Adult Education Training Literacy :: Literacy Day

Written by Jackie Carroll, CEO of Media Works

The 8th of September is World Literacy Day. According to data released by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, adult literacy and youth literacy rates continue to rise, which is good news! However, “literacy for all – children, youth and adults – is still an unaccomplished goal and an-ever moving target”. In 2013, UNESCO reported that 774 million adults (15 years and older) still cannot read or write – two-thirds of them (493 million) are women.

The 2012 General Household Survey (GHS) conducted by Statistics South Africa found that 92.9% of South Africans can read and write. What makes me nervous about this figure is that the way they defined literacy. According to the GHS, the adult education literacy rate is “the self-reported ability to read and write short sentences” and it assumes that anyone with an education level equal to or higher than Grade 7 is literate.  Adults over the age of 15 with an education lower than Grade 7 were asked if they were able to write their name, read, fill in a form, write a letter, count change or read road signs. The results were astonishing –almost 7% of the population have some or a lot of difficulty reading, or are unable to read. To summarise, this means that 18,9 million people over the age of 20 and have a highest education level of between Grade 7 and 11, were not asked if they have any difficulty reading or writing!

We must remember that the literacy rate is not a measurement of high level training and education. It measures the percentage of people with the ability to read for knowledge, write coherently and think critically about the written word. To be literate, one must be able not only to decipher the symbols which make up words but also to interpret text or read for meaning.


Adult Education Training :: Literacy Day

Adults need to be able to read, as it enables independence for them. People who are able to read, can conduct their own affairs – banking, applications for accounts and dealing with correspondence. Also, if a person is able to read, they are able to formulate their own opinions on issues such as politics and labour situations. Being able to read the newspaper for example enables people to arrive at their own conclusions and not blindly follow what has been told to them, as they know no different.

What can be done to improve the numbers in South Africa?  In my opinion, the new General Education and Training Certificate for Adults (GETCA) is the answer. Earlier this year I collaborated with Umalusi as part of the Qualifications Reference Group that is responsible for drafting the GETCA. It is the equivalent of Grade 9 and takes into account the needs of adults – they are not the same as a school-going child. It will eventually replace the GETC: ABET (Adult Education Training) (NQF Level 1)

The GETCA is curriculum-based and requires adults to pass a minimum of four subjects. It is through this qualification that we are trying to improve on past practices namely:

  • Raising the pass mark to 50%
  • Insisting on Maths Core and not Maths Literacy
  • A curriculum that is specifically designed for out of school youth who have lost the opportunity to finish formal schooling
  • Articulation into the NASCA (National Senior Certificate for Adults) which will ensure further educational opportunities.

This draft qualification was sent out for comment and a lot of positive feedback was received. We made the minor adjustments that were recommended and it is now ready to be signed off by the Minister and shall then be gazetted.

I look forward to the day when this new approach is implemented and we begin to see more and more adults become productive members of society. As Kofi Annan said,”Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right. Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realise his or her full potential.”

Notes to the Editor:

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About Media Works:

  • Media Works is an Adult Education Training (AET) provider, accredited by Umalusi, with the drive and energy to tackle literacy and numeracy challenges in South Africa and in the rest of the world. They have built their company to be a leader in this industry based on this passion. Over the last three years, the company has trained an average of 40 000 AET learners per year.
  • Through a process of focused research and experience gained at the cutting edge of skills and knowledge transfer, Media Works is able to offer organisations world class, cost-effective localised products and services.
  • Media Works has developed customised computer-assisted AET (Adult Education Training) products that boast an 80%-plus pass rate.
  • The company offers a number of training delivery methods including computer-assisted, face-to-face and a combination of the two (blended learning), which has enabled thousands of ABET learners to access learning and upskill themselves.
  • Using the Blended Learning approach, learners are taught by following lessons on the computer, completing written exercises in a workbook and interacting with a facilitator on a regular basis.
  • The wide range of AET subjects and programmes cover everything that is needed to get a workforce productive, including subject matter that tackles basic literacy and numeracy.
  • For more information, please visit