Family Literacy Programmes (FLPs)
Country Profile: Turkey
|Poverty (Population living on less than 2 USD per day)|
|Other spoken languages|
Kurmanji, Zaza, Arabic, Laz
|Total youth literacy rate (15–24 years, 2011)|
|Adult literacy rate (15 years and over, 2011)|
|Programme Title||Family Literacy Programmes|
|Implementing Organization||Mother-Child Education Foundation (AÇEV)|
|Language of Instruction||Turkish|
|Programme Partners||UNICEF, UNESCO, UNDP, European Commission, World Bank, government (through the Ministries of National Education and Health), media groups (TRT, NTV, Kanal D) and local NGOs.|
|Date of Inception||1993|
Context and Background
Turkey has made impressive progress in the provision of access to education for all over the past few years. As of 2006, primary school attendance for children aged 6-15 years was 91%, while the total literacy rate for male and female youth and adults was 90% and 70% respectively. These gains are partly a result of the provision of public and free formal and non-formal education by the state. NGOs have also successfully complemented state education programmes.
Nonetheless, numerous challenges remain, particularly with regards to access to Early Childhood Education (ECE) and basic adult education for socially marginalised groups. Recent studies suggest that only 23%, 33.4% and 51% of children aged 3-6, 4-6 and 5-6 respectively benefit from ECE, while those in extremely marginalised communities have virtually no access to ECE at all since such services are often available in large cities. Furthermore, although the rate at which girls and women are accessing basic and higher education is on the increase, the gender disparity with regards to access to education remains significantly high in most marginalised communities due to long-standing socio-cultural practices such as early marriage or, in the case of poor families, the tendency to educate male rather than female children.
The continued neglect of ECE has long-term, negative impacts on the future development of the nation. Studies have demonstrated that lack of access to quality ECE in children’s formative years undermines their psycho-social (cognitive, emotional, personality, etc.) development and, by extension, their potential to succeed in the education system. This, in turn, robs the nation of a critical mass of human capital necessary for development. In light of this, it is therefore imperative to institutionalise ECE, particularly among socially marginalised groups.
However, for ECE programmes to be effective, efforts should also be made to develop adult literacy/education programmes in order to enhance parents' capacity to effectively perform their duties as the children's first educators as well as their ability to support their children in pursuing an education. Studies have also revealed that parents, particularly mothers, have a profound effect on the psycho-social development of children. As such, children with educated parents are more likely to receive positive support and, in turn, be higher educational achievers. In response to the gaps identified in the Turkish education system (especially the lack of ECE services) and the link between adult education, ECE and children’s development, The Mother Child Education Foundation (AÇEV) – a national NGO founded in 1993 – instituted the integrated and intergenerational Family Literacy Programmes (FLPs) in an effort to provide universal access to education and thus combat structural social inequalities.
Family Literacy Programmes (FLPs)
FLPs are integrated and intergenerational programmes which provide families from poor and marginalised areas of Turkey with ECE and adult literacy/education training. Through the FLPs, AÇEV endeavours to:
create equal opportunities for all citizens to gain access to education;
provide socially disadvantaged people with access to low-cost, alternative early childhood and adult education (lifelong learning);
promote family involvement in child education; and
improve societal development and quality of life through family education and empowerment programmes.
Over the years and through concerted scientific research and strategic partnerships with local and international institutions of higher education, such as Harvard University and the Synergos Institute, AÇEV has refined the FLPs into its two main constituent components: ECE and adult education. These are in turn sub-divided as follows:
Early Childhood Education Programmes (ECEPs)
- Mother-Child Education Programme (MOCEP): This is a home-based ECE (for children aged 5-6) and adult education programme which was initiated in 1993 (see below for details).
