chevron-down chevron-left chevron-right chevron-up home circle comment double-caret-left double-caret-right like like2 twitter epale-arrow-up text-bubble cloud stop caret-down caret-up caret-left caret-right file-text


Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe



EPALE Prison Education Week - what type of approach is taken in your country?

by EPALE Moderator

/epale/mt/file/prison-educationPrison Education

Prison Education


Europe’s prison population is around 640,000 and it’s estimated that only 3-5% are at a level that would allow them to progress into higher education. Low education levels affect prisoners’ employment prospects, and impact reinsertion into society and the likelihood of reoffending. To discuss prison education, we’re holding a text-based discussion here as part of EPALE Prison Education Week.

This discussion is based on a Norwegian report, “Learning Basic Skills while serving time”, which describes a specific pedagogical approach used for the provision of basic skills training in prisons. You can acess it here. Relevance, motivation and contextual learning are important issues for all adult learning in Europe today. Is this type of approach implemented in your country?

The discussion is now open, so comment or 'react' to a post to have your say. (Log in or sign up to EPALE here to take part). Follow live highlights of the discussion on Twitter and Facebook! Look out for updates via #epale2016.

** Summary of the discussion

The topics in this discussion cover:

  • Basic literacy and numeracy, including accreditation, length of sentence and embedded learning
  • Pre course assessment and motivational issues, including assessment methods, tools for motivation and the differences between basic and key skills
  • Training of service providers, such as basic prison rules and guides that have been introduced through projects
  • Evaluation of success, through analysis of recidivism rates, employment and skills acquisition

For a more comprehensive summary of the discussion on the first day, see Dr Joe Giordmaina's summary post in the discussion.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn
Refresh comments

Displaying 1 - 10 of 136
  • Sylvie LE MOËL-PHILIPPE's picture

    Pour information : c’est la Résistante Germaine Tillon, panthéonisée en Mai 2015 ( et qui avait une maison en Bretagne dans le Morbihan à Plouhinec où elle résidait souvent, entre 1974 et 2004) qui a crée en 1963 le premier poste d’enseignant en milieu pénitentiaire en France.

  • Joseph Giordmaina's picture

    VALMOPRIS project are running an online questionnaire adressed to professionals teaching in prison.

    If you have a minute it will be good if you can help the partners of this project by filling in the QA on the following link.

    Thank you 



    Dear all,

    This is a very interesting space to share educational practices of adult education. We were reading and learning from the contributions and wanted to share the experience conducted in several women prisons in Spain. Actually, the following is the abstract of a publication in which explains the life experiences of a female Moroccan inmate participating in Dialogic Literary Gatherings. We encourage you to read the article to find detailed information on this successful educational action. 


    Abstract: Amina is a female Moroccan prison inmate who has participated in Dialogic Literary Gatherings (DLGs) in a prison in Catalonia for 2 years. As a woman and without basic studies, she encountered many obstacles that led her into social exclusion, drug addiction, and involvement in the activities that in turn led to her incarceration. Sharing ideas with her fellow inmates about the works of Kafka and Brecht has had a significant impact on her own thoughts, allowing her to reconstruct her past and anticipate a new, hopeful future. This biography describes the transformative elements that empowered Amina to recreate her history through the literary interpretations she shared in DLG. The biography also highlights Amina’s new challenges and dreams, such as pursuing secondary education during her incarceration and going to college once she leaves prison.


    Pulido, C. (2015). Amina, Dreaming Beyond the Walls. Qualitative Inquiry. vol. 21,  doi:10.1177/1077800415611691

    Thank you,

    FACEPA’s team

  • Paul Hickey's picture

    Hi all,

    Great that you are having this event on here this week and some very useful information posts, well done all!

    It would be great if we, prison educators, had a permanent forum that we could share ideas etc. Is there such a thing or could/would EPALE consider setting up such a forum? I hardly have the time this week to review all this material and user contributions and it's a shame that, as I presume it will, this thread will disapear at the end of the event? 

    A permanent home for prison educators around Europe would be a fantastic recourse for all and I'm sure well used.


    Thanks for what you have done this week!




    A humble prison teacher of Maths and IT in Wheatfield Prison, Dublin, Ireland.



  • Graciela Sbertoli's picture

    Dear Paul, go raibh maith agat!

    I think you have the honour of being the last (but most absolutely not least) of our contributors to this discussion. Yes, we have come to the end of this three days event and the discussion will now be closed. But it will not disappear. Make a note of the URL and come back to explore the many issues and links you will find here.

    Your point about the need for a permanent home for practitioners in your sector is very interesting. Yes, EPALE is just the place for it! I will convey your suggestion to both the EPALE Central Support Service and to EPEA and I am pretty sure you will see your wish become a reality.

    If you are interested in Basic Skills in Prison Education, which was the focus of this discussion, I can tell you that the EBSN (European Basic Skills Network) will shortly be launching an EBSN SIG (Special Interest Group) It will be mostly at policy level but the voice of practitioners will most certainly be welcome as well. Stay in touch, and again: thanks!

  • Graciela Sbertoli's picture

    Moltes grácies, companys del CFA Jacint Verdaguer! :-) This looks like a very interesting project and we will study your results. Thank you for participating here!

  • CFA Jacint Verdaguer, Barcelona Adults School's picture

    CFA Jacint Verdaguer is the school of the Men’s Prison in Barcelona. One of its objectives is to provide students the tools that will help them to rejoin society once they have accomplished their sentence. But... is it really this way? Are the syllabuses we offer appropriate? What does “school” mean for students?


    Trying to answer these questions, we ended up with the idea that it would be interesting to carry out a research in order to find some clues and answers. The “Second Chance” project was the result of all these thoughts. This was an European project framed within Grundtvig program (Lifelong Learning Program) where six countries participated: Italy, Turkey, Romania, Estonia, Poland and Spain, as the coordinators. All of us work directly or indirectly for education of imprisoned people.


    The duration of the project was two years, from September 2013 until August 2015. It was divided in two stages:

    • During the first year, we collected data from our students in order to analyze our work as teachers in Penitentiary Centers and make proposals for the improvement of our task. The methodology was based on a qualitative type of study meaning interviews, life stories and discussion groups.
    • We implemented some of these proposals during the second year and we wanted the Penitentiary Centers to be a Second Chance.


    This experience has been the start of a great project and new strands of work, and a different way to approach adult schools. Thanks to reflection, communication and shared work, we have enhanced and renewed our task. This challenge has meant a “Second Chance” for our personal and professional lives.


    Webs of the project:

    Oficial web:

    Our project bolg:

    Results of the project:


    Discussion groups:



  • Annet Bakker's picture

    Thank you EPALE for organising this online discussion that is so inspiring. It will hopefully stay available for participants ánd those that cannot be actively present. I can see many faces that are known to me and our organisation : the European Prison Education Association. But one of the purposes of the online discussion is also bringing new faces together. You have succeeded in that part as well. There is a lot of content that I would certainly have a further look into, once I will be back from the meeting I'm in now. This also explains for the participants that I cannot be as active as I would want to. But it is comforting to see that so many of the people I spoke or mailed earlier are active!! With a EPEA Steering Committee member I'm, as we speak in a meeting of the INGO Conference of the Council of Europe. Today, yesterday and tomorrow we listen to and speak with representatives of the many INGO's of Europe and we were present in meetings and working groups on Education and Culture, but also about Human Rights. As you might understand there is a lot of attention for recent European developments and migration, that brings a merging of different worlds, the necessity of communication and new needs of understanding the experiences of both worlds that meet. There is a lot said about a safe anvironment, both for the migrants as for learners. 

    But, I'm being a 'not so attentive participant' of the current presentation on Social Teaching in the AIEJI project. So, as a teacher, I feel I need to focus on different thing than this online discussion now. I'll do my best to join you whenever I can.

    Good luck with the discussion today!!! 

