With an illiteracy rate estimated at 11.2 per cent, which is relatively high when compared to the EU25 rate of 15.2 per cent, illiterates are a matter of concern. Furthermore, persons with low levels of literacy who are facing social exclusion and difficulties to access the labour market require more specific intervention. Each year, all the project partners reach over 100 persons with literacy difficulties. This calls for focused action to address and reach out to the most vulnerable. The Maltese Government has recognised the need to address the low levels of literacy and the need to support disadvantaged groups to access education and the labour market. This is highlighted in various key documents including the National Action Plan for Inclusion 2006-2008, the Operational Programme II Empowering People for more jobs and a better quality of life and the Pre-Budget Document.
Under the ESF Programme for 2004-2006 ESF 18 and ESF 4 have both produced manuals and other material to help with literacy of adults. This project intends to add value and complement both projects. Both projects assume that the learner already knows how to read. The aim of the project is to take a more basic approach and its tool will start from letter recognition and learning the sound of the letters (phonics).
This is essential for those who do not know how or find it difficult or read very badly and it is envisaged that this toolkit will address the gap which is within this vulnerable group of people within Maltese society. In the development of this tool, various factors which previously were side-lined were taken into consideration. The training techniques of this toolkit have a strong visual aspect, hence facilitating the recognition of letters. A difference in content will ensure that the material produced will be specific for two main groups, mainly adults and children. The product is interactive with audio, easily accessible and intuitive. It is accessible on the widest possible variety of computer platforms. It is fun to use and provides enough stimuli to keep the end user interested. This adds another dimension and introduces the learner to the use of a computer as a learning tool. Being IT interactive the product helps both trainer and trainee with better teaching skills and rapid progress.
Through the use of visual material, the tool kit also helps to provide computer orientation skills and promotes the value of work. This helps to address other key needs being faced by the target group, which includes lack of computer literacy skills and the need to help break the cycle of being fully dependent on benefit systems. Furthermore employment, which can become more of a reality following the training, will help the persons facing social exclusion to develop social networks at work and during training, thus providing more opportunities to integrate better in society.
NB 1 National Action Plan against Poverty and Social Exclusion 2004-2006, Light Update Report 2005, pp. 7. This is based on the whole population including the older age groups who were not provided with compulsory education when they were young. 2 Source for EU data: Eurostat, 27 June 2006, extracted on 10 October 2006 as quoted in the OPERATIONAL PROGRAMME II