Implementation and aims
The pilot in the Netherlands can be characterised as a quick screening for low literacy, followed by referral to appropriate training facilities where the education and coaching would take place. In the Netherlands, the focus is on three intervention strategies:
- Tools – At the heart of the GOAL project in the Netherlands is a Literacy Screener, the Taalmeter. This is an online tool with which organisations can identify quickly and easily those people who may have difficulty reading.
- Outreach activities – In terms of reaching out to service users with low literacy, gains can be made in the Netherlands. That is why this outreach aspect forms the core of the Dutch GOAL intervention. This outreach involves expanding the number and range of identification sites where people are screened for low basic skills in an accessible setting (organisations in which people enter for a completely different – i.e. non-literacy-related – reason).
- High-quality guidance services – The evaluation study linked to the GOAL pilot offers leads for improving the guiding process – low literacy screening and referral to a suitable language course in organisations where tackling low literacy is not the main task – and for implementation on a larger scale in the Netherlands.
Strengths and achievements
The major success of the Dutch GOAL pilot is the successful screening of people who potentially have low basic skills in an accessible setting. In the four pilot organisations, use of the Literacy Screener was implemented into regular work processes. This was possible with a devoted person ‘carrying the load’ in each organisation. At their arrival, clients are asked to take the Literacy Screener as standard. Programme staff members found good ways to introduce the Literacy Screener to clients. In general, clients react well to the Literacy Screener and are cooperative. This is confirmed by the outcome of the client satisfaction survey and the follow-up interviews with participants.
The Literacy Screener is conducted by people who have time to do so (in many cases unpaid workers: trainees or volunteers). The tool can be conducted quickly and easily, and the outcome provides information that helps organisations develop their services further. Together, during the GOAL pilot, they conducted 1,525 Literacy Screeners (far more than the intended 400), identifying 465 people with potential low literacy.
Challenges and barriers
The follow-up (i.e. the flow of clients with an unsatisfactory score on the Literacy Screener into language courses) is the major weakness of the Dutch intervention. Especially in the municipality of Emmen and PI Lelystad, this inflow is very low. In all four pilot organisations, various departments/functions are involved in the guidance process. In the municipality of Emmen and PI Lelystad, however, there is no common vision or integrated approach yet. This makes setting up a proper follow-up for clients more difficult.
In this evaluation study, it was found that a considerable number of clients (especially in the municipality of Emmen, but on a smaller scale also in PI Lelystad and PI Achterhoek) were not willing to consider taking a language course. In the first place, clients do not recognise or admit they have language problems (this applies to clients from the municipality of Emmen whose native language is Dutch). On the one hand, a sense of shame has some influence here. On the other hand, some clients really do not recognise the added value or the practical importance of a language course. Speaking a language is only one part of literacy; there is also reading and writing. It seems that because people speak fluently Dutch, they feel that they have no need of improvement in the other aspects of language. In the second place, taking a language course takes time which clients would rather spend on something else.
Additionally, the penitentiary institutions experience specific difficulties that are related to the special nature of the organisations: limited capacity (limited number of language volunteers available), complicated planning (including language courses in the detainees’ schedule and the language volunteers’ schedule) and difficulty of monitoring continuity (detainees are transferred to other departments, sometimes suddenly, or are released from prison).
Baseline and progress across GOAL’s five intervention strategies
The table below provides a brief evaluative summary of the quality of different aspects of the GOAL programme in the Netherlands, comparing quality at the start of the evaluation (baseline) and at the end. In this table, we provide numerical ratings for each of the five intervention areas, and an explanation of that rating for each category. These ratings and explanations are provided for the start of the evaluation and the end, with the aim of briefly summarising key issues and change over time. In addition to provide ratings and commentary for the five core GOAL intervention areas, we also address overall service quality and policy interest/support. The latter is a key factor in determining future programme sustainability.