Jan Shikshan Sansthan, Malappuram - Vocational Skill Development Training and Literacy Equivalency Programme, India

  • Date published:
    6 February 2017

Programme Overview

Programme Title Jan Shikshan Sansthan, Malappuram - Vocational Skill Development Training and Literacy Equivalency programme
Implementing Organization Jan Shikshan Sansthan, Malappuram (one of a countrywide network of institutes of people’s education)
Language of Instruction Hindi, English, Malayalam and other regional languages, including Paniya
Funding Government of India and other national state-level agencies, such as the National Institute for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development
Programme Partners Anganvadis (basic health care centres), Mahila Mandals (women’s groups), Grama Sabas (village-level self-government organizations), the Directorate of Adult Education, the State Resource Centre of Kerala, Apparel Training and Development Centre, and the National Institute for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises
Date of Inception 2006

Country Context

India has undergone significant economic growth and increased political democratisation in recent decades. These developments, coupled with increased state investment in education, through, for example, comprehensive educational programmes such as the National Literacy Mission and the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan elementary education initiative, have greatly improved educational opportunities for all citizens.

Despite access to primary education being now almost universal, learning outcomes remain poor. Less than 10 per cent of the working-age population has completed secondary education, leaving a significant portion of the population without the skills or knowledge necessary for gainful employment (World Bank, n.d.). Although the state of Kerala has one of the highest literacy rates in the country (National Census, 2011), poor literacy remains a major issue among traditionally disadvantaged groups such as women, ethnic minorities, ’scheduled tribes’ (the official designation given to groups of historically disadvantaged indigenous people in India) and migrants, who often live in financially under-developed and marginalized communities. This situation is evident among the 4.5 million inhabitants of Kerala’s Malappuram district, where deep-rooted challenges such as endemic poverty and acute shortages of learning resources and professional teachers persist despite national educational efforts and initiatives.

Organizational Overview: Jan Shikshan Sansthans

Jan Shikshan Sansthans (JSSs) are non-formal adult vocational education institutions (literally, ‘ ’institute's of people’s education’) located in rural and urban areas throughout India. By embedding literacy teaching in vocational and life skills training, JSS centres seek to improve the quality of life of their participants, adults aged between 14 and 55 years who enter JSS programmes without literacy skills or as newly-literate learners.

When they were first established, JSSs offered programmes for industrial workers in urban areas in order to upgrade their vocational skills. Nowadays, JSSs serve both rural and urban populations and seek to consolidate the gains of past literacy campaigns, while improving the quality of participants' lives, through the provision of vocational training for disadvantaged and marginalized populations.

Individual JSS organizations function as district-level resource support agencies, organizing vocational training programmes for people who have recently acquired basic literacy skills or whose skills are inadequate. The philosophy of the JSS centres is built on the idea that basic literacy can be meaningful for individuals only when they can use it in day-to-day life and in earning a living. JSSs are, therefore, important non-governmental organizations offering essential training in vocational skills to learners the furthest distance from the labour market. In some locations, JSSs also run continuing education centres.

This case study focuses on one particular programme operated by a Jan Shikshan Sansthan centre located in Malappuram.

Programme Overview

Jan Shikshan Sansthan, Malappuram’s Vocational Skill Development Training and Literacy Equivalency programme was set up in 2006 as an effort to provide literacy and vocational training to socio-economically disadvantaged and marginalized communities in the Malappuram district of the state of Kerala, in south-west India. The programme has served 50,000 learners since inception.

The programme aims to empower adults from marginalized populations through linked literacy and vocational training. It endeavours to provide participants with the skills and knowledge they need to lead more fulfilling and sustainable lives. The following strategies are used to achieve its vision:

  • Embedding literacy teaching and learning within skills development and vocational training.
  • Creating an inclusive learning environment by making use of educational technology for learners with special needs.
  • Connecting the educational process with learners' contexts and lives through a participatory learning and activity-based approach.

The programme’s embedded literacy curriculum is adapted to local needs, resources and contexts. Demand-driven and relevant programming is developed through the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) process (described below), which ensures that content is relevant to learners' livelihoods and socio-cultural realities, dealing with topics such as health, hygiene, agriculture and finance.

