Functional Adult Literacy and Women’s Support Programme

Country Profile: Turkey


73,640,000 (2011)

Poverty (Population living on less than 2 USD per day)

5% (2010)

Official language


Other spoken languages

Kurmanji, Zaza, Arabic, Laz

Total youth literacy rate (15–24 years, 2011)

Total: 98.6%
Male: 99.4%
Female: 97.9%

Adult literacy rate (15 years and over, 2011)

Total: 94.1%
Male: 97.9%
Female: 90.3%

Statistical sources

Programme Overview

Programme TitleFunctional Adult Literacy and Women’s Support Programme (FALP)
Implementing OrganizationMother Child Education Foundation (AÇEV)
Language of InstructionTurkish
Date of Inception1995

Background and Context


Presently, 3 million adults over the age of 15 in Turkey, the majority being women, cannot even read or write their own names. These individuals often cannot take part in many daily activities or meet their basic social needs. Denigrating markers are often ascribed to them.

Increasing the literacy rate has been one of the most important goals of societal development since the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1928. The literacy rate for those aged six years and older in Turkey is 95.78 % (Turkish Statistical Institute, 2013). While literacy rates are 91% and 98.3%, for female and male adults respectively, there are still those on the fringes of society not being served.

In addition to the adults who cannot read or write, there are 3, 8 million adults in Turkey who have no elementary school education, 70% of whom are women. These data demonstrate the current basic adult literacy levels are still inadequate to realize the right to basic education for all Turkish citizens.

In Turkey, Adult Education Centres under the Directorate of Lifelong Learning of the Ministry of National Education (MoNE) are the responsible institutions delivering the two levels of adult literacy courses. The first level adult literacy programme targets adults with no literacy skills. Conversely, the second level adult literacy programme targets adults who are semi-literate. The examination administered at the second level also serves as the primary education examination. In both programmes, literacy and numeracy are considered together. Each of the two courses offer 120 hours of instruction.


AÇEV’s mission is to make a lasting contribution to society and to improve the quality of life through education. In its two areas of expertise, early childhood and adult education, AÇEV develops and implements various training programmes and projects both within Turkey and abroad. To date, AÇEV programmes are still actively implemented in Germany, Bahrain, Belgium, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom for Turkish migrants.

AÇEV is guided by three fundamental tenets:

In line with these fundamental beliefs and the extent of illiteracy in Turkey, AÇEV developed the Functional Adult Literacy Programme (FALP) in 1995 with a comprehensive assessment of current literacy programme methodologies and implementation strategies. A team of academics and practitioners developed the programme as an effective alternative to available literacy courses to principally target the largest group of non-literates: girls and women. In 1995, AÇEV signed an agreement with the previously established MoNE Directorate of Non Formal Education and Apprenticeship (now the Directorate of Lifelong Learning) where all literacy activities would be conducted under the framework of this partnership. The programme began in Istanbul and has been subsequently implemented in 25 of the 81 provinces of Turkey between 1995 and 2013.

FALP targets women with limited literacy skills aged 15 and older. However, the programme has also benefited a number of men, especially those who have conscripted into the Turkish Military Forces. To date, 125,000 individuals have benefited from FALP.

Programme Strategy

Operational Structures and Mechanisms

FALP is the first adult literacy programme in Turkey developed with a scientific base by a non-governmental organization. FALP aims to develop literacy and arithmetic skills. Additionally, the programme seeks to enhance participants’ comprehension, interpretation and critical thinking skills. It is the hope that individuals can utilize literacy in meaningful ways that contribute to their welfare and personal development.

FALP courses have a 120 hour curriculum equivalent to the basic literacy courses of the MoNE. Participants meet in groups for 3 to 4 hours, three times a week, over the course of 3 to 4 months. A distinguishing feature of FALP is its facilitation. The programme is implemented by volunteers who participate in a three week training seminar provided by AÇEV trainers. Upon successful completion, volunteers are officially certified as literacy instructors by AÇEV / MoNE.

Pedagogical Methodology

FALP has a number of distinguishing features designed to benefit the target group of underprivileged women and girls. FALP instruction integrates important issues, such as family and work life. Participants are encouraged to actively participate by expressing their opinions. In this supportive environment, participants are encouraged to bring their own cultural richness and knowledge to the group. The programme is prepared as 25 topical units. The following delineates further several programme attributes:


  1. FALP takes full advantage of the phonology and orthography of the Turkish Language. This methodology differs to what mainstream programmes deliver.
  2. FALP emphasizes bolstering critical thinking and comprehension skills through active discussions, and reasoning, inferring and sequencing exercises.
  3. FALP attempts to make literacy meaningful in the lives of its participants by espousing practical exercises, such as reading bus numbers, prices, or taking notes.
  4. FALP is sensitive to the needs of course participants. In addition to emphasizing women’s empowerment, programme design has been appropriately tailored to address issues of rural-urban migration.
  5. FALP has a unique Women’s Support Component of 25 topics designed to increase awareness of women’s and human rights, health and hygiene, and communication and child development.
  6. Interaction between instructors and beneficiaries are based on mutual respect and trust. Instructors need to be familiar with the characteristics of the participants, their needs, goals and desires.
  7. Programme participants are encouraged to work in cooperation with fellow classmates to create a mutually supportive environment.

Development of Training and Learning Materials

FALP learning materials have traditionally been developed by a team of academicians and instructors. These materials were originally developed by Dr. Banu Oney, Prof. Aydin Durgunoglu and Hilal Kuscul in 1995 and has since undergone six major revisions and intermittent minor revisions, based on pedagogical trends and realities from the field.

