The Workplace Literacy Programme (WLP)
Country Profile: Jamaica
2 804 332 (2008 estimate)
English and Jamaican Patois/Creole
|Poverty (Population living on less than US$1 per day):|
|Total Expenditure on Education as % of GNP|
|Access to Primary Education – Total Net Intake Rate (NIR)|
|Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 1995-2004)|
|Programme Title||The Workplace Literacy Programme (WLP)|
|Implementing Organization||Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL)|
|Language of Instruction||English and Jamaican Patois/Creole|
|Funding||Client Organizations and the Jamaican Ministry of Finance and Public Services (through the Ministry of Education).|
|Date of Inception||since 1997|
Context and Background
Jamaica has made impressive progress in providing its citizens with access to basic and quality education, which is free to all from early childhood to secondary level. People who cannot afford further (tertiary) education are furthermore able to access vocational skills training through the Human Employment and Resource Training-National Training Agency (HEART Trust-NTA) programme. Similarly, non-formal adult education is officially regarded as critical to national development, not least because it teaches adults special skills and nurtures attitudes that will optimise individual productivity and, by extension, national development. These educational policies have resulted in relatively high adult literacy rates in Jamaica, averaging 80% between 1995 and 2005.
However, while adult education is central to the government’s national development strategies, not enough resources are being allocated to this sector for it to achieve its stated objectives. This is reflected in the fact that most adult education programmes are currently being implemented by NGOs. In addition, the levels of functional literacy among the national workforce remain low: about 70% of workers with basic literacy and numeracy skills are unable to use these skills to function effectively and competitively within a global economy. In short, low levels of functional literacy skills among Jamaican workers have been a major barrier to workers' productivity and national development. In light of this, the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL, formerly known as the Jamaican Movement for the Advancement of Literacy, or JAMAL for short) initiated the Workplace Literacy Programme (WLP). The WLP is designed to enhance national productivity and development through work-based adult literacy skills training.
The WLP is a work-based literacy and social intervention project which was initiated in 1997 as a response to the low levels of functional literacy and numeracy competencies among Jamaican workers. It was designed to improve the levels of functional literacy in organizations and thus target low-skilled/manual workers. The programme is currently being implemented across the country, and training courses are offered either on-site, (i.e. on the client organizations’ premises) or at one of the 29 Adult Learning Centres (ALC) operated by JFLL. About 2,500 workers enrol in the programme each year.
Aims and Objectives
The basic principle behind the WLP is that basic functional literacy and numeracy skills are a vital catalyst for increased productivity and national development. Its primary goal is therefore to enhance workers’ levels of productivity by building their capacity to function more autonomously, and respond and adapt to the evolving challenges they encounter in the workplace. In addition, the WLP endeavours to reduce the cost of production. Workers with better literacy and numeracy skills are expected to be more disciplined and capable, and thus able to function independently, carry out written instructions more effectively and demonstrate enhanced leadership skills (e.g. critical thinking, decision-making). This will ultimately boost their personal levels of production which, in turn, leads to higher earnings, greater job security and improved entrepreneurial potential. The spill-over benefits will include self-confidence and improved living standards for entire families.
Programme Components and Thematic Focus
The WLP offers basic literacy and numeracy training ranging from the primary level up to the regional (Caribbean) high-school graduation level. However, its basic curriculum is adapted to participants’ learning and literacy needs, including vocabulary and concepts specific to their respective workplaces. In addition, the programme places a greater emphasis on life skills training in order to equip participants with the attitudes and skills they need to be good citizens. Accordingly, the life skills component of the WLP encompasses several core subjects, including career guidance, citizenship, character building, communication, computer literacy and foreign languages.
The WLP has four levels of developmental skills training. Workers sit a pre-enrolment assessment test and are subsequently placed in one of these levels according to their literacy and numeracy skills. Levels 1 and 2 address the learning needs of pre-literate people, while 3 and 4 are for learners with basic functional literacy skills (or graduates of Levels 1 and 2):
Level 1: The learner displays minimal or no recognition of words and may struggle to write. Thirty-six (36) words are learned at this level.
Level 2: Concepts such as phonics, counting, vowels and spelling are introduced. Participants’ vocabulary is expanded to facilitate reading readiness, and learners become familiar with mathematical symbols and simple calculations.
Level 3: Participants improve their reading comprehension and maths skills using books from the secondary school system and a good dictionary. At the end of the level, they sit an achievement test consisting of two papers in English, one in mathematics and one in general knowledge. Those who obtain 75% or more on all papers receive an Achievement Certificate.
Level 4 (Functional Level): Life skills are infused into the programme to give practical support to the use of language and numbers. Participants are expected to attain a level of literacy that will help them to function more effectively and productively at work and in their communities. They are introduced to official documents such as bank and application forms. They begin computer training and business writing (e.g. job application letters). There is also more interactive discussion to build awareness of social and current issues and increase participants’ general knowledge.
Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methods
Recruitment and Training of Facilitators
Typically, programme facilitators are recruited from client organization(s) in order to reinforce the link between the learning process and participants’ specific context. Where no qualified individuals are available, government-approved professional consultants recruit facilitators through public advertisement and competitive bidding. Preference is given to trainers with industry-specific qualifications and experience. Regardless of how they are recruited, all facilitators undergo intensive professional training in adult education teaching. Each facilitator is then assigned a class of around 15 learners and is constantly monitored and mentored by JFLL staff in order to ensure the continuing effectiveness and high quality of the programme. Facilitators are paid an hourly fee of about J$1,000 (US$15).
Enrolment of Participants
Client organizations are primarily responsible for encouraging their employees to enrol into the WLP. Workers are often motivated to enrol into the programme as it increases their chances of being promoted or offered permanent rather than temporary employment. Once potential participants have been identified, JFLL employs a diagnostic test to determine their current language and numeracy skill levels. This, in turn, determines which class the learner will attend and the pace at which the facilitators will conduct the lessons.
Teaching-Learning Approaches and Methods
Facilitators are encouraged to employ learner-centred teaching methodologies and context-specific examples and terminologies that encourage maximum learner participation and effective comprehension of the subject matter. Discussions and role-playing activities are therefore central to the learning process. Counselling and coaching sessions are also provided to individual learners based on their specific needs. To ensure that the learning process remains learner-centred as well as to maintain high levels of learner motivation, a variety of aids are used, including student tests and workbooks, radio and television programmes, computers and flash cards. In addition, a Learning Achievement Survey is conducted at the end of each learning session to determine learners’ level of comprehension and skills competency. An Achievement Certificate is awarded to participants who obtain 75% or more in each of the tests, after which they may choose further options to continue their education.
Programme Impact and Challenges
In addition to the ongoing internal evaluations and student assessments undertaken by JFLL staff to ensure the quality, continuity and cost-effectiveness of the programme, external professionals have also been engaged to conduct qualitative programme evaluations.
- In many instances, discernable and progressive improvements in the efficiency and productivity of workers in many of the participating organizations indicate that the WLP has succeeded in achieving its primary goal of empowering learners. The programme proved particularly effective in organizations which provided post-training inducements to workers. Nonetheless, further capacity-building is required to facilitate the expansion of the programme as well as to ensure its sustainability within individual organizations.
- The programme has lead to a reduction in administrative (supervision) costs. For example, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Advanced Farm Technologies (AFT) Limited, which produces and processes papaya for the export market, has attributed the significant increase in staff efficiency and reduction in supervision costs to the WLP. Most critically, staff supervision has been minimised because workers are now adept at using modern technology and interpreting written instructions pertaining to chemicals, tools and machinery.
- Workers who participated in the WLP have improved their functional literacy skills and competencies and are thus in a better position to negotiate for higher wages and seek employers offering the best conditions of service. Overall, the WLP has empowered workers, improved their working conditions and wages and, ultimately, their families’ living standards.
- The WLP has also raised the importance of education in people's lives. As a result, many parents are now actively helping their children to access and gain an education.
The biggest challenge is when participants decide not to continue attending the training, often due to a lack of post-training incentives. Employers or sponsors are therefore strongly encouraged to provide workers with such incentives once they have successfully completed the programme, as this will encourage them to invest their time in training.
As a work-based literacy programme, the success, effectiveness and sustainability of the WLP depends on the provision of post-training rewards and incentives, including promotions and financial bonuses. Invariably, where such incentives exist, workers are more likely to participate in the programme and apply their new skills to productive activities.
In addition, the programme depends on the commitment of senior managers within the client organizations. These managers play an instrumental role in motivating their workers to participate and to continue attending literacy classes. Furthermore, one major lesson which consistently emerged from the field was that managers who are enthusiastic about the programme will be emulated by workers without the need to apply “force” or directives. At Toyota Jamaica, for example, all line managers participated in a preliminary diagnostic test together with their staff as a means of building team spirit in the quest for quality enhancement and greater productivity. On the other hand, one programme suffered significantly because supervisors were reluctant to allow workers to take the required time off to attend classes.
It was furthermore found that trainers/facilitators must be enthusiastic, self-motivated and able to motivate adult learners.
The sustainability of WLP depends on the availability and continuing demand for literacy training for workers, and the ongoing commitment of managers and employees of client organizations as well as the government of Jamaica. JFLL has an advantage in that it caters for lower level workers, whereas most private training consultants are focused on the upper level of the market. However, to maintain the viability and affordability of the literacy programmes, JFLL intends to cement its position in the long term by launching an aggressive recruitment campaign to attract the volunteers who have traditionally been key to the success of literacy programmes in Jamaica.
- Government of Jamaica, Ministry of Education, http://www.jis.gov.jm/Education/index.asp
- Jamaican Foundation For Lifelong Learning, http://www.jfll.org.jm
Mr. Edward Shakes
South Camp Road, Kingston 4
Tel: +876 928-5181-6 or +876 938-1317
E-mail: User: eshakes
Host: (at) jfll.org.jm