National University of Science and technology, Islamabad (PAKISTAN)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN15 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 5420-5426
ISBN: 978-84-606-8243-1
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 7th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-8 July, 2015
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Illiteracy, unemployment and inflation result in further marginalizing the already socially and financially disadvantaged class of society. A four week long action research project with a focus on critical praxis is implemented in order to provide English literacy skills to adults with exposure of English as a Second Language. A focus group of eight people belonging to the socio-economically marginalized class of society was selected.

The outcomes are analyzed to describe the level of proficiency achieved in the English language. They also explore how both outcomes and processes can contribute to bridging the gap between the different factions of society, empower the marginalized class and eventually lead towards emancipation.

The research is based on Paulo Freire’s Adult Speed Literacy approach that was implemented in the 1960’s in Brazil for peasants, and comprised of three stages: Study of the Context, Selection of Words from the Discovered Vocabulary, and the Actual Process of Literacy Training. Following this approach, in the first stage of this study, data was collected through informal interviews of participants where they were asked about their daily life activities and problems. In the second stage, common words that held significant meaning for the participants were selected. These words are called generative words as they “have [the] power to generate other words for the learners”. The third stage is further divided into three sub stages: motivational sessions, the development of teaching materials, and literacy training, or decodification. Motivational sessions include the display of a picture by the teacher who encourages the participants to have a collaborative discussion. Development of teaching materials involves the showing of cards that display the breakdown of a word into its respective syllables and pictures that depict scenarios related to the word; Freire describes this as codification: “process of developing images of concrete realities”. In decodification, where the generative word and picture are shown to the participants and the family of each syllable is shown, the learners created other words using these syllables and their families.

Freire’s approach has two key characteristics: it is dialogic and problem posing. According to Freire, dialogue means two way communication where the teacher and students are on an equitable footing in terms of knowledge levels. Moreover, problem posing means incorporating cultural themes in the lesson plan through various methods of display and generating a discussion by asking open ended questions.

At the end of the four week cycle, a test was conducted to measure the participants’ levels of proficiency and English vocabulary. This test was the list of “Action Verbs” words provided by ESL Gold, complexity level “Low Beginning” (ESL Gold n.d.). Out of 45 words, 2 participants scored more than 35; 3 scored more than 30, 1 scored more than 25 and 2 scored less than 25. The participants could read and write simple sentences about their daily life. Apart from that, the collective learning dimensions emerged from the group discussions and an atmosphere of trust was built. A sense of being worthy of respect was established, the participants felt that they could change their socio economic conditions and ensure better circumstances for their children by educating them.

[1] n.d. ESL Gold. Accessed January 28, 2015.
Adult Education, Speed Literacy, English as a Second Language, Socio-Economically Marginalized, Empowerment, Minorities, Emancipation.