Quisqueya Aprende Contigo (Quisqueya Learns With You)

Country Profile: Dominican Republic

Population

10.4 million (2013)

Total expenditure on education as % of GDP

4%

Official language

Spanish

Access to primary education – total net intake rate (NIR)

86.5% (2012)

Total youth literacy rate (15 – 24 years)

Total: 97% (2011)
Men: 96.1%
Women: 98.1%

Adult literacy rate (15 years and over)

Total: 90.1% (2011)
Male: 90%
Women: 90.2%

Statistical sources

UNESCO Institute for Statistics

Programme Overview

Programme TitleQuisqueya Aprende Contigo (Quisqueya Learns With You)
Implementing OrganizationDirección General de Programas Especiales de la Presidencia (Directorate-General of Special Presidential Programmes); and Dirección General de Educación de Jóvenes y Adultos del Ministerio de Educación de la República Dominicana (Directorate-General of Youth and Adult Education, Ministry of Education of the Dominican Republic)
Language of InstructionSpanish
Programme PartnersMinistry of Education of the Dominican Republic; Ministry of the Presidency of the Dominican Republic; Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology; Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI); UNESCO.
Annual Programme CostsRD $1,805,133,570.82 (US $40,942,234.50)
Date of InceptionJanuary 2013

Country Context

Although a large number of initiatives have been undertaken to overcome illiteracy in the Dominican Republic, particularly over the last 30 years, around 10% of the population aged 15 or older remains illiterate.

According to the Dominican Republic’s National Bureau of Statistics, in 2010 12.83% of the country’s adult (aged 15 and over) population was illiterate. According to the 2010 national census, almost two-thirds (59.8%) of the illiterate population live in cities, and a little over half (53.2%) are men. The provinces with the highest levels of illiteracy are located in the poorer south, particularly where the country borders Haiti. Almost a quarter (24%) of the country’s adult illiterate population lives in the El Valle region in the east, while 14.7% live in Enriquillo. Some 16.9% of those with the lowest incomes cannot read or write, while only 3% of those in the higher socio-economic strata are illiterate, according to the 2010 national labour force survey 2010. Census data reveals that 851,396 people aged 15 years or over have either never attended or have failed to complete school. Overcoming illiteracy is a policy priority, enshrined in law (by Decree 546-12), and consistent with Article 63 of the Dominican constitution, which recognises the right to lifelong education.

It was against this background that the national literacy plan, Quisqueya Learns With You, was created. The programme is considered the most important yet developed in the field of literacy in the country.

Programme Overview

The plan aims to support the 851,396 people aged 15 and older who self-identified as having difficulties with literacy in the 2010 national census in learning to read and write, as well as promoting continuing education as a strategy for sustaining the positive outcomes of literacy interventions. The plan is innovative in that it takes the form of a social movement within which there is a balance and cooperation between formal and non-formal education, and between institutional and popular education.

The plan is structured on two levels. The first is organizational. Volunteers are active on the ground supported by boards of literacy (national, municipal and provincial) which have overall responsibility for implementing the plan (including the core learning component, which is organized by literacy volunteers). Each participating learning centre is formed by a facilitator or literacy teacher, responsible for around 15 learners. The second level is technical-operative, and concerns the provincial and municipal coordination of the plan, as well as the use of animateurs. Literacy is developed through these structures.

At the heart of the plan is the cohort of literacy volunteers, drawn from a variety of different professional backgrounds. They participate in a programme of initial training, with subsequent guidance and support provided by the Ministry of Education and the plan coordinators.

Training takes place locally, with the participation of school and adult education teachers, and the support of other government institutions and civil society.

The programme began in January 2013, with the involvement of some 6,000 learning centres and around 5,000 facilitators. By November 2014, 725,496 people were participating in literacy learning through the programme, with 49,844 facilitators trained to support them. The plan has gained the official recognition of Ban Ki Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations.

Aims and Objectives

The plan has the following main objectives:

Programme Implementation

Approaches and Methodologies

The programme takes a rights-based approach both to pedagogy and to the principles of education for young people and adults. Education, it assumes, should be lifelong and inclusive, with a strong focus on competency and the existing knowledge of learners. The learning centres in which the classes are delivered are places to learn and to build citizenship. The starting point for this is a critical reflection on the day-to-day lives of those participating in literacy learning. This demands a space in which learners can build capacity for life and work, develop social cohesion, and exercise the rights and duties implied by a commitment to build a better country and a value-based society.

