pressure of globalisation and competition, the ICT and tourism industries have recently been identified as potential sectors to support continued economic development. Following an economic slowdown in light of globalisation, unemployment has risen somewhat affecting those suffering from poverty and with a low employment status the most. The Creole-speaking population form one of the marginalised communities who have felt the force of these recent developments. In addition, unemployment rates for women are particularly high with 15.5% of the female labour force being out of work in 2006 in comparison to only 5.6% of the male labour force. Educational reforms and the establishment of the Mauritius Qualifications Authority (MQA) have taken steps towards addressing unemployment and have not only facilitated access to basic education but also encouraged lifelong learning practices.
Literacy Programmes within the National Qualifications Framework
One of the most prominent literacy programmes for young people and adults in Mauritius is run by the Mauritian Qualifications Authority (MQA). Set up in 2002, the MQA coordinates a national programme to obtain a qualification in Adult Literacy and has established a National Qualifications Framework, comprising ten qualification levels ranging from primary education to PhD level. As of September 2011, the illiteracy rate for women in Mauritius stood at 18.5% whereas the rate for men was considerably lower at 11.3%. To address this disparity, the NWC runs an adult literacy programme specifically for women between the ages of 18 and 80 across Mauritius. Since its inception in 1986, literacy levels have improved and the stark difference between the literacy rate for men and women has significantly decreased.
The literacy programmes in Mauritius pursue the following objectives:
- To help citizens to learn how to read and write.
- To support lifelong learning and promote sustainable methods of developing reading and writing skills.
- To develop and maintain a skilled labour force to support economic growth in Mauritius.
The nationwide adult literacy programme set up by the MQA awards the National Certificate in Adult Literacy, which is pitched at Level 1 of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). The aims of the MQA with respect to this programme are as follows:
- To help people who have failed or never taken the Certificate of Primary Education examination to obtain a qualification.
- To award those who have gained skills through non-formal education or experience to acquire a qualification through the introduction of a Recognition of Prior Learning system.
- To offer an adult literacy qualification rooted in a clear framework of vocational training and education, and which meets international standards.
- To standardise and improve teaching through the introduction of a qualification for trainers, the National Certificate in Adult Literacy for Educators.
- To make sure that adult literacy teaching complies with quality assurance standards.
The programme has been devised for the acquisition of basic literacy and numeracy skills and is run predominantly in French and English, with Creole being employed if necessary. As well as setting the syllabus of the course and exam, the MQA registers and accredits the training institutes where the course is offered. The Adult Literacy courses are held with a ratio of approximately one teacher or facilitator to 20 learners. The programme takes around 700 hours of notional learning to complete . Serving as an exam body, the Mauritius Examinations Syndicate carries out the examinations and issues certificates to those who pass the course. Having completed the course and gained the qualification, learners can go on to pursue vocational qualifications offered by the Industrial and Vocational Training Board.
Opening up qualifications for all Mauritians and establishing clearer parity between academic and vocational qualifications, the national qualifications framework provides greater opportunities for learners regardless of their education, training or employment. The framework facilitates the interaction between academic education, vocational training and professional employment whilst setting standards for industry and promoting lifelong learning. Upon completion of the National Certificate in Adult Literacy, learners are able to pursue further education or training and would become eligible to follow any courses in the TVET (technical and vocational education and training) sector.
Recognition of Prior Learning
To support people who have gained skills through informal learning, a new method of assessment and accreditation has been set up by the MQA. Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) was first implemented nationwide in 2009 and is a means to validate and recognise the competences of people who did not have the opportunity to follow formal education but have acquired certain skills over time. The concept of RPL is to translate prior learning and experience into an official qualification, thereby allowing more people to acquire a duly recognised qualification and promoting alternative forms of education and learning as part of lifelong learning.
The National Qualifications Framework
Originally introduced in the tourism, construction, printing and plumbing sectors, the system has since been introduced in the area of adult literacy. Both RPL facilitators and assessors are registered and trained by the MQA.
The National Qualifications Framework
Teaching-Learning Approaches and Content
By fixing the adult literacy programme on the first tier of the national qualifications framework, successful participants are awarded a recognised qualification and benefit from raised self-esteem and improved chances for employment. The innovative Recognition of Prior Learning system supports this approach and makes it possible for a wider range of experienced or skilled people to obtain qualifications and improve their socioeconomic mobility. The National Adult Literacy course addresses a broad range of skills including reading and writing, basic numeracy, listening actively and responding appropriately, developing ICT skills and self-strategic learning, applying problem-solving techniques to real life situations, engaging in critical and consensual discussion, planning performance to attain goals and enhancing interpersonal skills to improve teamwork. As an outcome oriented programme, it is vital that the course content and prospective results are accessible and that learning progression is monitored and realistic. Grounding many of the activities in real life situations and using various communication methods and skills makes the programme relevant for learners and helps them to gain ownership of the knowledge they acquire. During the Adult Literacy for Educators course, the prospective trainers learn how to design and deliver literacy skills development for individuals and groups of adults. Furthermore, the syllabus covers the history and development of adult literacy and the teaching and learning theories.
