Ecuador: The 'Monsignor Proaño' National Literacy Campaign and the National 'Ecuador Studies' Programme (1988-1992) | Literacy | Teachers

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  A LITERACY CAMPAIGN TO TRIGGER EDUCATION REFORM: Ecuador’s National Literacy Campaign Monseñor Leonidas Proaño and El Ecuador Estudia Program Summary by Rosa María Torres ex-Pedagogical Director of the Campaign Advisor to the Ecuador Estudia Programme Quito, 1994 For more information see
  A LITERACY CAMPAIGN TO TRIGGER EDUCATION REFORM:Ecuador’s National Literacy Campaign Monseñor Leonidas Proaño   and El Ecuador Estudia     Program By Rosa María TorresEx-Pedagogical Director of the CampaignQuito-Ecuador, 1994Ecuador's National Literacy Campaign Monsignor Leonidas Proaño (1988-1990) took placeduring the 1988-1992 presidential period of the Izquierda Democrática political party (a socialdemocratic party), headed by President Rodrigo Borja. Objectives of the campaign We defined the following objectives for the campaign:  ã Teaching to read and write to the largest possible number of illiterate and semi-literateyouth and adults in the country - those willing to join the campaign. ã Educating secondary-school students in Ecuador's social problems and providingthem with an opportunity to be socially useful, by involving them as literacy educators,facilitators and supporters. ã Promoting national information and awareness on human rights, including the right toeducation for all. (The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the main content of the campaign and of the instructional materials for both learners and educators). ã Influencing the regular school system through the active involvement of students, their teachers and parents in the campaign, and through the development anddissemination of a new educational philosophy, particularly regarding literacy methodsand approaches. ã Triggering a national discussion on the country's educational problems andencouraging the building of a social movement in favor of educational reform.The campaign (its cost was US$ 3 million, financed entirely by the government) includedthree phases: planning (1988), literacy education (1989) and final systematization, evaluationand dissemination of results (1990). An internal and an external evaluation were conducted,and both merged into one final evaluation report widely distributed throughout the country atno cost. Some salient features and lessons learned Some of the salient features of the campaign were: 1   The campaign never aimed at eradicating illiteracy in the country. We always said weaimed at reaching and motivating as many people as possible in order to teach them to readand write, and to ensure a level of literacy that would enable them to continue learning ontheir own if they wished to. Strong emphasis was therefore placed on the pedagogical issuesinvolved in literacy instruction. Learning achievement results revealed that over 80% of thelearners who completed the campaign were able to read comprehensively a short text onhuman rights, and to write creatively about their own experience in the campaign.  Around 350,000 literacy learners (“ alfabetizandos ”), including children, youth and adults,were enrolled in rural and urban areas. We established 12 years – not 15 - as the minimumage. However, as expected, many children under that age enrolled (children with no schoolexperience or early school dropouts), and many learned together with their parents. Literacyeducators were oriented to organize separate groups for children, youth and adults whenever possible.  The campaign aimed at addressing the needs of both the illiterate and the semi-literate(people with some school experience, but with weak reading and writing skills). Thus, amongothers, pedagogical instructions for literacy educators included peer tutoring and peer learning, with those with some school experience helping their less advanced classmates.Learning results of the campaign, however, showed no significant differences between thoseenrolled with some previous school experience and those with none.  Around 75,000 secondary-school students participated as literacy educators. Specialattention was given to their education and training vis a vis their multiple tasks during thecampaign. A two-pronged training program was designed for them. The program lasted 8months and started 5 months before the actual literacy instruction period. Training includedboth (a) distance education (a Literacy Educators' Library consisting of 32 booklets ondifferent topics that were published weekly and distributed on a massive scale throughout thecountry prior to and throughout the campaign) and (b) face-to-face education (one-weekworkshops organized with the assistance of educational videos especially prepared for thecampaign).  