The plan anticipates that learners will take part in an initial literacy development programme, lasting six months and comprising three two-hour sessions each week. By the end of the programme participants will have spent approximately 144 hours in lessons. Programme timings and location are agreed through discussion between facilitators and participants.

Programme Content

Facilitators join an established training programme and receive relevant support materials, including: literacy course materials, PowerPoint presentations, documents, monitoring materials, and observation guidelines with accompanying pro formas for assessment, reports and so on. The programme’s support materials comprise: a guide to provide guidance to participants’ learning, which includes tips and tools useful in planning and monitoring learning, and in encouraging participation; a learner’s guide ; and a flipchart to be used as a visual aid in facilitating literacy learning. These materials developed from a review of literacy resources, and a wider examination of basic education for young people and adults, conducted by the Ministry of Education. Their format was agreed in September 2012 at a workshop attended by experts from organizations which used the existing materials in their programmes.

The literacy learning guide is organized into six major units, with four themes within each. These units provide the overall theme. They are entitled: «I am a person», «We organize people», «We have a right to good health», «Work to live better», «Care about the environment», and «We have a great country». Each subject is designed to develop skills and values, to deepen understanding of rights and duties, and to support literacy learning.

The materials have been available for the training of facilitators and for promotion since the plan was launched. They are also offered in Braille and sign-language formats.

Recruitment and Training of Facilitators

A team of trainers was set up at the start of the programme to train the facilitators in each territory, meaning each province and the national district. The teams comprised technical staff, and teachers and directors from schools for youth and adults, and regional school districts, as well as professionals from civil society organizations participating in the process and with prior experience in the field of youth and adult literacy. A workshop for trainers took place in July 2012. Initially, 583 professional trainers were trained, and integrated into regional andߙ/ߙor provincial teams. Each teacher training workshop was led by a team of at least three people, and topics were allocated according to the capabilities of each team member. Every trainer specialized in a particular subject and workshops could involve up to 35 participants, with minimum numbers dependent on local circumstances.

Trainers are selected on the basis of their previous experience in education. Most of them hold undergraduate and master’s degrees from the Education of Youth and Adults programme, which has run since 2005.

To implement the plan and oversee the recruitment of volunteers, provincial and municipal literacy boards were formed and provincial and municipal coordinators appointed. Together, they formed the team responsible for identifying literacy need and promoting the participation of all social sectors, engaging people with literacy skills and volunteers interested in participating. Each facilitator locates between 10 and 15 learners to engage them in the previously described process.

The national literacy plan requires facilitators to have the personal and professional qualities necessary to support adult literacy learners. This demands an appropriate level of education, the specific skills needed to facilitate the learning of reading and writing, and a commitment and desire to engage with this group of learners. The plan outlines two facilitator profiles, one at the beginning of the process, and one at the end of the training workshop (both are described on page 61 of the literacy learning guide, Guía para orientar el Aprendizaje de Personas Jóvenes y Adultas). Usually, facilitators are required to have at least secondary-level education before participating in a 24-hour training programme which gives them a basic grounding in continuing education. They are expected to dedicate at least 16 hours to their basic training.

Each workshop has a logistical support team responsible for general organization – technological support, materials of study, location, and so on – and for ensuring timely and quality service. The Ministry of Education’s regional and district offices have played an important role in supporting the training process.

There has been a continuous effort to support the work of the learning centres, to visit and monitor their work and the extent to which they are applying the methodology, and to assess how well the materials are working. It has been done, but it remains a challenge nationally.

Enrolment

Enrolment begins in each province and municipality with the registration of the learning centre and participants. Training is organized for the centre in question and a commitment letter is sent out to confirm registration. A commitment is then made with a facilitator, who will be responsible for organizing the learning centre, and literacy materials are sent out to students.

All the information, including registration data on participants, is registered by the municipal coordinator and entered into the information and monitoting system.

Results and Evaluation

Participants can join the programme at a point appropriate to their needs, and achieve basic and secondary-level education, as well as the training necessary to get a job. The learner receives a formal certificate of recognition, demonstrating that they have begun the literacy process. The facilitators are responsible for evaluating the programme, supported by participants who are encouraged to assess their progress and identify the skills which need to be improved. Recognition of the learning that takes place on the programme involves:

The progress of participants is recognised in their commitment to the literacy process – a decision of huge significance for most – in the development of their reading, writing and basic arithmetic skills, and in a range of other indicators, including: their tenure at the learning centre and their rate of attendance while there; their respect for values such as punctuality and solidarity; their learning about rights and duties; the extent to which they overcome their fear, insecurity and embarrassment at not knowing how to read and write; increased confidence and self-respect; and an enhanced sense of belonging to a family, a community or a country. Other indicators of progress relate to the competencies defined in the Ministry of Education’s basic education curriculum.