- Pre-school Parent Child Education Programme (PCPEP): This scientifically-based training programme was initiated in 1999, and targets children attending state-run pre-schools and their parents. PCPEP aims to strengthen the curriculum and training strategies used by existing state ECE programmes, as well as to support parent-school cooperations as a means of improving the effectiveness of ECE programmes. To this end, AÇEV provides pre-schools with ECE teaching-learning materials, while parents are provided with both literacy materials and training in order to empower them to effectively support their children's learning. It also facilitates teacher-parent networking through inclusive, monthly parent seminars.
- Pre-school Education Programme (PEP, since 1993): PEP is a scientifically-based, intensive pre-school programme lasting 9 weeks that targets children from exceptionally underprivileged communities or regions. It aims to support the holistic and psycho-social development of children in order to improve their educational achievements and social success. The programme trains children, parents and teachers.
Adult Education Programmes
Mother Support Programme (MSP, since 2003): MSP is a modular programme targeting mothers of children aged 3-11, providing them with training that increases their capacity to support the psycho-social development and well-being of their children. The programme lasts eight weeks and focuses on: positive child rearing; sexual reproductive health for mothers; ways of positive learning environments; and the importance of play. MSP is often facilitated by teachers, social workers and counsellors.
Father Support Programme (FSP, since 1996): The FSP evolved from the MSP (that is, at the request of MSP participants) and thus endeavours to promote holistic child development by improving the parenting skills of fathers of children aged 2-10 years. Family Letters Project and Parenting Seminars: These complement the MSP and FSP programmes.
Functional Adult Literacy and Women's Support Programme (FALP): FALP was initiated in 1995 and provides illiterate women with literacy and skills training (see below).
AÇEV also undertakes other literacy/educational advocacy initiatives, including the "7 Is Too Late" and the EU-funded "Raising Women: Reducing Gender Disparity in Education" campaigns, as well as educational TV and radio broadcasts.
Essentially, therefore, FLPs are primarily concerned with creating a social environment supportive of the holistic, psycho-social development of children by providing entire families with low-cost alternatives to formal education and training. Since its foundation and through the FLPs, AÇEV has trained 5,000 educators and served 411,000 children and their parents through face-to-face instruction. A further 36,000,000 people have benefited from TV and radio-based educational programmes and the production and distribution of educational materials. In addition, its advocacy campaigns have been instrumental in persuading the government to introduce compulsory free education. AÇEV's approaches to education and training have proven so successful that FLPs have been adopted in other countries such as Belgium, Germany, France, Holland, Bahrain, Jordan and the Palestine Autonomous Territories (PAT). In order to fully comprehend the interconnectedness and contribution of the constituent projects of FLPs towards combating illiteracy, this report analyses MOCEP and FALP in greater detail.
The Mother-Child Education Programme (MOCEP)
MOCEP is an intergenerational, culturally-sensitive and home-based ECE and adult education/literacy development programme which targets socially disadvantaged children (aged 5 to 6 years) with limited access to formal pre-school education and their mothers, many of whom are illiterate or semi-literate. It emerged from two decades of scientific and action-based research undertaken by AÇEV with professional assistance from Boğaziçi University. MOCEP was developed in response to the lack of pre-school services in marginalised communities and thus seeks to foster the holistic, psycho-social (cognitive, emotional, social, physical, etc.) development of pre-school children through appropriate ECE and training. As a home-based programme, MOCEP was developed using an environmental approach to child development and education. This approach recognises the critical role of children’s social environment in fostering optimal child psycho-social development. As such, MOCEP endeavours to support families (mothers) and child development through appropriate literacy training.
Aims and Objectives
MOCEP aims to:
provide access to ECE opportunities to underprivileged children;
foster optimal psycho-social development among children in order to enhance their preparedness for advanced education (primary, secondary and tertiary);
instil mothers with positive parenting attitudes and the skills they need to facilitate the holistic psycho-social development and long-term social wellbeing of their children; and
create a home environment that helps children gain an education.
