Project in Uruguay to receive UNESCO Literacy Prize for promoting citizenship skills for people in detention

The Ministry of Education and Culture in Uruguay has been awarded the 2018 UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize for its programme ‘Programa Aprender Siempre’ (PAS), which offers flexible citizenship education to prisoners along with literacy and technical and vocational education and training (TVET).

The beneficiaries of the programme are mostly young learners (between 20 and 35 years old) who have been deprived of liberty and are missing out on formal education.

“The work of the PAS is focused on building educational spaces that are flexible and appropriate to the contexts, interests and needs of the people who participate in them,” says Andrea Gil, Coordinator of the Aprender Always Programme at the Directorate of Education of the Ministry of Education and Culture of Uruguay. “Participation, education and culture are the central axis in the construction of citizenship.”

The impact of the programme on the participants is visible in their social participation, their improved skills for community life, strengthened self-esteem and autonomy, and motivation for continuing learning.

Through its educational proposals, PAS aims to establish special reading and writing sessions, designed to detect situations of low literacy among its students, which is then addressed through the classes. The areas of literacy, arithmetic and vocational skills are combined to allow learners to write their own resumes, prepare recipes, calculate quantities of materials or write songs and theater scripts.

“The conception that underpins our programme is to revalue learning throughout life,” says the Coordinator of the programme. “Paulo Freire, being one of the pedagogical references that guide our practice, said that we all know something, and we all ignore something. That's why we always learn.”

The educators of PAS consist of TVET trainers, psychologists, social workers, actors, musicians, agronomists, nutritionists, literature and communication graduates and specialists in recreation. All of them are trained by PAS’s regular staff, in-person and through distance learning, to overcome the lack of formal institutions for academic training in Uruguay.

In 2011, PAS was recognized as the Best Practice and Literacy Policy by UNESCO’s Regional Office of Education for Latin America and Caribbean.

“This award will be a contribution to strengthening and improving the quality of educational processes, particularly in terms of being able to provide more and better responses to vulnerable populations that have less access to education,” says Andrea Gil.

This year’s UNESCO International Literacy Prizes will be awarded to laureates from Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria, Spain and Uruguay on the occasion of International Literacy Day, which is celebrated on 8 September. The Prize Award Ceremony will take place at the global event for International Literacy Day on 7 September at UNESCO Headquarters. This year’s International Literacy Prizes and the global event have as theme ‘literacy and skills development’.