  • Graciela Sbertoli's picture

    Dear Annet,

    On behalf of the European Basic Skills Network, EBSN, which has taken the responsibility for arranging this online discussion on Basic Skills in Prison Education, I would like to thank you and the EPEA network for your extremely valuable contribution to the event. I thoroughly agree with your comments on the need to continue the dialogue and the cooperation with all the participants that have been active in the discussion. We also know that many European stakeholders have been following the discussion in a more passive way, without adding their comments. We will find the way of including them as well in the future! Thank you again for your comments and for taking the time to join us despite your heavy schedule in the Council of Europe's conference.

    To all other participants: the discussion continues! :-) We're looking forward to more input and comments!

  • Joseph Giordmaina's picture

    A Summary of the Discussion so far:

    Theme 1: Basic literacy and numeracy.

    • Various participants explained in some detail what constitutes Basic literacy and Numeracy in their country.
    • In some of the participating countries, digital skills are considered a basic skill as well – this seems to be the area that offers challenges in terms of IT equipment in prison. The tension between security (computers/internet) and education was discussed.
    • An alternative is the use of a Virtual Campus to teach in prison on a closed platform. This can be part of a blended learning approach.
    • The issue of certification was raised: mainly whether there ought to be certification issued by an official authority or the prison or some other entity.
    • The challenges in teaching basic skills in prison were mentioned, including the fact that most inmates have compounded difficulties, such as dependencies, psychological and general health problems as well as the environment one is teaching in.
    • The length of sentence varies considerably– most sentences are shorter than a year. The discussion centred on the importance of providing education in ‘small packages’, attainable in a relative short period of time.
    • Short courses should also be accredited for, for example, through the awards of certification.
    • Certification, it was pointed out, is important for the inmate. In some countries, this is awarded by an official outside body, in other countries it is awarded by the prison authorities themselves.
    • Embedded learning is highly motivational for inmates and pedagogically effective.
    • The teaching of literacy and numeracy can be done also through Art, which brings in the human dimension to learning.
    • For embedded learning to be possible, it is important that all education providers (teachers/officers/tradespersons etc.) have the opportunity to meet and discuss the inmate’s study plan.
    • Embedded learning is highly relevant to the inmate – hence the motivational factor of such an approach to teaching and learning.
    • The eight key competencies to lifelong learning should all be present in an educational programme in prison.


    B.    Pre-course assessment and motivational issues.

     In some cases assessment focuses on one of the various basic literacy and numeracy skills – such as reading. It should be more holistic.

    • Initial assessment is crucial for the implementation of an education programme.
    • In some countries inmate assessment is covered by outside agencies, while in other cases it is in-house
    • Art too can be a tool that motivates inmates to read and write – particularly if these are integrated.
    • The difference between basic skills and key skills was made – key skills are important but not as fundamental as basic skills.
    • Basic skills and priority languages were discussed in relation to foreigners, migrants and irregular immigrants
    • Assessment of inmates may be a motivational factor for inmates to follow courses on offer in itself  – it brings about an awareness of what is available in prison in terms of education programmes
    • In some countries, assessment is mandatory. In others, it is not.
    • Data and research are crucial for the implementation of all education programmes in prison.
    • Various examples of assessment tools were provided throughout the discussion.

     C.Training of service providers.

    • Teachers come from various backgrounds – including those coming straight from the state school system and those directly employed by the prison.
    • Teachers are familiarised with the basic rules of the prison as well as the characteristics of a prison.
    • Various guides for the training of teachers working in prisons have been produced through European Projects (e.g. PEPPLE, CLAP, EIS-ALP).

    D.Evaluation of success.

    • Securing employment is one factor of success
    • Acquiring skills (a measurable component) is another gauge of success
    • A lower recidivism rate
    • Inmates in most prisons are assessed using the same assessment as the public education system.
    • Other forms of assessment and records of success are in-house: in-house certification based on commitment, effort, attendance etc
    • Non-formal learning is difficult to assess – but seems to be the more popular with inmates