In order to achieve these goals as well as to be effective and sustainable, MOCEP focuses on three interlinked and theme-based training areas:
Mother Empowerment or Home Enrichment Programme: This programme focuses on the role of mothers in children’s psycho-social development and therefore aims to enhance their capacity to create a positive home environment which is conducive to optimal child development. This is fostered through training in literacy, child-rearing practices, conflict management, health education and sexual education.
Reproductive Health and Family Planning: This component increases mothers’ awareness of their reproductive systems, rights, the principles of safe motherhood and various family planning methods.
Cognitive Education Programme (CEP): CEP endeavours to empower mothers by providing them with the skills needed to support the cognitive development of their children and prepare them for enrolment into primary school. In other words, it enhances the role of mothers as first teachers/educators of children, training them to develop their children’s basic literacy skills, ability to recognise geometric shapes, and listening and communication skills. For example, mothers are trained to use story books to foster language, critical thinking, comprehension and communication skills among children. This also gives mothers the opportunity to consolidate their own literacy skills.
Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies
MOCEP is implemented by AÇEV in collaboration with the Ministry of National Education (MoNE, General Directorate of Apprenticeship and Non-formal Education). Learning is conducted at Adult/Public Education Centres (A/PECs) across Turkey by a network of teachers and social workers who are trained in ECE and adult literacy/education by AÇEV and MoNE. The facilitators are also responsible for managing and coordinating centre-based learning activities. AÇEV provides trainers with ongoing and on-the-job follow-up training, mentoring and supervision in order to enhance programme effectiveness.
Mothers attend weekly literacy classes for a period of 25 weeks (six months). In addition, programme facilitators undertake home visits to provide further individualised literacy learning assistance to participating families and consolidate mothers' acquired parenting and literacy skills. This, in turn, increases their ability to act as the first educators of their children.
Although different teaching-learning approaches are employed, MOCEP emphasises interactive and participatory methodologies in order to encourage learners to learn from each other. For example, for the Reproductive Health and Family Planning and Mother Enrichment programmes, groups of 20 to 25 mothers attend weekly, three-hour adult education sessions during which they engage in active and socially-relevant group discussions and role plays. Mothers are also expected to apply their acquired skills in real-life situations (i.e. in the home), a process which enables AÇEV to monitor programme effectiveness through feedback provided during class discussions.
Additionally, mothers are encouraged to participate in the learning process (both in classes and at home) and thus to assist their children in various learning activities including book reading and story telling; letter or word recognition through sounds and images; recognition of colours and shapes; and discussion-based problem-solving skills. These activities stimulate intergenerational learning and positive parent-child communication and relations. Furthermore they provide children with emotional security and the scaffolding necessary for progressive development and effective learning. Overall, encouraging mothers to learn together with their children enhances the literacy skills acquisition process for both.
Impact/Achievements of MOCEP
MOCEP is one of the most successful components of the Family Literacy Programmes and has, as a result, attracted significant attention as an innovative and effective ECE and adult literacy/education programme. Accordingly, several academic and evaluation studies (see below) have been undertaken to see how the programme has contributed towards child and adult literacy development and harness the results to learn from and improve the programme. In addition, the adoption of the approach by other nations provides further evidence of its effectiveness and adaptability to different contexts. Evaluation studies have demonstrated that MOCEP has been critical in fostering optimal child psycho-social development, as well as child and adult literacy. Key indicators of the impact of MOCEP are as follows:
To date, MOCEP has trained 900 teachers and reached a total of 237,000 mothers and children, of whom 28,568 benefited in 2007 alone. Each year, the programmes targets around 45,000 mothers and children.
Several studies have revealed significant differences in psycho-social development between children whose mothers had participated in MOCEP and those who had not. Furthermore, they have shown that children who participate in MOCEP together with their mothers achieve higher scores in intelligence and aptitude (IQ) tests and standardised school examinations, and were therefore better prepared for school. In addition, they also demonstrate significantly higher levels of positive social and personality development (e.g. positive interpersonal relations, good communication and creative skills, more self-confidence and a greater ability to integrate into the school environment). Most importantly, the school retention or completion rate was significantly higher (87%) among children from families that had participated in MOCEP compared to non-participants (67%). Overall, these indicators demonstrate that ECE and adult education programmes foster children’s psycho-social development and help prepare them for continuing education. Most importantly, they also indicate the capacity of ECE programmes to mitigate the distressing effects that socially disadvantaged environments have on child development and learning.