In order to enhance adult enrolment and learning, every secondary-school involved in thecampaign was instructed to organize two types of brigades: (a) brigades dedicated to literacyinstruction, and (b) brigades aimed at providing support to learners, such as taking care of young children while their parents -especially mothers- attended classes. Students engagedin both types of brigades obtained a formal recognition for their contribution to the campaignand to the country.  Human Rights were adopted as the overall framework and content of the campaign. Thetwelve lessons of the literacy primer Nuestros Derechos ( Our Rights ) were organizedaround the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (each lesson refers to one or to a group of related human rights). The training of literacy educators also focused on Human Rights andtheir relationship to Ecuador's realities in the fields of health, nutrition, education, gender equality, freedom of expression, etc.  Approaches, methodologies and techniques proposed for literacy teaching incorporatedupdated trends in literacy instruction and benefited from updated research in this field. Thepreparation of literacy materials was based on an analysis of a large sample of literacy 2  materials previously produced and used in Ecuador as well as in other Latin Americancountries.  The campaign was not conceived as an isolated effort for adult education, but rather as astrategy to change and revitalize the formal school system. Thus, the campaign was linked tothe formal system in a number of ways:it was conducted by the Ministry of Education, and involved Universities andNGOs dedicated to education throughout the country;the literacy educators were secondary-school students for whom the campaignwas a requisite for graduation, and whose technical advisers and brigadescoordinators were their own secondary-school teachers;all materials prepared for the campaign -including the 32 booklets of the LiteracyEducators' Library- were distributed to all primary schools and primary schoolteachers;specific training plans were designed for each of the groups involved in thecampaign: secondary-school students, secondary-school teachers, and Ministry of Education staff at the central, intermediate and local level;a radio program with pedagogical orientations was broadcast nationally onSaturdays and Sundays, addressing all these sectors of the teaching profession.  In 1989, the campaign received the Latin American Human Rights Award granted by theLatin American Association for Human Rights (ALDHU). In 1990, UNESCO-Paris selected itas one of five adult literacy experiences – the only one from Latin America - to be presentedat a special panel during the World Conference on Education for All held in Jomtien,Thailand (5-9, March 1990). In 1993 UNICEF-New York included this experience in a dossier of inspiring practices in literacy efforts worldwide.  The campaign was not meant as a one-shot action and as end in itself, but rather as astarting point of an educational process addressing not only the newly literate but also theentire society. Therefore, the campaign was followed by the National Program El Ecuador Estudia (Ecuador Studies), which included Adult Basic Education (EBA) as one of itscomponents. The program aimed at creating a foundation for a wide educational movementin support of education and educational reform. Within this framework, the Ministry of Education organized in 1992 the National Consultation Education 21st Century .Among others, the national literacy campaign “Monsignor Leonidas Proaño” demonstratedthat:(a) massive literacy campaigns with wide social participation are possible not only inrevolutionary contexts (such as in Cuba, Nicaragua, China, Tanzania, etc) but also in non-revolutionary contexts;(b) effective literacy learning results can be achieved, if pedagogical and technical issues areplaced at the center, subordinating ideological and political interests, and if learning andquality are also placed at the center, much more than concerns around statistics of coverage,figures and literacy rates; 3  (c) young students can make excellent literacy educators and community organizers if provided with adequate training and support, empowered and reinforced in their self-confidence and self-esteem;(d) public opinion and social participation in education can be achieved through a processthat shows things happening and positive results on the ground;(e) a literacy campaign can be an effective means to build momentum and social commitmenttowards a long-term education and pedagogical reform movement.Skepticism on literacy campaigns is based on a particular stereotype of literacy campaigns.Effective adult literacy campaigns and programs are possible, when technical aspectspredominate over political ones, when holistic and strategic dominate the scenario, whenlearning and learners are placed at the center, and when actions are explicitly articulated tothe school system and its reform as well as to the overall education, social and human rightspolicies. Source: Rosa María Torres,  Alfabetización, Derechos Humanos y Reforma Educativa: LaCampaña Monseñor Leonidas Proaño del Ecuador  , UNESCO-OREALC, Santiago, 1994 (draft,unpublished). 4
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