|Programme Title||Vanuatu Literacy Education Project (VANLEP, also known as the Book Flood Project). VANLEP has a constituent (sub-)project, the Family Literacy Programme (FLP), which targets parents as educators|
|Implementing Organization||Polytechnic of New Zealand Company (PINZ) in partnership with the Ministry of Education; Vanuatu in partnership with the Institute of Education, University of the South Pacific (USP)|
|Language of Instruction||English for teachers and trainers; Bislama for trainees/participants (parents, care givers and youth)|
|Funding||New Zealand International Aid Development Programme (NZAid) under its Education Assistance Programme for Vanuatu (NZEAP)|
|Annual Programme Costs||approx. US $30,000|
|Date of Inception||2005-2010 (ongoing)|
Introduction: Contextual Issues
Vanuatu is an island state in the South Pacific. Its developing economy is primarily based on agriculture and tourism. Investment in education is low, particularly in the remote rural areas where the majority of the nation's population resides. This explains the poor literacy rates among the rural population. A base-line national survey commissioned by the Ministry of Education (in 2003) with funding and technical assistance from New Zealand International Development Aid (NZAid) estimated that literacy levels in rural schools/areas totalled just 30%. According to the survey, this was due to low governmental investment in education and limited family support and participation in the education system. The results of the survey underscored the need for all national stakeholders, particularly the Government, to prioritise educational investment as well as to use education as a principal strategy for promoting national development. Adult literacy programmes were seen as vital for the empowerment of adults and the national workforce. It is in this context that the Vanuatu Literacy Education Project (VANLEP) was developed and continues to be implemented.
The Vanuatu Literacy Education Project (VANLEP)
In light of the education sector challenges identified by the survey, an education turn-around strategy was initiated. This strategy is the Vanuatu Literacy Education Project (VANLEP - also commonly known as the Book Flood Project). VANLEP is a book-based campaign against illiteracy that is being implemented by PINZ in partnership with the Institute of Education (USP). The programme is part of New Zealand's NZEAP to Vanuatu which endeavours to promote and enhance current efforts in upgrading education in the country and, particularly, in increasing literacy levels among children living in rural areas. To achieve this, the project mainly targets primary school children in the lower grades (classes 3 and 4) who are, on average, aged between 8 and 9 years. The aim of to combat illiteracy among young children at an age when they are still self-motivated to learn and more receptive to internalising new ideas. To enhance its effectiveness and sustainability, the programme also works in close partnership with parents. Such links are seen as vital to the development and promotion of parental education and learning at home (i.e. parents as "first teachers"). Thus, VANLEP both promotes the 'traditional' parental roles of nurturing and socialising children through the provision of basic livelihood needs (such as food and housing) and fosters parental involvement in the cognitive development of children by allowing parents to participate formally in the educational process. As a result, the project encourages parents to spend more time with their children and help them to learn by offering reading and writing assistance and through story telling. In order for parents to be able to offer their children this assistance, it is crucial for adult literacy programmes to be implemented that ensure that parents are equipped with the necessary skills.
Aims and Objectives
The project aims to:
- promote literacy and improve literacy learning outcomes (rates) among children living in (remote) rural areas within the context of and in order to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals (UN MDGs);
- create a stimulating learning environment by equipping schools and classrooms with the best children’s books available (Book Flood), as well as stationery and steel cabinets for the safe-keeping of books. This project component also involves the production and printing of context-specific and relevant Vanua books such as the Vanuatu School Journal for 8 -12 year-olds (primary level);
- promote capacity-building among parents and teachers so that they can act as effective educators. Measures include: the training of teachers (in educational methodologies, classroom management and organization); and the training of parents and community trainers/educators (train-the-trainer strategy) in order to develop important literacy skills which enable them to be effective home teachers/educators;
- update the school curriculum with the assistance of the Curriculum Development Centre, so that it reflects national priorities and needs, as well as the specific needs of rural people;
- forge effective partnerships and cooperation between the communities and schools (parents and teachers) in order to make the programme sustainable in the long term; and
- encourage parents to play a practical and proactive role in developing education in their communities and in assisting their children with the learning process.