MOCEP has also assisted mothers as child care givers and educators. MOCEP graduates display better child-rearing practices, such as improved parent-to-child interactions and learning assistance, than those who received no MOCEP training. This in turn has fostered positive parent- child relationships and, in turn, holistic child development.
Trained mothers displayed greater self-confidence than mothers who had received no MOCEP training and reported that patterns of interaction with their husbands had changed. They enjoyed a greater degree of communication and role-sharing with their spouses, and were more likely to make joint decisions on matters such as birth control and child discipline. It was also found that trained women enjoyed a higher status in the family. This indicates the importance of the programme in further stimulating positive and functional family relationships.
Functional Adult Literacy and Women's Support Programme (FALP)
Women constitute two thirds of the more than five million illiterate adults in Turkey. Functional illiteracy and the lack of livelihood skills severely restrict women's ability to participate in family and community development or help their children gain an education. In light of this, AÇEV initiated the Functional Adult Literacy and Women's Support Programme (FALP) in 1995. FALP is a functional literacy development programme which targets illiterate women (aged 15 years and above) living in socially disadvantaged (low-income) communities. The programme is provided free of charge and provides women with literacy skills training designed to enable them to participate in the socio-economic development processes of their families and communities and thereby improve their social standing. It also aims to raise women’s awareness of the socio-political and economic rights and issues that directly affect them as women and parents. To this end, the FALP focuses on the following thematic areas:
Basic literacy and numeracy.
Civic education (citizenship, gender relations, human rights, peace-building, and women’s rights with regard to inheritances and property).
Health education (reproductive health, family planning, child care, nutrition, first aid and sanitation).
FALP has been strengthened by the inclusion of the EU-funded project entitled "Raising Women: Reducing Gender Disparity in Education".
Implementation of FALP
The implementation of FALP involves the active collaboration of various actors, including MoNE, NGOs and local communities. This collaboration has been instrumental in enabling AÇEV to extend FALP’s coverage nationwide, as it has enabled it to reduce operational costs by drawing on both private and public resources, such as the buildings where classes are conducted. FALP is approved and certified by the MoNE and as a result, AÇEV offers literacy certificates to adult learners who have successfully completed a course of training. This has provided women with an added incentive to participate in FALP.
Training of Trainers
FALP training activities are conducted by Volunteer Literacy Trainers (VLT), all of whom must have completed high school. AÇEV provides VLTs with intensive training in adult literacy over a period of two-and-a-half weeks. Adult educators also receive on-going technical support and mentoring from AÇEV. In order to boost their working morale, VLTs receive certificates (for adult educators) which are certified by the MoNE. To date, AÇEV has collaborated with 3,090 volunteer trainers in the context of its literacy training programmes.
Teaching-Learning Approaches and Methods
FALP learners are mobilised and recruited through the collective efforts of local primary schools, village leaders and/or Public Education Centres. Thereafter, learners are divided into groups of 20 to 25 and attend literacy classes three times a week over a four-month period. Literacy classes last three hours for a total of 120 learning hours. 80 hours of supplementary classes are also provided. In addition to the formal classes, AÇEV has also initiated the Reading Days Project (RDP) for FALP graduates in order to reinforce and further develop women’s acquired literacy skills. The RDP is also intended to encourage women to continue learning independently. VLTs assist women participating in RDPs by providing them with additional literacy tutorials at weekends.