The programme provides literacy training and the opportunity to attain standards equivalent to fourth, seventh and tenth grade (primary to lower secondary school) alongside vocational skills development. Its vocational training offer is diverse and appeals to a variety of local industries, from food processing training to textile production. The centre, in collaboration with the National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development, offers financial and technical entrepreneurship support to participants on completion of their vocational training. As a result, many have started their own income-generating ventures or are now gainfully employed.

The current programme targets primarily learners with visual impairments and/or other special needs, women, and people from scheduled tribes in the region.

Aims and Objectives

By developing literacy and life skills alongside vocational training, the programme aims to equip its participants to succeed in living a better life. Its specific aims are to:

  • Provide literacy-linked vocational and skills development training along with literacy and continuing education for disadvantaged and marginalized groups, including women, visually impaired people and people from scheduled tribes (scheduled tribes involved in the programme include the Cholanaikars, Kattunaikar, Paniyas and Muthuvan).
  • Provide life enrichment courses that cover health topics and help strengthen ‘soft’ skills.
  • Collaborate with various international, national, state and district government and non-governmental institutions to improve the welfare of impoverished communities.
  • Bring about sustainable development at grassroots level, especially amongst marginalized communities.

Programme Implementation

Teaching and Learning: Approaches and Methodologies

Instruction is offered in Hindi, English, Malayalam and other regional languages, including Paniya. The textbooks are written in the community’s local language, depending on where the training centre is located, and are also available in Braille.

The literacy and equivalency programme uses locally developed supplementary materials written in the local language to enhance the textbooks. Each chapter includes an activity.

A learner using the ‘talking pen’
A learner using the ‘talking pen’

The programme makes uses of technology such as LCD projectors, computers and audio-visual equipment. The ‘talking pen’ – an electronic pen that reproduces the sound of written text – is used in the programme’s literacy teaching. Braille literacy materials are available for learners with visual impairments.

Students keep a journal, called ‘My Learning Document’, in which daily activities and progress can be tracked. The journal tracks activities and sessions, and includes feedback from the learner and teacher, as well as additional remarks related to the student’s learning. Volunteers help learners with no or low literacy skills to track their progress with this tool, which also serves as a motivating factor as student can see their progress and set further learning goals. The journal also helps trainers identify the needs and progress of their students and tailor instruction to their individual needs.

Vocational training programmes vary from courses which teach simple vocational skills, such as chalk and soap making, to food-processing training. Equivalency and skills development courses are subsidized by the local government with participants a small tuition fee. Learners from scheduled tribes receive full fee exemption. Computer courses are offered free of charge to students who have passed the tenth grade of school. The length of courses varies from one month to a year.

The curriculum of the Grade 4 equivalency programme consists of Malayalam (the regional language), basic arithmetic, introductory English, and environmental studies. The Grade 7 curriculum consists of Malayalam, English, Hindi, environmental studies and mathematics. All students are evaluated on completion of the first year of the programme.

The programme’s embedded literacy classes are learner-centred and designed around a participatory and activity-based approach to learning. Vocational training courses are 60 per cent practical and 40 per cent theory. As part of each training course, the centre provides supplementary sessions in subjects such as financial education, health promotion, sanitation, human rights and life enrichment education.

The curriculum, developed by Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority, is tailored to the needs and conditions of the area in which the programme operates. Locally sourced raw materials, provided by the centre, are used during skills development training to make consumables such as soap, candles and jam. Many graduates of the vocational programme have gone on to start their own income-generating ventures, such as producing goods with locally-sourced materials.

Classes are held in schools, centres and other sites identified through the participatory rural appraisal process as suitable locations.