FALP is based on three complementary books:

  1. Teacher Handbook – a highly structured trainer manual detailing the targets and activities that will take place in classes.
  2. Teacher’s Manual to Reading – a background primer explaining the programme methodology and activities.
  3. Student Workbook – a parallel book to the Teacher Handbook which includes pictures, reading passages and exercises for the participants.

Supplementary materials are also available for additional opportunities to practice reading, writing and arithmetic.

Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanisms

One of FALP’s strongest assets is its monitoring and supervision system. Volunteer instructors are continuously supported by field coordinators through course visits and evaluation meetings. Each new volunteer is observed at least 3 times throughout the duration of the programme, and at least two group evaluation meetings are arranged. Continuous monitoring ensures technical support to volunteers, increases motivation, supports course formation and provides a feedback mechanism for programme revisions.

In addition to site monitoring, the programme has also undergone external evaluation studies (Öney & Durgunoğlu, 1997; Kagitçibaşı, Goksen & Gulgöz 1999; Durgunoğlu 1998; Gülgöz 2001). These studies have found that participants of FALP have higher scores in reading, writing and critical thinking skills than mainstream adult literacy courses. Results have also suggested that FALP encourages social integration, positive self-concept and family cohesion of women enrolled.

Human Resource Management


FALP has a core education team of three education specialists working in headquarters. These specialists are principally responsible for planning, implementing and monitoring FALP activities. Twelve master trainers support this team in training seminars and supervision activities and 24 field coordinators serve as direct supervisors of volunteers in individual provinces. Volunteer instructors are required to have at least a high school diploma, although prior teaching experience is not required.

Master trainers and field coordinators are part time semi-professionals. They are often selected among successful volunteer instructors. Master trainers undergo both training seminars and on the job training.

Pre-service field coordinator training occurs in two levels: volunteer and field management training and supervision training. Volunteers receive three weeks of training on the programme’s philosophy, technical curriculum, field orientation and communication skills.

Public Mobilization and Awareness Raising Activities

Raising awareness on literacy and mobilising support is a significant part of FALP activities. Posters, brochures, radio and TV programming have been utilised to recruit beneficiaries, volunteers, and galvanize communities to support literacy. Community briefings and information sessions are held periodically to promote this awareness among local stakeholders and leaders.

Programme Impact

Programme Distinction

FALP was created as an alternative to official MoNE programmes in Turkey. FALP is a state-recognized literacy programme which is a distinction for an NGO.

Improvements in Learners Lives

FALP has accumulated a library of field notes, trainer reports, supervisor notes, diaries of beneficiaries, research reports and evaluation studies which provide comprehensive details of impact of FALP on beneficiaries. According to these documents, graduates have greater agency to participate in society and be apprised of their rights.

FALP’s methodology has also had an impact on literacy policies of the MoNE, by introducing new programmes similar to FALP that employ letter-sound correspondences and other aspects of developing reading skills.


The programme has created a number of links across other educational and development engagements, particularly in the area of reproductive health. FALP is integrated in the EU project, Literacy for Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (September 2001 – August 2003). This project was aimed to increase awareness of reproductive health and improve health practices and utilization of services in their community.

FALP is also implemented in the EU Project to Achieve Gender Equality in Education and Social Participation (January 2005 – December 2007). The project’s objective was to develop a community-focused model designed to reduce the number of illiterate women and increase the participation of women in private and social decision-making mechanisms.

Lessons Learned

Mobilising Stakeholders

AÇEV has made strong efforts in the field to involve community leaders, public authorities and NGOs. FALP has the largest network of partners and supporters. These efforts have paid off as FALP is the most widely implemented literacy programme by an NGO.

Policy Implications

FALP has been instrumental in increasing the official duration of literacy courses from 90 contact hours to 120 contact hours. After demonstrating the programme’s gains over the years, MoNE enacted the 120 hour requirement. This stipulation responds to the need to provide adequate time that is conducive to participant growth and progress.

Adapting to Learner Needs

After receiving feedback from the field, it was concluded that there was a need for more information on women related topics. In 2002, the Women’s Support Component was designed and included in FALP. The component is unique in that it seeks to increase women’s awareness of women’s and human rights, health and hygiene, communication and child development.

Civic Involvement

Nobody would have thought it possible that AÇEV could work with volunteers as instructors. In 1996, AÇEV received accreditation from MoNE for its facilitator orientation and training and was able to train almost 4000 trainers up to the date. FALP is the first programme authorized by MoNE to train volunteers as literacy instructors, promoting volunteerism and civic responsibility.




Mutually beneficial partnerships with academics, public and private groups help to maximize resources. AÇEV collaborates with public and private bodies to reach a larger number of beneficiaries. AÇEV’s primary partner is the Lifelong Learning Directorate of MoNE who provides certification and administrative support. AÇEV partners with local NGOs who may provide volunteers to be trained by AÇEV, physical space for courses or mobilise beneficiaries and communities. International and national NGOs or private companies provide funding for implementation of courses.

Programme Extensions

FALP has also developed FALP II, a post literacy programme for graduates of FALP to improve reading and writing skills in preparation for further learning. Additionally, FALP’s “Reading Days” project allows volunteers to work with graduates of FALP to help improve and retain literacy skills, and maintain the social support network redolent of FALP participation.



Ms Hilal Gençay
Senior Education Specialist
Mother Child Education Foundation (AÇEV) Büyükdere Cad. Stad Han No:85 Kat:2 34387, Mecidiyeköy/Istanbul
Phone: +90 (0)212 – 2134220
Fax: +90 (0)212– 2133660
Email: hilal.gencay (at)
Web site: