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/fr/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


  • Graciela Sbertoli's picture

    Good morning everybody, and welcome to this three day long discussion on Basic Skills in Prison Education!

    I am Graciela Sbertoli, the Chair of the European Basic Skills Network, EBSN. I work at Vox, the Norwegian Agency for Lifelong Learning. My role in this discussion is to facilitate the interaction and help you if you get into trouble with any aspect of the functionalities.

    I would like us to start by setting up some “rules of engagement”:

    -        Please introduce yourself shortly when you write your first contribution.

    -        Please click on REACT under the posting you want to comment to write your contribution. Do NOT write a new COMMENT unless you are very sure you want to start a new thread. It is technically possible to react to reactions as well. Since participants are going to access the discussion at different times during the three days, it is important that we keep a clear structure. You will find a REACT button right underneath the text you want to comment on. If we all do that, we will be able to keep a logical structure for the discussion.

    -        If you are sure you want to start a new thread, you go to the very bottom of the page and write your contribution on the space entitled “Write a new comment”.

    -        If you need help with understanding the structure of the technicalities, you can “react” to the posting you are reading right now – or you can write to me using my email address,

    Some important rules on how to interact:

    -        We want to keep a low threshold for this communication. You will meet some high-level researchers and experts here, but that does not at all mean that you have to restrain from commenting on anything until you have time enough to write a very clear, well structured and well informed comment. Just jump in and write! All contributions are valuable!

    -        If you have an enormous lot to say, it would be nice if you could divide your contribution in digestable small bits. Very long texts are hard to cope with in this type of communication.

    -        Needless to say: respect is a basic rule. You may disagree profoundly with what another participant is saying, but be polite in your reaction, please.

    -        And let us all be patient with one another if something goes wrong. We are still learning, all of us.


    Again: welcome! We are all very much looking forward to interacting with you during the next three days!

  • Graciela Sbertoli's picture

    Remember I said we might need patience with each other? Well... We seem to have encountered a technical problem. Colleagues are sending me mails saying they have logged into Epale and are being denied access to this discussion... We have notified the Central Support Service and hope this issue will be resolved soon! Stay with us - or do something else and come back in 15 minutes. :-)

  • Graciela Sbertoli's picture

    Some participants found they couldn't access the discussion despite being logged in. Their problems have now been solved. If you encounter similar problems, please write to me immediately. The technical support team will iron out these wrinkles very quickly! "See" you soon, I hope!

  • Joseph Giordmaina's picture

    Dear Participants,

    It may help if from time to time you refresh the page - that way your page will be updated with new contributions in case it doesn't do so automatically. 

    Thank you.


  • Brian Creese's picture

    The system has amnesia as far as my password is concerned. I have to get a new one every time I log in!

  • Graciela Sbertoli's picture

    You are not alone in experiencing this. I have reported the problem. Sorry for the inconvenience, Brian!

  • stefania basilisco's picture

    Dear All,

    my name is Stefania Basilisco
    I am a juridical pedagogical officer of the ministry of justice in Italy.
    I read your very interesting information regarding training on basic skills in prison (the project carried out in Norway and other contributions - Netherlands, Serbia).
    I find the discussion very intersting and I'm sorry for not being able to follow all the points that are emerging (such as legislation on Internet use in prisons, the use of computers in education, the capability to implement the embedded training .. .).
    I would like to tell something about the Pebble Project, of wich i was referring (international research project funded by the European Union, whose scientific partners will mean better thoroughly than I), based on the experience made within the Prison of Pescara.


    For Italy the Pebble project has been realized in collaboration with the University of Florence and held, as i told, in the prison of Pescara.
    Ourania of Ergon Kek will certainly explain better what it was all the international research project.
    In the Pescara Prison, we have made the process of training aimed at improving basic skills in four areas: Italian, Numeracy, Computer skills and Financial skills.

    The University of Florence has helped us to develop tools to monitor the training needs of each project participant. We made an individual training plan that was shared with all prison workers, the educational officer and the police prison. We involved the school in the process of formation, which has provided training to inmates who participate in the project even if they were previously not involved in school courses.
    The process of training in the Prison of Pescara has been made in 3 basic steps: training face to face, supplied by the School; experiential training, promoted by all penitentiary operators during the various stages of life in prison; and online training, delivered through the platform Trio (
    This allowed the prisoners to be, in each step, motivated to learn, creating the conditions to continue to discuss the project during other moments of life imprisonment.
    The implementation of web learning group allowed to enter the platform, in addition to educational modules related to the basic skills in the four thematic areas, other subjects according to the requests of prisoners (courses of legality, education, pedagogy, arts, others).
    The project results were disseminated as part of an international conference organized by the University of Florence (SCIFOPSI), Prof. Paolo Federighi and Dr. Francesca Torlone Phd and an interregional conference, made in Pescara, organized by the Director of Pescara Prison, dr. Franco Pettinelli, and myself. ( Dicembre 2015)

  • Joseph Giordmaina's picture

    For those who want to read more about the PEBBLE project visit

    When you have time look into the National Reports on Prison Education from Greece, Italy, Cyprus and Romania. These reports include recommendations on the drafting of a basic skills curriculum.

  • Annet Bakker's picture

    Dear Stefania,

    Very interesting to see that you are using this platform to dissemniate your PEBBLES-Project experience in the rest of Europe. The EPEA was very glad to be part of your conference in december 2015. Your further efforts of surpassing the Italian borders and pitching your tools and others outcomes to similar tools in other European countries are a good example to all of us.  We strongly believe that so much has already been discovered and we could certainly learn a lot from bringing this expertise together and build further on this ever growing professionalism. It would be such a pity that the PEBBLES project, as most projects with useful, practical outcomes, will stop developping. So, chapeau for you!! 

  • Joseph Giordmaina's picture

    Thank you Annet for joining us this morning. For those who do not know, Annet is the European Prison Education Association chairperson, and association with over 800 members all somehow related to education in prison.

    Annet you have touched on a sore  point for those involved in EU funded projects. Actually two :-) The first one is dissemination of such good work. There is so much good work out there - but one gets the impression that few know about these initiatives. EPEA and EPALE can help in providing one base where all the final products of all these projects related to education in prison are housed and can be downloaded by interested parties.

    The second problem is with finance - as soon as the project comes to an end there is no sustainability of the project - and the project literally comes to an end. I've seen rooms with radio equipment not being used, rooms with sewing machines not used etc. Maybe the EPEA can help in this regard by lobbying for money for exceptionally good projects to keep on being funded until they are self-sustainable.

    Just two suggestions (I have more :-) ) 


  • Graciela Sbertoli's picture

    Thank you Annet and Joe for your comments! Regarding the dissemination and furtehr development of projects like PEBBLES, which combines the field of prison education with the focus on basic skills for adults, I would like to add that the European Basic Skills Network, EBSN, will shortly be initiating an EBSN SIG (Special Interest Group) on this theme. The EBSN SIGs will maintain an ongoing online discussion, be open both to members of the EBSN and to other interested parties, and have as one of their main goals the creation of curricula, materials, and structure for short online courses for policy makers and practitioners in each of their fields. Keep in touch with the EBSN so you can be among the first to be informed about how to join us in the EBSN SIG!

  • EPALE Moderator's picture

    If anybody is having trouble logging on, please email and the EPALE team will get this fixed.

  • Joseph Giordmaina's picture

    Good morning and welcome to this week’s focus on Education in Prisons on EPALE.

    The discussion to which you have logged into focuses mostly on Basic Skills education. There is general agreement that without such skills one may find it difficult to function well both in prisons and upon release. In prison one needs functional literacy and numeracy in order to communicate with the prison authorities,  as well as be able to use such skills in prison work. Outside prison one needs basic literacy and numeracy skills for among other things, employability purposes.

    It is precisely these objectives that VOX had in mind when they embarked on a project entitled: Learning Basic Skills while Serving Time, the report of which we are using as a stimulus for ideas about issues related to this theme. In case you have not read the report ( the following is a short summary as well as some questions/themes that emerge from a reflective reading of the report.


    These are some questions that come to mind not only from the report, but also from more than twenty years experience in field of education in prisons, working both in prison as well as an academic at the University of Malta. My role in moderating this discussion is to structure the debate, draw up recommendations from your experiences and share these with both participants as well as with those who cannot be with us throughout this week. These topics/themes are only a point for departure for the discussion, the final goal is the sharing of good experiences as well as learning from one another’s challenges and good results in the field of education in prison.


    Learning basic skills while serving time: A very very short summary.

    Basics skills within this document are understood as basic reading writing and numeracy at basic secondary level of education, using IT as a tool for learning. The main innovative elements of the project Learning Basic Skills while Serving Time are three:

    1. Course is delivered by teachers in class and continued in workshops by officers.
    2. Course links what is learned in class with the everyday prison environment of the inmate. The prison becomes the ‘text’ used to teach basic literacy and numeracy. Inmates were encouraged to use applications and communication letters used in prison as material for the lessons.
    3. What is learned in class is used immediately in prison and is not presented as a skill that one can use upon release.   

    The project roughly involved 20 lessons of around 4 hrs per lesson (3 with teacher/1 with officer). Nine inmates were involved for the literacy lessons while 5 followed the numeracy lessons. Three inmates were foreigners. 

    The following are a few questions that come to mind after reading this report. They are  meant to help us focus this discussion:

    1. Basic literacy and numeracy.

    What is understood by these terms in your country? Do you include Information Technology as a basic knowledge? What is considered to be basic? Being a functional reader (e.g. can read a newspaper), writer (can fill up a CV) and able to do simple maths? How do you teach for basic literacy and numeracy? Formally, following a formal school curriculum leading to certification? Informally as in the VOX project?  Do you teach foreign inmates in the same manner as native speakers? Is it one to one teaching? Small group teaching? Or class teaching? Is equipment for effective teaching such as computers and memory sticks allowed in your prisons? How do you use such equipment if at all?


    1. Pre-course assessment and motivational issues.

    What kind of assessment is used in order to identify the level of basic numeracy and literacy abilities of an inmate? Is it just a matter of self-reporting, interest, or ability tests? How do you identify the inmates to follow the course? In which part of their sentence? How do you motivate inmates to join courses and how do you retain participation? What about inmates on remand?

    C.Training of service providers.

    What kind of training is given to teachers in order to teach basic literacy and numeracy in prison? Are teachers specialised in Adult Education? Are they familiar with the rest of the prison, particularly with what takes place in the workshops? Are the officers trained in the aims and objectives of the course? When does this training take place? How do teachers and officers collaborate?


    D.Evaluation of success.

    How do you evaluate your success in teaching basic literacy and numeracy? Do you use pre and post testing? Rate of recidivism? Self-reported assessment? 


    It may be better to focus on and today, while we go in a deeper discussion on C and tomorrow. Although of course each one of the above points is strongly tied to the others.

    Tell us what you think!


  • Christine Clement's picture

    Dear all

    First of all some introduction about the Dutch basic skills training in prisons and in general. I am very interested in getting more knowledge about the situation in other countries!

    In The Netherlands the basic skills are literacy, oral language, numeracy and digital skills. The basic skills level can be compared to the level at the end of primary education or with PIAAC on or below level 1.

    Literacy (often combined with oral language) is trained by professionals as well as non-professionals, mainly leading to informal certification, like in the VOX project.

    Large differences between the provision of basic skills in Dutch prisons are possible. Some prisons have their own teachers, some cooperate with a formal education schools (especially for VET training) and some work with trained non-professionals. To my knowledge professional and non-professional prison teachers work with ‘normal’, but adjusted, programs for basic skills, not specifically developed for education in prisons.

    Of course, we are talking about a population with specific challenges. It has been estimated that about 80-90% of the inmates in Dutch prisons have psychological/ psychiatric difficulties, addictions or are intellectually disabled. An another issue: motivation seems an very important factor in order to be able to start a successful basic skills training.

    A recent development is the use of tablets in prison, meant for getting access to digital information like newspapers, books, but also for education.

    My questions for discussion:

    • We are talking about a special population with very specific challenges for the education of basic skills. What are the key factors for success with this special target group in your country?

    • Do you have specific programs for basic skills education in prison in your country?

    • Do you work with OERs or ICT based programs in prison for basic skills education?

    • In Dutch prisons 70% of the inmates detain 3 months or shorter. Do you offer education programs for such short period in your country?

  • Joseph Giordmaina's picture

    Thank you for your contribution Christine. Just one curiosity: do you do some form of positive discrimination with young inmates who are illiterate or do you provide instruction to everyone without considerations of age, nationality and length of sentence?

  • Hilal Gencay's picture

    Very good point Christine! The time issue is one of the most challenging issues when we are talking about prison education. In Turkey, inmates stay 7 months on average according to the reports. 

  • Kari H.A. Letrud's picture

    We see the point. Many prisoners are in the prison for a very short time, especially those in custody.

    Inmates with longer sentences are not a problem, and we know that some of them complete their vocational training and others even get university certificate during the time they are serving their punishment.

    One solution when it comes to inmates with short sentences, they may be given diplomas that show every little step they have undergone. If the inmates have had a four weeks leaning in for instance in cleaning, they obtain a diploma for this module. This requires, however that prison school relates to a curriculum.

  • Joseph Giordmaina's picture

    Dear Kari. Thank you for your contribution. Do you offer educational services for those under arrest but not sentenced?


  • Kari H.A. Letrud's picture

    All inmates, regardless of what sort of sentence are offered the same kind of activity and school. As we mentioned above, it is possibe to give the short modules.

  • Graciela Sbertoli's picture

    I think that in Norway we are maybe a bit less worried about short periods for the learning offer, because - as we said somewhere else - we are a bit less concerned about qualifications. We have seen that one of the most important effects of basic skills training is the change of attitude in the inmates. If we can give them a course that lasts 4 or 8 weeks and make them more motivated to take up further learning when they get outside, we think we have achieve a lot.

  • Brian Creese's picture

    Or perhaps observations from England! Although we have a dedicated workforce for prisons in England, they are viewed as part of the further education system. Prison is simply seen as one specific setting - like Adult Community education or work-based education. That said, we do have a well-established adult literacy/numeracy programme in England with specific approaches, resources and qualifications.

    Our prisons are extremely negative about any use of computers. There are some limited programmes allowing access to IT within prisons but these are not widespread and generally not seen as successful. So most delivery of basic skills education in prison will not involve IT.

    We too suffer from very short prison sentences and 6-7 months is the average sentence. However, if placed on a dedicated education package, prison educators do claim to be able to get prisoners a full (English) level 1 or level 2 qualification in English or Math within this timeframe.

    Btw: does anyone have a handy chart comparing levels across Europe? I am suddenly really aware that I am not clear what is the general equivalent to England adult Level 1 or 2……

  • Kari H.A. Letrud's picture

    In Norway it is also very strict laws concerning the use of computers in prison schools or in prisons at all. We know, however that to cope in the modern society, we have to master computer technology. Therefore we have to prepare the inmates for the real world.

    To meet this demand, we are trying to develop learning programs, in reading, writing and mathematics, which are free of flash and more or less hidden internet connection possibilities.

  • Graciela Sbertoli's picture

    is not what I would call this, but it may give you the information you seek:

    BTW, in Norway we operate with levels of basic skills that are completely independent from levels in our NQF. This is because we find that students may have successfully completed their compulsory schooling and yet be lacking in literacy, numeracy or digital competence. Either because their education had undiscovered "holes" or because their skills have eroded. That's why we don't bother with equivalences or levels and treat basic skills independently.

  • Joseph Giordmaina's picture

    Dear Graciela. Maybe you can give us some clarifications about this. In some prisons I know lots of emphases is made in order for a) certification has value as much as possible within prison as outside prison (equivalence and usefulness)  and b) certification should not indicate the location from were this was obtained (in this case prison which can of course work against the interest of the inmate). Are these not concerns that you have as well?

  • Graciela Sbertoli's picture

    Yes, these are very interesting issues, Joseph, I agree. I need to check with my colleagues, who will know much more about Norwegian practice than I do, but my understanding is that the two concerns you mention (usefulness/relevance and lack of "stigma" regarding where the qualifications are acquired) are very much present in the Norwegian systems. Where I think the Norwegian system, inside and outside prisons, differs from other systems in Europe, is that we do not really give formal qualifications for basic skills. We offer basic skills training which may enable students to get other qualifications (primary, lower secondary, or upper secondary which also includes vocational training). I'll ask my colleagues to complete this information!

  • Tanja Aas's picture

    Dear Joseph, I am one of Graciela’s colleagues here at Vox and I will try to clarify how Norway deals with certifications. As Graciela mentioned, we do not have any formal certifications for basic skills. However, there are several examples of partial certifications linking basic skills and competence aims at Upper Secondary level. A student undergoing a course through embedded learning in a workshop linking some basic skills and a few competence aims from Building and Construction can receive a partial certification. The Upper Secondary school issues these certifications. In Norway, the prisons systems are set up through the import model. In short, this means that the local Upper Secondary school hires the teachers. Other than teaching inside the prison, the teachers have no formal link to the prison. For more information on the prison system in Norway, check out this link:

  • Joseph Giordmaina's picture

    Thank you Tanja for this information - the link offers a short but very insightful window into the world of prison and prison education in Norway. I would like to take this opportunity to include another link that explains very well the Nordic prison education system - an online book edited by my good friend Torfinn et al. - which you can read or download online: Nordic Prison Education – A Lifelong Learning Perspective.


  • Brian Creese's picture

    Perhaps not so handy, but definitely what I needed! Many thanks, Graciela

  • Joyce Black's picture


    I was interested in your observation about the access to IT in prisons. Of course we do have the development of the Virtual Campus across UK prisons. while I do admit that take up is patchy, where it is used well, with the full cooperation of the governor, it is extremely successful. Issues are more of a technical nature in some prisons. Prisoners have access to pedagogically robust on-line resources and programmes on a closed platform - we have been heavily involved both in the development and revision of those resources and training prison education staff in their use. The interactive 'Maths Everywhere' App that was developed as part of the Maths4us Initiative (Government funded) has recently been slightly revised and uploaded onto the platform for ready access in the prison population.


  • Graciela Sbertoli's picture

    That is extremely interesting, Joyce! Can you point us to any description or report about that app and its use in prison?

  • Joyce Black's picture

    Hi Graciela

    here is the link to the App itself:

    I don't have a report about its specific use in prison, but we would recommend its use as part of a blended learning approach. It was developed with government funding and we did a massive trial with over 1500 members of the public via a social media campaign. it was developed and quality controlled by maths specialists at the UK National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) so we are confident in its mathematical pedagogy.


  • Joyce Black's picture

    Hi Graciela

    here is the link to the App itself:

    I don't have a report about its specific use in prison, but we would recommend its use as part of a blended learning approach. It was developed with government funding and we did a massive trial with over 1500 members of the public via a social media campaign. it was developed and quality controlled by maths specialists at the UK National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) so we are confident in its mathematical pedagogy.


  • Sylvie LE MOËL-PHILIPPE's picture

    It is the same in Saint Brieuc local prison, where thanks to Erasmus+ Project (Aristote) I went to give a workshop on Greece in the norming ( including a small introduction to the language) and an artistic workshop in the Afternoon ( painting Greece and Santorini and alos making a painting in common).  Items of IT ( except the computer for teaching in the classroom which is locked when the class is over ) are not to be used or kept by inmates.

  • Joseph Giordmaina's picture

    In Malta inmates can use computers in the computer lab. They do not have access to the internet except if they are following the ECDL course - in such a case the use is  supervised. Inmates can have a laptop if they are following a course outside prison, or are following a course inside prison. Those who take their laptop outside prison have a special laptop and this is checked every time they enter prison. No memory stick can be used by inmates. 

  • Per Thrane's picture
    Motivation of prisoners to use computers or take up education is connected with their understanding of what education is. They often don't see education as a life changing activity but as something they need to know or do to keep a job or maintain something practical. The trick is to introduce education as something practical and carry them out of this paradigma.
  • Graciela Sbertoli's picture

    Thank you for your insights, Per. You make an extremely important point. Relevance and usefulness of the learning object are always important in adult education, but probably even more so when this particular target group is concerned. But sometimes relevance doesn't only relate to pragmatic usefulness. Anything that removes the feeling that learning is an unwelcome obligation may do the trick. Have you seen the comment by Sylvie Le Moel on the inmates' enthusiasm for learning Greek? I think it relates to exactly this issue. Course organizers and teachers need to be aware of the fact that time spending in creating the new paradigm you mention is indeed well invested time!