Most of the teaching and learning methods employed by FALP are participatory and interactive. They encourage learners to participate actively in lessons, which are structured non-hierarchically and designed to enable learners to draw on their cultural backgrounds and prior knowledge. FALP volunteer teachers differ from their counterparts in the formal education system. They act as guides whose responsibility it is to make the learning process as easy as possible for participants, and to maintain equality within the group. The programme is divided into 25 topic-based units spread over 120 hours and the teaching-learning approach used has a number of key characteristics:
FALP emphasises the link between the characters (orthography) and sounds (phonology) of the Turkish language – a significantly different methodology than that used in mainstream programmes.
FALP encourages discussion, reasoning, inferencing and sequencing, thereby fostering critical thinking and comprehension.
FALP attempts to make literacy functional and meaningful to participants’ lives and includes exercises based on everyday activities, such as taking notes or reading bus numbers, price labels or user manuals for household appliances.
FALP has a unique “Women’s Support Component”, consisting of 25 topic-based units that increase women’s awareness of their rights and issues relating to health and hygiene, communication and child development.
Interaction between instructors and beneficiaries is based on mutual respect and trust; hence it is important for instructors to familiarise themselves with their participants’ characteristics, needs, goals and aspirations.
The basic teaching and learning manuals have been produced and revised by professionals over the years. These materials are intended to progressively foster the development of literacy and comprehension skills among adults. FALP is based on three books that have been developed to complement each other:
Teacher Handbook: a highly-structured handbook for tutors that details the aims of the course and the activities that will take place in class.
Teacher’s Manual for Reading: a background book that explains the programme methodology and the activities used.
Student Workbook: used alongside the Teacher Handbook and includes pictures, reading passages and exercises for the participants.
Other supplementary reading and arithmetic materials (e.g. newspaper and magazine articles): give participants more opportunity to practice reading, writing and arithmetic skills.
Impact/Achievements of FALP
Evaluation studies have revealed that FALP has been instrumental in combating illiteracy among adult women. To date, over 85,000 young girls and women have directly benefited and most have developed better reading, writing and critical thinking skills than graduates of mainstream adult literacy courses. Additionally, participating in FALP has improved female learners’ social status, autonomy, self-esteem and family cohesion. As a result, women are increasingly participating in decisions, family matters and community-building as the following testimonies reveal:
"I wouldn’t go to the parent meetings. I was very ashamed in front of the other parents as I couldn’t sign the attendance list. There was a parent meeting at my son’s school today. As the meeting finished, they asked us to write our names and sign. I was proud to have written it. I was very happy. My friends noticed that my hands were trembling from the excitement."
"As I got on the bus, I would shyly ask the driver if the bus passed through where I wanted to go. I would never know at which stop I should get off. Now I can read the bus numbers. I can go wherever I want, without asking anyone."
"I couldn’t go to the hospital alone before. As I couldn’t read, I couldn’t find the department of the hospital that I needed to visit. I was afraid to ask… Now I can find the hospital departments without asking anyone. First I check the entrance to see which floor I need and which way I should go, and then when I get to the right place, I read the door plates."
"My greatest wish was to learn phone numbers. When somebody gave me their number I couldn’t write it and I felt miserable. Yesterday I got a phone call. They wanted to talk with my husband. I said that he wasn’t at home and wrote their phone number down. I am so happy."
"Before, I couldn’t go out alone. When I went somewhere, I had to take someone with me. Now I can go everywhere by myself. I gained self-confidence. My son joined the army. I came to this course so I could write to him. Yesterday I sent my first letter to him. He will be very surprised. I am very happy."
FALP has also enabled women to actively participate in and contribute towards the development of their families and communities, as well as to lead more independent lives. In addition, women are more enlightened about their reproductive health and civic rights, and more aware of the need to provide their daughters with access to education. Overall, FALP has improved women’s self-confidence, self-esteem and status within their communities.