Approaches and Methodologies
To implement the project, a number of strategies and methodologies have been adopted. These include:
Schools development: A key strategic component of the project is the 'Book Flood' concept which involves 'flooding' schools with high-quality educational books, stationery and other learning materials. Books are made available to learners for everyday use through the creation of Reading Corners in classrooms (classroom libraries), which in turn further encourage learners to read. This is a necessary (and inevitable) strategy, as most schools lack the basic resources needed in order for effective and sustainable learning to take place.
Capacity-building: This involves the provision of ongoing professional training assistance that enables teachers to be effective educators as well as equipping them to nurture the development of critical and analytical minds, humane attitudes and behaviours among learners. Here, the project focuses on teaching methodologies, classroom management and organization skills.
Bridging the gap between schools and homes: One of the project’s essential components and strategies has been the inclusion of parents as educators (parent education). This involves training parents to participate proactively in their children’s education by acting as 'first teachers’ at home as well as participating in school settings. To this end, the project organizes community meetings and advocacy campaigns to facilitate intergenerational social networking and public awareness on the importance of education in children's lives. Parents are furthermore actively encouraged to assist their children in learning as well as to participate in developing the schools in their communities. As a result, parents and teachers work together to create a stimulating literate classroom environment and atmosphere through, for example, the provision of classroom curtains and furniture. Parents are also encouraged to attend classroom sessions where they can witness/assess the learning process in person. Activities and parental support of this kind encourage children to attend school. Overall, the strategy emphasises the fact that the role that parents play in the development of children extends beyond child-rearing (or social education) to encompass the development of literacy, moral and cognitive skills. It also creates an understanding and awareness of the complementary roles of home learning and school development.
The parent education strategy also entailed the provision of adult literacy classes/projects since most parents in the rural areas had received little or no formal education and thus lacked literacy skills. The strategy also provides parents with an opportunity to improve the literacy skills that they have gained to date.
Curriculum Development: VANLEP operates a Curriculum Development Unit (CDC) which enables it improve the learning process.
The Family Literacy Programme (FLP)
The FLP (also known as the The Family Literacy and Intergenerational Learning Programme) was initiated in 2006 as part of VANLEP's ongoing efforts to combat illiteracy in rural areas (i.e. to improve literacy) by promoting the role of parents and parenting in children’s educational development.
Objectives and Justification
The FLP’s principal objectives are to:
- empower and involve parents actively in efforts to improve literacy and learning outcomes in schools. The project is centred on the basic premise that parents - as primary care givers and first teachers - play a crucial role in their children’s psychosocial development. The nature of parenting is thus instrumental in shaping the development and learning abilities of individual children. In light of this, the FLP primarily endeavours to promote the positive and ongoing parental mentoring of children as underscored by its guiding theme: You and Your Child: The greatest gift you can give to your child is your time. It also aims to empower and involve parents as partners in their children's learning process;
- empower parents through adult literacy programmes. As illiterate parents are unlikely to value or support their children's quest for education, it is vital for parents to be equipped with adult literacy skills that enable them to complement teacher efforts during the learning process;
- harness parents’ social networking strengths. The FLP is a holistic, child-centred and naturalistic programme that seeks to build on the social networking skills and strengths of communities (i.e. parents live and work together in their villages) for the benefit of the education sector. This entails the promotion of strong linkages between the school system and the communities in order to achieve profound and sustainable results.
The FLP has three main components:
- Parental Roles
- Literacy and the Home
These three components emphasise and promote the following:
Multilingualism is part and parcel of the communicative fabric of Vanuatu society. About 100 languages are spoken within the archipelago. Multilingualism is a social reality and has therefore been incorporated as an essential pillar of learning in order to promote peaceful co-existence and relationships as well as to enhance learning and understanding. Nevertheless, the learning system continues to prioritise three main languages: English, French and Bislama.
Role of Parenting: Parenting is and should be exercised as a professional responsibility involving nurturing and mentoring in order to:
- provide children with a firm foundation for lifelong learning, identity formation and development;
- help children to develop psychosocially (i.e. morally, emotionally, cognitively, physically, linguistically, etc.);
- assist children in establishing positive and functional social relationships;
- foster high-quality and effective lifelong learning in children (parents should be able to complement the role of teachers by reading books to their children and teaching them to read and write);
Teacher-Parents Visitation Strategy: Parents and teachers are encouraged to visit schools and the communities, respectively, in order to forge close cooperations with regard to children’s education. This strategy plays a crucial role in fostering social inclusiveness within the learning process;
- Home-based Learning: Parents should be able to assist their children in reading and writing while at home. This strategy is also designed to ensure that parents help their children to appreciate the richness of their language and develop critical thinking skills.
VANLEP has helped Vanuatu fight illiteracy in rural areas and promote the development of education in general. The following are key indicators of its success:
- Change in children’s reading and writing skills. After 3-4 months, many children in VANLEP classes had managed to improve their reading and writing skills and were enthusiastic about attending school. This led to a rise in literacy rates among rural children. Surveys undertaken in 2005 and June 2007 revealed a 10% rise in rural children’s literacy levels and achievements. The 2007 mid-year survey (see table, below) revealed that the literacy skills of children who attended VANLEP classes had improved more than those of children who had not attended such classes.
- Mean Scores (2003, 2007) and gains for VANLEP and non-VANLEP classes
Source: UNESCO: Effective Literacy Practices, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0016/001609/160908E.pdf
- Changes in teachers' attitudes and teaching methods. The availability of teaching materials enabled teachers to employ child-centred and participatory methods effectively. Classroom management and organization improved appreciably. Teachers developed positive attitudes towards parental involvement in school affairs and are now more inclined to engage in team work with parents for the good of the children.
- Changes in parental attitudes towards supporting children’s learning and participating in school settings. The teacher-parent visitation programme played a crucial role in allowing parents to collaborate proactively with teachers and school authorities in order to promote the development of education in their communities. The visitation programme also strengthened the collaboration between teachers and parents in mentoring and monitoring the progress of children in their school work. The parents’ visits to ‘new-look’ classrooms or learning environments had a profound effect in that it deepened their commitment to the community and the further development of their schools.
- Concerted efforts to equip schools with adequate resources encouraged and motivated teachers and children alike to focus on school work. Most importantly of all, the improved supply of educational materials to schools has motivated teachers to teach.
Challenges for Development
Despite its success in promoting literacy and the development of education in rural areas, the programme faces a number of challenges and constraints, including:
- a lack of adequate funding. If VANLEP is to continue as a viable project, there is a compelling need for the government and non-governmental organizations to increase their financial contributions;
- familial/parental constraints. Low levels of literacy among schoolchildren reflects equally low levels of literacy among parents. The solution is not merely to provide schools with institutional support, but also to target the children's families through the provision of adult literacy programmes. At the same time, parents should be allowed to act as partners in their children's education; and
- policy constraints. There is a need to link the programme to a clear national literacy policy.
Rural literacy development is not dependent on class; it is a right which must be accorded to every citizen for the greater good of the nation and its future. Current programmes in Vanuatu have already demonstrated that literacy campaigns are more successful and sustainable when they involve the active participation of members of the community.
- UNESCO: Effective Literacy Practices - East Asia, South - East Asia and Pacific Region http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0016/001609/160908E.pdf
- Elfert, Maren (2008): Family Literacy: A Global Approach to Lifelong Learning; Effective Practices in Family Literacy and Intergenerational Learning Around the World. (UNESCO) http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0017/001777/177753e.pdf
Ms Sereima Lumelume (Project Consultant)
Institute of Education
The University of the South Pacific
P.O. Box 1168
Tel. Number: 67 323 2704
E-mail address: User: sere1mar
Host: (at) yahoo.com