This research work is an action research investigating into the issues of illiteracy in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). An action research is a type of qualitative research of cyclical nature which is used to improve practice (Parsons and Brown, 2002). In other words, the work is meant to aid in executing an action program that will help reduce illiteracy in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi.
It is meant to be cyclical in nature in that it is also intended to improve the provision of adult literacy with time by providing a means by which the program can be adequately implemented and improved upon with time. The results of this work identified the specific areas that call for attention in the provision of education for Abu Dhabi adults that are forty years old and over. It also suggested ways of assessing progress and improving upon the program with time.
At the end, the research work became a useful resource for Abu Dhabi’s Western Region Development Council (WRDC) and other organizations who are stakeholders in improving adult learning in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi. This chapter describes the stages and processes that were involved in carrying out the research work. It presented the data gathering processes, describing also, the target research participants, the research locations, involvements of the main stakeholder organization, other stakeholders’ roles, and action plan towards the adoption, implementation, evaluation, and review of the research results.
Research Design and Procedure The research approach involved data gathering activities aimed at obtaining all the relevant information about illiteracy in the target region for this research. Multiple sources and research instruments were used for the data gathering process. These includes, previous socio-economic studies in the Western Region, the statistics of adult students in the literacy classes as obtained from the Family Development Foundation and Abu Dhabi Education Council, surveys and interviews with illiterate adults (forty years and over), and so on.
The research made use of research samples of adults who are forty years and above in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi. The samples of necessity consisted mostly of illiterates within the region. In addition, other sources were employed in gathering information and these shall be discussed further in the sections following. The data were thereafter analyzed to draw out workable solutions for the adult literacy program in the Western Region. Interviews with a Sample of Illiterate Adults Aged Forty Years and Over.
The interviews were conducted shortly after establishing initial contacts and discussing with parties that are of interest in the illiteracy issue. The interviews aim at establishing the attitudes of the old illiterates in the Western Region (40 years and over) towards the remedial measures being taken to reduce illiteracy and how they have come to accept the current adult literacy program arranged by WRDC. Though the interviews were not formal or structured, questions were set to serve as guidelines during the interviews.
A sample of the set of questions that were asked is as presented in Appendix A. For a proper geographical representation, the interviewees were picked from across the cities within the Western Region of Abu Dhabi and not just located from one city. The six cities from which the interviewees were drawn are Madinat Zayed, Al Mirfa, Ghayathi, Sila, Dalma, and Peda Al Mutawa. There was no strict pattern for the selection of the sample. Rather, convenience sample approach was used. The interviews spanned over a period of two months.
In order to make it more flexible, the interviews were conducted through different means. This included personal face-to-face interviews, informal chatting during family and social gatherings, informal or semi formal phone chatting, and so on. The general strategy for the interviews was to start with broad questions and then follow up on the interviewee’s responses. Efforts were made to gain a full understanding of how each of the respondents captured the meaning of each question.
This helped to avoid imposing meanings on the interviewee. Rather, it helped the interview process to achieve its target of obtaining information purely as reflected by the adult illiterates. In addition, the interviews were done in a language that each interviewee understood rather than conducting exclusively in English or other unfamiliar languages. Most especially, the approach of adopting a mixture of languages was employed to ensure that each interviewee feels at home in responding to the questions.
This is necessary in order to obtain a feedback that is not influenced by any adverse or embarrassing conditions during the interview and this includes the effects that language barrier may have on the respondents if unfamiliar languages were used. Survey to Investigate the Reasons Behind Illiteracy for Adults Forty Years Old and Above. This is another research instrument that was used in addition to the interview. This is also more like the interview but is more formal in nature and administration.
The intention of this was to obtain information from the illiterate adults as regards the reasons behind their illiteracy. In other words, it intends to establish the reasons for the occurrence of high illiteracy rates in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi. While the interviews responses will establish that there are indeed illiterate adults in this region and provide clues as regards the attitudes of the illiterates towards adult literacy, the survey results will explain the reasons behind the occurrence of high illiteracy rate.
As it was for the interview, the survey was conducted using a research sample of adult illiterates (forty years and over) obtained across the cities of the Western Region. The sample was drawn from Madinat Zayed, Al Mirfa, Ghayathi, Sila, and Dalma. In addition, the language was such that the respondents understood the questions being asked except in cases where this was a measure of the illiteracy levels of the respondents. The sample of the survey questions are as presented in appendix B below. Need Assessment Survey – to know the learning needs of adult learners at the Western Region of Abu Dhabi.
The ultimate objectives of this work are to ensure that the reasons behind high illiteracy rates are unearthed in the Western Region, and to enhance a high rate of patronage of the adult literacy classes. Thus, it will be necessary to gain insight into the learning needs of these illiterate adults so that the program may not continue to disappoint their expectations. In other words, there is a need to make the program all encompassing, meeting the expectations and the learning needs of the adults for who the program has been established.
Moreover, the program should also be able to meet the needs of anticipating learners. In this light, a survey was also conducted to assess the learning needs of the illiterate adults at the Western Region. The sample of the survey instrument for this assessment is as included in appendix C. The survey sample at this time cut across the cities in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi. However, the age range of the survey sample was deliberately chosen to be below 40 years.
This is due to the fact it is not exclusively those above 40 years of age that has learning needs and it will be advantageous to set up a program that will be all encompassing, taking care of the needs of learners from age grades lower than 40 years. The sample age range was fixed between 20 and 70 years. It is to be noted that the assessment was not limited only to adults who have been enrolled in the program and are still part of the training. The sample also included those who were enrolled but could not continue as well as those who did not enroll at any time.
Again, the language of the survey was that which the respondents understand well and did not influence their responses in any way. Equipments Need Assessment. After obtaining the results of the three earlier mentioned surveys, an assessment of the equipments need for the present adult learning centers in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi was carried out. Precisely, the five Family Development Foundation (FDF) female adult learning centers in the Western Region’s cities (one each in five cities of Abu Dhabi Western Region – Madinat Zayed, Al Mirfa, Ghayathi, Sila, and Dalma) were assessed.
This was carried out in conjunction with the FDF to give weight to the exercise and ensure detailed responses. A formal letter was sent to each of the centers asking them to identify and state their needs in terms of the facilities, resources and other materials for their adult education classes, as it is peculiar to each center. These responses could also be used to infer what the needs of the corresponding evening male classes are to an appreciable degree of accuracy. The male classes are also five (one in each of the five cities earlier mentioned).
In addition, in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) a survey of the current enrollment in each of these male and female centers was taken. This provided a baseline for comparison with the current situation in adult literacy efforts across other cities and regions of Abu Dhabi. Adoption and Implementation of Research Results This research work was carried out to establish practical solutions for illiterate people in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi especially those who are not interesting in the current official adult education program.
The results of this work is to aid the main stakeholder organization, (WRDC) establish flexible adult learning program for adults who are 40 years or older but are not interested in the mainstream adult education options. In addition, the program would adopt lifelong learning approach towards literacy. On the long run, the outcome of the program, through the facilitation of the research, will improve on the social, health and economic conditions of the beneficiaries.
After the fieldwork, the data were analyzed and the results obtained. Thereafter, in conjunction with WRDC and based on the results of the analysis, a strategic proposal/plan was drawn to provide a more workable and lasting solution in handling the peculiarities of adult learning in Abu Dhabi’s Western Region. This was then presented for discussions with other stakeholders whose support had been enlisted in the research work. The stakeholders are the Family Development Foundation (FDF) and Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC).
At the end of the stakeholders’ discussions, the proposal was reviewed and modified with the specific roles of each of the partners in the proposal clearly defined. The discussions also involved the program cost breakdown and budget. The funding for the program was then shared among the three parties involved in the program. Thereafter, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was drafted and signed by the three parties. The Roles of the Partners in Program Planning and Execution. The WRDC was to conduct needs assessment for Western Region’s illiterate participants.
Information to be gathered include their age, gender, willingness to participate in the program and for how many days or hours per week, preferred period of the day for lectures (wither morning or evening), preferred program duration (how many months or year), preferred location for lectures (whether in a Family Development Foundation’s learning center, a nearby school or other preferred locations), transportation needs, preferred subjects, how they want to learn, and so on. This has been carried out earlier in the fieldwork as described in the previous sections. ADEC’s role was to identify needed learning materials (e. g. extbooks, copybooks, teacher guidebook, hand outs, etc) in addition to other similar roles.
In addition, FDF has the role of clarifying learning environment characteristics and needs. These needs are mainly related to the equipments and furniture needs at the learning centers. These roles had been carried out as described earlier as well. ADEC and FDF also specified manpower plan and provided human recourses for the program. These include program managers and teachers (qualified and well trained from both sexes), class cleaners and so on. Moreover, ADEC worked on the provision of the program instructional design and development.
This role involves specification of the program goals and objectives, analysis of task components of the program goals and purposes, identification of learners characteristics that will influence instructional design, drawing up of program curriculum and subjects contents, alignment of subjects contents within each instructional unit for logical learning, design of instructional strategies (putting in mind the needs of learners), selection of resources to achieve the instructional objectives, and the development of evaluation instruments to measure the achievement of objectives.
WRDC carried out the program awareness campaigns. The WRDC designed the promotional materials, displayed posters, signs and similar campaign materials talking about the adult learning program at designated areas, arranged and coordinated public lectures with illiterate adults (the target audience), and produced articles for newsletter campaigns. FDF handles the execution and management of the program. That is, the foundation was saddled with the responsibility of running the program.
This includes registration and admission into classes, appointment of teachers, delivery and management of lectures and so on. The main subjects taught are basic reading and writing, the Holy Quran and mathematics. The Roles of the Partners in Program Evaluation and Monitoring. ADEC conducted formative written and verbal tests for the participants in each stream of lectures and WRDC conducted learners’ satisfaction survey asking them to rate the adult learning program schedule, learning materials, the classes and the quality of learning facilities.
Then, the three parties met again to review the program and seek for ways of modifying it to be more result achieving. The results of tests and surveys were useful in informing on the necessary modifications. The modes and strategies for implementing the recommended changes were further discussed. Thus, this set the stage for the implementation of the refined program. Furthermore, semi-annual meetings were arranged to discuss further periodic reviews of the program. The results of the fieldwork and the progress made in the course of implementation and evaluation shall be discussion in the next chapter.