Recruitment and Training of Facilitators

The programme places emphasis on the development of its human resources through ongoing training of its vocational tutors and literacy facilitators. All vocational trainers and literacy facilitators gain professional certificates issued by the centre on completion of their training. In considering teachers for the programme, preference is given to graduates of its training scheme. Vocational trainers and literacy facilitators are employed part-time and earn between 5,000 and 15,000 rupees (INR) (approximately between US $76.31 and US $223.85) per month. Compensation varies according to the qualifications and specialisms of teachers. Automobile sector trainers, for example, are paid on average 15,000 INR per month while textiles instructors are paid 7,000 INR per month (approximately US $194.45). The average income of programme trainers is 7,500 INR per month.

Training for new facilitators takes place monthly, led by experienced JSS trainers. Every three months, facilitators participate in professional training on new developments in vocational fields. National and state-level agencies provide training for the trainers annually. The Directorate of Adult Education, the State Resource Centre of Kerala, the Apparel Training and Development Centre and the National Institute for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises provide an entrepreneurial development programme to support the training of programme trainers. This includes support in starting production units and guidance on conducting market surveys, developing marketing strategies, accessing bank loans and understanding legal procedures for starting a business. Most of this training takes the form of advanced skill-oriented residential programmes involving field visits to the most successful industries and most successful programme units and business models.

The programme employs 180 skills development trainers, and is supported by more than 800 volunteers and part-time facilitators teaching equivalency and literacy courses. There are between three and five facilitators in each centre that offers equivalency programmes and at least one trainer at each skills training centre.

Staff structure in each programme centre

Enrolment of Learners and Assessment of Learners' Needs

Potential participants are identified and recruited through Anganvadis (centres which provide basic health care in Indian villages), Mahila Mandals (women’s groups that serve as community improvement forums), and Grama Sabas (village-level self-government organizations). These village resource centres have access to information about villagers and, as central points of contact in the villages they serve, can promote participation in the programme to potential beneficiaries. In some cases, the village centres also serve as programme delivery sites.

Newly literate learners are recruited through continuing education centres run by the Literacy Mission (a national literacy programme started by the Government of India). Approximately 5,000 students enrol the literacy programme each year.

The centre raises awareness and promotes its programmes through events in target communities. Many Grama Panchayaths (village self-government organisations) and municipal governments in the district have implemented the total equivalency programmes for fourth and tenth-grade standards on site. Thousands of learners have now enrolled in these programmes.

Beneficiaries publicize the programme and recruit potential participants in their villages through word of mouth. Participants register for programmes at the JSS centre office or at training centres, Anganvadis, Literacy Mission continuing educational centres, and local self-government offices in individual villages. No tests are conducted at the time of registration.

The participatory rural appraisal (PRA) method is used to identify the needs and interests of beneficiaries and to develop relevant learning material and training for the programme.

Assessment of Learning Outcomes

Jan Shikshan Sansthan, Malappuram conducts continuous assessment and final evaluation of all its training programmes. In addition to using My Learning Document as a formative assessment tool, learners take an examination at the end of the programme. Twenty per cent of the final evaluation is for attendance and participation.

After the final evaluation, JSS awards certificates with a grade. In addition to this, the Malappuram centre provides National Council for Vocational Training (NCVT), National Institute for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (NIMSME), university and National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) certificates for respective coursework. These certificates are recognized by banks for loan approval and various government and private agencies for employment.

Monitoring and Evaluation

The programme uses a management information system (MIS) to facilitate communication between the training centre, programme officers and the director. The MIS is also used to collect and share data about learners' performance. At the heart of the MIS is a form that facilitators fill out and programme coordinators collect and submit to the programme’s district-level agency.

Monitoring and evaluation are integral to the programme. Both learners and facilitators engage in ongoing learning assessment. At the onset and upon completion of the programme, students conduct a self-evaluation of their degree of skill proficiency according to performance indicators set by teachers and administrators. My Learning Document provides information about student progress and challenges, and enables the facilitator to tailor instruction to the needs of the student during the programme.

Teacher performance is assessed through observation and monitoring by programme coordinators. The MIS also collects information about teachers.

Individual coordinators oversee between twenty and twenty-five centres each and are responsible for supporting and monitoring programme activities at their assigned centres.