One of the difficulties faced was the low number of available volunteers, especially in the small provinces of East and South-East Anatolia where girls receive little schooling and the number of high-school graduates to volunteer for the programme is therefore limited. Women are also prevented from volunteering for the programme due to cultural beliefs and practices which discourage women from venturing outside the home. Due to a shortage of manpower, it is therefore difficult to satisfy the huge demand from learners.
In smaller provinces, the programme is experiencing difficulty in securing adequate learning spaces (buildings).
The definition of literacy has proven problematic: in Turkey, literacy courses are designed exclusively to teach basic skills to illiterates. Even if (complete) illiteracy is eradicated, therefore, efforts to target semi-literates or people with low levels of literacy will continue to represent a significant challenge.
There are also problems related to effective learning. The regulatory 120-hour course duration (stipulated by the MoNE) remains a limitation for a number of reasons. The recommended time needed to develop effective literacy skills is 250-300 hours. Furthermore, participants often live in difficult conditions, with minimal opportunities for study or support at home, limited one-to-one tutoring opportunities and few post-literacy activities.
AÇEV remains committed to providing disadvantaged women and girls with educational opportunities. It is also committed to reaching larger numbers of illiterates and is working to employ television as a new and important teaching medium. AÇEV will also continue to work with the Ministry of Education to develop and improve national education policies with regard to literacy.
Furthermore, AÇEV is working on improving volunteer recruitment and retention strategies through awareness-raising and marketing campaigns. In order to reach more illiterates, television will be used as an additional teaching tool, as well as a number of other models that employ distance and face-to-face learning techniques. AÇEV also aims to intensify its post-literacy activities and increase the variety of volunteer work, one-to-one tutoring and reading groups.
Mutually beneficial partnerships with academics, public and private groups are essential to improving adult literacy programmes as well as maximizing resource usage. AÇEV collaborates with public and private bodies to reach a larger number of beneficiaries. AÇEV’s primary partner is the Ministry of Education’s Non-formal and Apprenticeship Directorate, which provides certification, administrative support and physical space. AÇEV also partners with local NGOs who provide volunteers to be trained by AÇEV, physical space for courses or mobilise beneficiaries and communities. International and national NGOs and private companies provide funding for the implementation of courses. By tapping into existing resources such as public facilities and volunteer training initiatives, AÇEV has been able to reduce its operational costs without compromising programme quality.
- AÇEV (Mother Child Education Foundation, Website), http://www.acev.org/index.php?lang=en
- AÇEV Annual Report, 2007, http://www.acev.org/images/assets/files/acev_annual_report_2007.pdf
- Ayhan Aksu-Koc 2007: Evaluation of a Family Literacy Programme (MOCEP): The Turkish Example
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- S. Bekman. 1998 b: Fair Chance: An Evaluation of the Mother-Child Education Program. İstanbul: Mother-Child Education Publications
- S. Bekman. 2003: From Research Project to Nationwide Programme: The Mother-Child Education Programme of Turkey, in T.S. Saraswathi (Ed.), Cross-cultural Perspectives in Human Development ( pp. 287-325). India: Sage Publications,
- Hülya Kartal: The Effect of Mother-Child Education Program which is One of the Early Childhood Education Programs on Cognitive Development of Six Age Children, http://ilkogretim-online.org.tr/vol6say2/v6s2m18.pdf
- Aylin Kocak, Sevda Bekman: Mothers Speaking: A Study on the Experience of Mothers with Mother-Child Education Programme. Paper presented at the European Conference on the Quality of Early Childhood Education (9th, Helsinki, Finland, September 1-4, 1999).
- Ç. Kağıtçıbaşı, D. Sunar, S. Bekman, Z. Cemalcılar. 2005: Continuing effects of early intervention in adult life: Preliminary findings of Turkish early enrichment project second follow up study. Istanbul: Mother Child Education Foundation Publications.
- Mehmet Kaytaz. 2004: A Cost Benefit Analysis of Preschool Education in Turkey, 
Büyükdere cad. Stad Han. No: 85/2
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Last update: 15 July 2010