Staff Recruitment and Support
The teachers leading the courses to gain a National Certificate in Adult Literacy require a National Certificate in Adult Literacy for Educators which is graded at level 5 in the national qualifications framework. In addition, the teachers must apply to become registered as a Trainer with the MQA. Once registered, trainers are able to work for up to three years before needing to register once again with MQA.
For teachers who are holding skills based courses in an area other than literacy, basic training is available for them to support any participants who may be struggling to move forward in a vocational programme due to poor literacy skills. Titled “Develop adult learners' literacy and numeracy skills within a training or education programme,” the course helps teachers to describe adult literacy, identify literacy demands and the participants’ strengths and needs, integrate literacy skill development into the programme, assess literacy progress and evaluate the progress of the teaching strategy used.
In 2008, a staff welfare association was established in order to foster teambuilding and strengthen the ties between the teachers and the authority. As well as organising informal meetings and get-togethers for the staff, the association has become actively involved in charitable activities and celebrating important regional and cultural feast days.
An event organised by the staff welfare association
Recruitment of Participants
The MQA actively disseminates information about the National Qualifications Framework. With the aim of making people more aware about the framework, several workshops have been organised over the years for a variety of stakeholders. The latest workshops have taken place regionally, with four held in Mahebourg, Triolet, Flacq and Rose Belle respectively and another was scheduled to be held in Goodlands at the end of 2010. A comprehensive website run by the MQA also offers information on the courses available.
Collaboration between the MQA and L’Académie de La Reunion (the educational authority in La Reunion) has proved to be beneficial for the training aspects of the programme. Between 2007 and 2010, over 150 facilitators and assessors working with the Recognition of Prior Learning system have benefitted from training arranged by the MQA and L’Academie. In addition, the French Embassy has proven to be a supportive source of assistance to the MQA during the pilot phase of the RPL project. As well as offering support by connecting the MQA with partners for collaboration on La Reunion, it is worth mentioning that the travel costs and accommodation expenses for consultants and MQA staff were borne by the French Embassy.
Monitoring and Evaluation
The registration criteria for centres or courses wanting to gain recognition by the MQA analyse the following areas: the governance and management, assessment, design, development and the running of the programmes as well as the quality assurance system. In order to ensure that the high quality education is maintained, the training centres are closely monitored by the MQA. Quality assurance standards set by the MQA are used to track and evaluate the progress of programmes.
Impact and Achievements
The National Qualifications Framework can be considered as a pre-defined path towards lifelong learning for all members of the community. The flexible model to achieve qualifications and pursue further education provides citizens with greater socioeconomic mobility and the skills to improve their quality of life. Through integrating literacy development into vocational courses and offering a qualification in adult literacy, learners gain greater self-confidence and professional support and are less likely to drop out of their programme. Since 2006, around 100 different qualifications and 2,547 unit standards have been developed under the NQF by Industry Training Advisory Committees.
International cooperation across the technical and vocational education and training community has fostered greater collaboration efforts which will not only serve to support the programmes but will further raise the quality of training and education on the national level. An example of such positive consequences would be the exchange programmes on offer for professionals and students which facilitate the exchange of information and encourage student mobility.
The Certificate in Adult Literacy teaches reading and writing in English and French which poses a challenge for potential participants whose mother tongue is not one of these languages. As a group with high drop-out rates in primary education, it is vital to offer enough support and encouragement to these learners in order to help them complete the course.
Programme Costs and Funding
The overall coordination of the programme and qualification is funded by the government; however, some of the training centres are run by NGOs which coordinate and support the costs of the employees and the course.
With a growing number of institutions achieving the status required to issue qualifications, the National Qualifications Framework has proven to be a stable and adaptable system allowing for the incorporation and standardisation of qualifications from a range of organisations. Having invested a great amount of time and funds into the development of this system, the Framework is a well organised, nationwide initiative which is built on solid foundations. However, the continued presence of literacy programmes and resources depends heavily on the availability of financial resources both from the government and the NGOs which are engaged in running projects in the area.