Impact and Challenges

The programme has made a life-changing difference to learners and their families. Since its inception in 2006, it has reported a number of key achievements:

  • Approximately 50,000 participants have received vocational training.
  • 43,100 programme participants are now working and earning 5,000 to 50,000 INR monthly (approximately US $76.31 to US $223.85), as indicated a tracking system that collects data through follow-up meetings at various intervals following completion of the programmes.
  • 200 joint liability groups (four to ten people from the same village who form a group for the purpose of accessing a collateral-free loan from a bank) and many self-help groups (ten to twenty members of the same village who support each other during the programme, and pool their savings until there is enough capital to begin lending within the village).
  • The number of savings accounts and the amount of savings in each account has increased.
  • Health promotion campaigns, on issues such as hand-washing and immunity vaccination awareness, have reduced the outbreak of disease among scheduled tribes.
  • The programme has resulted in an increase number of women employed in the district.
  • More female learners and alumnae report helping their children and other family members acquire literacy skills, creating an even greater impact in their communities.
  • Participants have gained knowledge with regard to laws and their rights through the life enrichment education curriculum.
  • Communities have become more sustainable and self-sufficient through vegetable farming and microenterprises.
  • The dropout rate has dramatically lowered.
  • Young learners who have completed the entrepreneurship trainings start their own ventures through various schemes of state government, central government and private firms.
  • Women who have completed the programme initiate their own business dealing with textile, jewellery making and other crafts. They also create jobs for other women.
  • People with special needs enhance their confidence and chances of being employed through the acquisition of literacy and vocational skills.

The programme is increasing in scope and plans to continue expanding through grassroots efforts throughout Malappuram.

“I had poor education and was not at all an outgoing type. Now, standing on my own feet, I help my family financially. Since I feel so confident to face life, I have also become one of the decision-makers in my family.” Shalini, programme participant


Although it has made a major contribution to serving disadvantaged and marginalized groups in the region, the programme also faces a number of challenges. These include:

  • Difficulties in accessing quality training and resources due to financial constraints. JSS is not able to adequately remunerate trainers in the same way as similar non-formal education organizations in India. This poses a problem for teacher retention.
  • Overcoming negative attitudes towards learning among historically disenfranchised populations.
  • Reaching out to people from scheduled tribes in remote and geographically inaccessible areas. So far, this challenge has been addressed by providing individual villagers with skills training they can impart within their respective villages.
  • Translating technical terms for skills development into local languages has presented some difficulties for the programme. To overcome this, JSS uses videos, LCD projectors, labs, charts and sketches to illustrate terms.
  • Identifying markets for programme-produced goods is a challenge. Furthermore, accessing resources for the development and implementation of programmes continues to be a struggle.
  • The centre is in need of improved technological training. Reaching out to scheduled tribes also requires improved strategies.


Jan Shikshan Sansthan, Malappuram, like all JSS institutions, is a non-governmental organization. It is supported by funding from the government alongside forms of self-financing, such as revenue earned through selling products produced within the programme and collecting nominal tuition fees from those students who are able to pay. The centre has national and local partnerships with ministries, NGOs and industry. The Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority, the district Literacy Mission, local self-government institutions and local government are the main partners of Jan Shikshan Sansthan in promoting literacy and equivalency classes throughout the district.

The programme’s success and sustainability in the region are due to its approach and philosophy: it is demand-driven and designed to address needs identified through participatory rural assessment and analysis, conducted at the beginning and throughout the programme. Furthermore, the programme ensures community ownership and partnership through grassroots interventions that involve the support of local communities. Such interventions take the form of self-help groups and joint liability groups. In spite of all these sustainable practices, insufficient funding remains a barrier to the further expansion of the programme.



Mr V. UmmerKoya
2nd Floor, PeeVees Building,
Nilambur.P.O, Malappuram Dist.
Kerala State
Tel: +91-4931 221979


Last update: 2 February 2016

For citation please use

U. Hanemann (Ed.). Last update: 24 July 2017. Jan Shikshan Sansthan, Malappuram - Vocational Skill Development Training and Literacy Equivalency Programme, India. UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. (Accessed on: 10 December 2023, 14:56 CET)

PDF in Arabic

Related Documents