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Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe



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

by EPALE Moderator

/epale/fi/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.

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  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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

    Hi, Zoltán - thank you so much for this valuable insight into Hungarian developments! I'm impressed with the wide range of themes these programs took up. The family learning perspective is also very interesting! Thank you as well for providing us with the references! Well done!

  • Zoltan Varkonyi's picture

    Maurice thoughts made me reflect on the Hungarian situation. With a tradition inherited from the period of socialism prison education primarily focused on formal education, making elementary education obligatory for those missing the completion of the 8 grades. Since the second half of the 90-s inmates could join voluntarily to education programs, with a broadening range of possibilities in vocational, general secondary and more recently even higher education. But teachers of literacy and maths in prison education were predominantly recruited from elementary and secondary schools without having proper preparation for teaching adults, and especially doing it in the prison environment. In Hungary the prison population was 18042 inmates at the end of 2013, out of them 2069 took part in education.

    In the last couple of years more and more initiatives were funded from the European Social Fund developing specific non-formal courses for prisoners with a strong focus on the social inclusion perspective.

    The main characteristics of these programs (TAMOP 5.6.1, 5.6.2, 5.6.3, from 2012 - 2014) were:

    - comprehensive approach to promote social inclusion, focus on complex, tailor made interventions, learning is integrated;

    - strong emphases on developing social skills, conflict handling and communication skills, involving also family members, or sometimes affended citizens, or by doing volunteer work in the local community;

    - literacy and numeracy learning tailored to individual needs and relevant contexts, provision of individual support to ensure progress;

    - developing basic skills embedded in developing skills for the labour market, personal efficacy and citizenship (using ICT in job search/writing job application, using e-platforms for managing official affairs, managing personal finances, household economy, relevant legal issues etc);

    - continouos mentoring and counselling after release from prison (supporting application of learned skills and competences after serving the time).

    It will be interesting to see the impact of the learnings from these pilot initiatives on the mainstream practice of prison education.


    László Huszár: Competence development possibilities in the prison environment - project experiences - (

    Csukai Magdolna: Oktatás a büntetés-végrehajtási intézetekben / Education in correctional facilities / in Hadtudományi Szemle 2014/4


    ZÁRÓKIADVÁNY a TAMOP - 5.6.1A-11/4-2001-0009 pályázathoz (





  • 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:



  • Joyce Black's picture

    In England we have a well developed and well used approach called RARPA - Recognising and Recording Progress and Achievement. I have discussed it's use in an earlier contribution, but here is the link. it was developed specifically for non-accredited/non-formal learning. Colleagues may find it useful in their work with prisoners as well as other learners.