The core and specific competencies established by the plan are assessed against indicators which reflect the basic level expected of young people and adults in the curriculum framework. A diagnostic evaluation is performed when the participant makes a decision to return to learning and enters the first cycle of basic education.

Facilitators are given a document that provides guidance and direction as to the evaluation of learning, as well as tools, procedures, objectives and challenges. It is available on the programme website.

The programme is promoted, internally and by participating organizations, using slogans such as ‹No one left out›, in order to engage those who would most benefit from literacy learning. Testimonials have been important in spreading good publicity and have had a significant impact in the wider population. The achievements of participants are recognised within communities, which also helps promote the programme.

Monitoring and Evaluation

The programme’s animateurs regularly visit the learning centre to support and monitor the learning process. Evaluations are conducted with trainers and facilitators through meetings at regional, provincial and national levels. These evaluations have led to improvements in the training process.

Evaluation meetings were held with every team of trainers in the country during February and March 2013, at the conclusion of the first round of literacy educator training. Interviews with literacy educators and individual and group trainers were also included. The UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean recently monitored the programme at a national level with the participation of all stakeholders in the process.

Routine monitoring of the plan is conducted by the Directorate-General of Special Presidential Programmes.

Impact and Challenges

Achievements

Among the programme’s major achievements are:

Impacts

Testimonials

People … feel extremely proud because they knew nothing and now [they] can write [their] names … when they go to sign [they] are not going to sign crossings … I had a person who was to sign a plastic card that had expired … when she went to the bank they said [she] had to write as it was on her ID card and she said, ‹No, because now I write better and read better›.
What had the strongest impact on me [was] reading, [to]learn to read better, to identify the words … I decided to continue because of my two sons … my nine-year-old child is very intelligent and he motivated me to come to school … What has changed [through] Quisqueya Learns With You is my self-esteem. Now I feel higher [whereas before] I felt low … I was [practically] blind because if they gave me something to read I did not know [how]. This changed. I'm not blind anymore, I'm aware of what I'm doing. Now I feel [I am] a better mother, a better woman and a better person in society. Life changed for me, because as you learn to read you have another goal … [and] my goal is not to stay there, I want to finish a race ... Now this centre is more active than before, more dynamic and more open. People are opening up. Many people felt shame. Because I am 25 could not go at first, [I thought] I’ll feel terrible. No, it does not matter. There is no age for learning.

Challenges and lessons learned

Training has improved with practice. The first set of workshops were evaluated and steps taken to enhance the next set. For example, evaluation of initial practice and learning procedures has enriched and led to improvements in training. These included a new, standard time period for intial training (24 hours), printed literacy training materials (rather than photocopies), and the development of support materials in alternative formats. Analysis of the training methodology shows that the programme delivery is consistent with the plan. In many cases, the creativity of trainers and participants has meant that the ambitions of the plan have been surpassed. However, there remain barriers to fully realising the potential of the programme. When participant numbers exceed expectations this can result in a delay in organizing groups, which are limited to 35 members. Workshops make use of information and communications technology, but some places do not have a supply of electricity. Thorough training means that facilitators are able to employ alternative explanations and activities.

Another very important element in the methodology has been group-working, which improves participation and facilitates collective production. Challenges encountered by the progamme included the limited reading and writing levels of some facilitators, difficulties in logistics, the duration of three days to develop the topics being discussed, a failure to profile requirements and a lack of deepening reflection on practice. Pedagogical issues dealt with by the programme include:

Sustainability

The programme is funded from the budget of the Ministry of Education, at 4% of GDP. It is also supported through widespread voluntary participation within Dominican society, through all governmental and non-governmental sectors and thousands of volunteer facilitators.

To sustain the benefits of initial literacy learning, the ministry is expected to strengthen economic investment, while securing continued political commitiment to the plan. It has defined basic education flexibly, so that a curriculum specific to the needs of a particular population can be devised. The materials used in the first cycle of basic education are now available. The aim is to transform basic education for young people and adults. Schools are now attempting to offer the programme, while civil society organisations remain committed to its aims.

Sources

Informational and promotional videos and reports:

Contact

Miriam Camilo Recio
Directora General de Educación de Jóvenes y Adultos del MINERD
Equipo Técnico del Plan Nacional de Alfabetización Quisqueya Aprende Contigo
Email: mirian.camilo (at) minerd.gob.do; miriamcamilo (at) gmail.com

Last update: 6 February 2015