  • Joseph Giordmaina's picture

    Hi Per - nice to 'meet' you again after years of collaboration in the field of education in prison. For those who do not know Per is one of the persons instrumental in introducing the use of IT in prisons in Europe. Per, from your experience, do inmates who start a course normally finish it? What keeps them going? And do you think that inmates are the best 'motivating factor' for other inmates - word normally spreads fast in a prison - and if a course is good, inmates, in my experience, tend to draw others for good education programmes. What do you think? 

  • Kari H.A. Letrud's picture

    Regarding the motivational aspect, we in Norway think that relevance is a very motivating factor. In Norwegian prisons, inmates have what we call “the duty of activity”. This means in most cases that inmates get employed in tasks pertaining to the running of the prison: kitchen duties, laundry, cleaning, etc.

    All Norwegian prisons are also under the obligation to seek to earn some income through running carpenter workshops, for example. Small industry workshops, handicrafts, etc. Based on this situation, it has been easy for the model we have reported from, to establish what experts call “blended learning”: vocational training and basic skills integrated in the same training offer. We would be very interested in hearing if other countries have similar experiences.

  • Joseph Giordmaina's picture

    Can you give us some more information on this please. From the report Learning Basic Skills while Serving Time I understood that inmates have something similar to formal education (in class with teachers) in the morning, and then they go to work in the afternoon - and their lesson is kind of reinforced in the workshop. Are there other models that you use? Also, in most countries, unfortunately, inmates have to chose between education and work. Is this ever the case in Norway? Thank you. 

  • Kari H.A. Letrud's picture

    Integrated learning is very important for learning to take place. Therefore Vox has initiated several projects with the aim of creating “meeting points” for prison schools teachers and for persons in charge of the different workshops  in each prison. These are persons who lead the work and can also act as vocational trainers.

    We have still prisons where school and workshops are not cooperating enough, but we have also examples of the opposite: that the teacher leads basic skills training within the workshop. There are even some cases where the teacher and the person in charge of the workshop is the same person.

  • Sylvie LE MOËL-PHILIPPE's picture

    In the local prison, participation to workshops are done on a voluntary basis. So when I go to prison to give a presentation, I am never sure how many participants I will have unteil they are actually sitting in the classroom. Some do not turn up in the afternoon, (even if it can be the continuation of what was done in the morning) because they have to go to the "parloir" to speak with the lawyer, to some visitor or staff, different situations of that kind crop up... So I have to keep very flexible indeed.

  • Annet Bakker's picture

    Dear Christine,

    I would like to comment on a few of your questions, you say you are interested in the experience in other European countries, but it might also be good to have another exchange on the Dutch situation and compare what we have found out about its possibilities. As for the queston about what is most needed to have succesful results in literacy training in prisons in general: I think what is most inportant is a safe and inviting learning environment. This does not nessecarily mean a hightech school with many features available. First of ll, it will be a matter of encouraging people to take part, to guide them, each in the way they need to be helped, to get started.

    Sorry for this short reaction, but I tried to find some time in between some meetings in the Council of Europe, where the EPEA is present as member of the INGO conference on education and Human Rights. I will certainy get in touch at a later stage to exchange more!!

  • Margrethe Svensrud's picture

    In Norway we use the terms reading and writing. Reading means to create meaning in the widest sense and gives insight into other people’s experience, opinion and knowledge independent of time and place. Writing involves expressing oneself understandably and appropriately about different topics and communicating with others in the written mode.

    To read involves engaging in texts, comprehending, applying what is read and reflecting on this. Texts include everything that can be read in different media, including illustrations, graphs, symbols or other modes of expression. Knowledge about what characterizes different types of texts and their function is an important part of reading as a basic skill.

    Writing involves expressing oneself understandably and appropriately about different topics and communicating with others in the written mode. Writing is also a tool for developing one’s own thoughts in the learning process. Writing comprehensibly and appropriately means developing and coordinating different partial skills. This includes being able to plan, construct, and revise texts relevant to content, purpose and audience.

    Mastering writing is a prerequisite for lifelong learning and for active and critical participation in civic and social life.

    We have developed competence goals for reading and writing. The competence goals are divided into three levels. The levels describe the advancing ability to use reading and writing as a tool in various situations.

    An ability to read and write at level 1–2 includes reading and writing brief and familiar texts that one encounters frequently. Some support may be needed when reading and writing in new situations.

    An ability to read and write at level 3 includes reading and writing comprehensible texts. One relates actively to written information and has strategies for refinement of these skills. One can use reading and writing in new situations, for learning and for solving some challenges in everyday life.

    An ability to read and write at level 4 includes mastery of formal requirements for a diversity of texts. One reads and writes an independent, critical and flexible manner and selects strategies on the basis of settings and needs.

    For more information visit


  • Matthew Degiorgio's picture

    Needless to say that language is the basic way humans make and understand meaning.  Reading, writing, speaking and listening enables us to communicate effectively and make sense of our actions. 

    I believe that concept of literacy goes beyond than just the ability of reading, writing, speaking and listening.  Let's think of it as being a spectrum - Achievement in basic literacy - rapresenting the lowest level of skill.  In order to fully function in today’s world, basic literacy has evolved into a new dimension - I dare calling it;  A technical skill.  There's a fine line between the two. What I mean is that nowadays, literacy requires the ability to possess complementary skills such as interacting and engaging with reading; viewing, retrieving and writing content; listening effectively and debating properly - as opposed to a simple and basic concept of knowing how to read, write, speak and listen.  Likewise, basic numeracy also requires the skill to use the mathematical concepts we need to function effectively in work and social contexts.  We need these skills in order to participate fully and develop logical thinking and reasoning strategies in our workplaces and in our community.

    Information Technology has great influence on all aspects of life.  Almost all workplaces and living environments are continuously being computerised.  In order to prepare any service users to work in these environments, it’s essential that they are exposed to various aspects of Information Technology; such as understanding the concept of Information Technology and its scope as being a basic knowledge.  


    N.B.  RISe Foundation is an NGO based in Malta aimed at rehabilitating and re-integrating ex-prisoners’ back into the community.  The Foundation is still in its initial stages and will start operating as soon as the necessary assessments of each service user are concluded. 


    The success of this rehabilitative programme is expected to be achieved through the provision of a community based programme for offenders aimed at providing support on their dysfunctional behaviour and attitude in order to become productive citizen and refrain from repeating criminal activity.  


    The programme also includes an’ Individualized Plan for Employment’ (IPE) strategy in order for the service user to develop and progress towards successful achievements in employment.


    The IPE consists of 3 stages;

    The primary stage of the support programme includes a series of sessions conducted partially by the Employment Officer and [visiting] tutors focusing on generic educational subjects ranging from basic communication to effective employability skills. 


    The secondary stage of the support programme includes a series of sessions conducted by [visiting] tutors or trainers focusing on specialized educational subjects according to the residents’ informed choice as agreed upon earlier in order to improve further their employability skills in the area of preference. 


    Between the secondary and tertiary (final) stage, the residents may be assigned anytime to start On-Job-Training (OJT) – (voluntary and/or paid) with an employer only after they have successfully completed the primary stage of the programme and certified by the administration. 


    The residents shall be holistically and comprehensively recorded and assessed along the programme.



  • Joseph Giordmaina's picture

    Thank you Matthew for this informative outline of what RISE is doing in Malta. I invite you to contribute under the MOTIVATION section (further down below) of what, from your experience motivates inmates to follow RISE's programme. Is there a way in which you measure success? 

  • Dusan ZDRAVKOVIC's picture

    Taking into account curriculum of FEEA (Functional Elementary Education of Adult) programme in Serbia, our basic skills concept (understood as the basics of functional literacy) encompass mother tongue, math, digital literacy, English language and “basic life skills”. Probably the most interesting -  the last one, is innovative 25 hours training in three following topics: responsible living (health, family, life situations); citizenship (personal documents); entrepreneurship (personal potentials management, creativity, initiative, inventiveness, critical thinking and problem solving).

  • Graciela Sbertoli's picture

    Thank you for your contribution, Dusan! That combination of subjects looks like a wonderful curriculum. Is there any documentation in English about how you organize the teaching? This is very interesting!

  • Dusan ZDRAVKOVIC's picture

    Dear Graciela, there is a 40-page manual for teachers, for that particular subject (Basic Life Skills). Also there are manuals for all other subject of FEEA programme. Unfortunately only in Serbian language. I find our experience with abovementioned FEEA programme very relevant for this discussion since practically FEEA is the mixture of basic skills and vocational skills. One of the things that is very interesting to mention, in the context of creating and teaching curriculum is that in our experience the key difference is in horizontal connections between the subjects. They have to be strongly interconnected. Practically, the ideal case would be not to have lessons oriented only to one subject, but to create common lessons always by two-three or more trainers. The life itself and our experience as adults are not divided to the subjects. In that respect, in praxis of prison education skills and competences should be built as holistically as possible.

  • Joseph Giordmaina's picture

    This comment reminds me of the EU LLL key competencies: 

    Eight key competences

    This framework defines eight key competences and describes the essential knowledge, skills and attitudes related to each of these. These key competences are:

    • communication in the mother tongue, which is the ability to express and interpret concepts, thoughts, feelings, facts and opinions in both oral and written form (listening, speaking, reading and writing) and to interact linguistically in an appropriate and creative way in a full range of societal and cultural contexts;
    • communication in foreign languages, which involves, in addition to the main skill dimensions of communication in the mother tongue, mediation and intercultural understanding. The level of proficiency depends on several factors and the capacity for listening, speaking, reading and writing;
    • mathematical competence and basic competences in science and technology. Mathematical competence is the ability to develop and apply mathematical thinking in order to solve a range of problems in everyday situations, with the emphasis being placed on process, activity and knowledge. Basic competences in science and technology refer to the mastery, use and application of knowledge and methodologies that explain the natural world. These involve an understanding of the changes caused by human activity and the responsibility of each individual as a citizen;
    • digital competence involves the confident and critical use of information society technology (IST) and thus basic skills in information and communication technology (ICT);
    • learning to learn is related to learning, the ability to pursue and organise one's own learning, either individually or in groups, in accordance with one's own needs, and awareness of methods and opportunities;
    • social and civic competences. Social competence refers to personal, interpersonal and intercultural competence and all forms of behaviour that equip individuals to participate in an effective and constructive way in social and working life. It is linked to personal and social well-being. An understanding of codes of conduct and customs in the different environments in which individuals operate is essential. Civic competence, and particularly knowledge of social and political concepts and structures (democracy, justice, equality, citizenship and civil rights), equips individuals to engage in active and democratic participation;
    • sense of initiative and entrepreneurship is the ability to turn ideas into action. It involves creativity, innovation and risk-taking, as well as the ability to plan and manage projects in order to achieve objectives. The individual is aware of the context of his/her work and is able to seize opportunities that arise. It is the foundation for acquiring more specific skills and knowledge needed by those establishing or contributing to social or commercial activity. This should include awareness of ethical values and promote good governance;
    • cultural awareness and expression, which involves appreciation of the importance of the creative expression of ideas, experiences and emotions in a range of media (music, performing arts, literature and the visual arts).

    These key competences are all interdependent, and the emphasis in each case is on critical thinking, creativity, initiative, problem solving, risk assessment, decision taking and constructive management of feelings.


    Basic skills are probably those skills necessary in order for one to attain these key competencies

  • Annet Bakker's picture

    Dear Dusan,

    Your project and the broad scope is indeed very interesting, I think it reflects a wider spread opinion that a very restrcted apporach as to only deal with language skills (and or numeracy) is not enough. What I think is interesting from the first respons on your contribution is a need to have the outcomes of any project available in more languages. This will be a nessecary development that will facilitate more and more our thirst to learn from experience within the broader community. Technological devices are luckily helping us, as is for example this platform that is available in so many languages. Maybe the report you delivered can in time be translated in English, to be available to all of us.



  • Pages