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ABE and Other Adult Literacy Programs

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Literacy helps individuals continue to learn new information, read for pleasure, read newspapers to be informed about the world and their communities, handle everyday tasks, and become independent and take care of their own needs.

Literacy is also important to allow older people to remain in or rejoin the workforce or to contribute to society through volunteer-ism and civic participation.

Many factors help explain why so many adults demonstrate English literacy skills in the lowest proficiency level. Many are immigrants who have not yet learned to speak English. Others have terminated their education before completing high school. Others have physical, mental, or health conditions that keep them from participating fully in work, school, housework, or other activities.

As part of their workload, adult education teachers prepare les-sons and assignments, grade papers and do related paperwork, attend faculty or professional meetings, and stay abreast of developments in their field.

ABE teachers may refer students for counseling or job placement. Because many people who need adult basic education are reluctant to seek it, teachers also may recruit participants.

Sample Literacy Job Listing

A County Library is seeking an experienced adult literacy specialist to work at the library's Second Chance Program. This is a part-time, 15 to 20 hours a week, temporary position.

The successful candidate will primarily be responsible for student support activities that will include: providing workshops and experiences for the students to promote the development of personal advocacy and leadership skills; offering computer-assisted learning and instruction in the use of the Internet; tracking and recording student achievements, including the development and implementation of an 'exit interview' questionnaire; assisting with student recruitment and volunteer training; and supervising part-time student advocates. Must be available some nights and weekends.

Minimum Requirements: Valid driver's license required. Possession of a baccalaureate degree with a major in education, psychology, communications, humanities, social science, or a closely related behavioral science field.

Experience: One year of full-time or its equivalent experience in adult literacy programs or as a certified teacher of educationally or economically disadvantaged groups.

Substitution for Education: Additional qualifying experience of the type noted above may be substituted for the required education on a year-for-year basis up to a maximum of four years.

The selection process includes an application and an interview.


It's estimated that more than one thousand million people around the world speak or are studying how to speak English. They choose to learn English for a number of reasons: to attend colleges and universities in English-speaking countries, to ensure better business communications, to enhance employability, to facilitate government relations, to create a more rewarding travel experience, or, for many, to be able to communicate day-to-day in the English-speaking country in which they live.

In the United States alone, a recent study revealed that more than 2.5 million non-native English speakers with limited English proficiency enrolled in U.S. public schools, grades K through twelve. This figure is a 68.6 percent increase from previous years.

Enrollment in adult programs during the same period was reported at approximately 1.2 million, a 40 percent increase from the previous available figures.

It is safe to assume that the demand for English instruction around the world also will continue to rise. This means many opportunities for instructors who are interested in living and working outside of North America.


The General Educational Development (GED) tests give adults sixteen and older who did not graduate from high school the opportunity to earn a high school equivalency diploma. The GED diploma is recognized nationwide by employers and educators and has increased education and employment opportunities for millions of adults since 1942.

The GED was developed and is administered by the General Educational Development Testing Service. More than 750,000 adults each year take the GED exam. About one out of every seven people who receive high school diplomas each year earns that diploma by passing the GED tests.

The GED Testing Service contracts with nearly 3,500 official GED testing centers in the United States, Canada, and overseas to provide test materials and to monitor services to examinees. The GED testing program is jointly administered by the GED Testing Service of the American Council on Education and each participating state, provincial, or territorial department or ministry of education.

Sixty-five percent of GED test takers plan to enter a college, university, or trade, technical, or business school during the year following the test. The average age of people taking the GED exam is 24.7. More than 95 percent of employers nationwide employ GED graduates on the same basis as high school graduates in terms of hiring, salary, and opportunity for advancement.

The adult education programs of most school boards provide classes to help students prepare for the GED battery of tests.


Although there are exceptions, applicants for naturalization must be able to read, write, speak, and understand words in ordinary usage in the English language. Applicants for U.S. citizenship must also have knowledge of U.S. history and government.


Most jobs in adult remedial education, including ABE, ESL, GED training, and citizenship classes, are provided by city and county school boards. School board sponsored classes can be held in public schools during the evening hours, in local community centers during the day, and some ABE and GED programs are available in hospitals and prisons.

Teaching English as a second language (TESL) often falls into the category of ABE, and the job settings are more varied for this particular aspect. In addition to evening ABE programs through the public schools, you can find ESL classes on the campuses of community colleges and four-year colleges and universities, in private language schools, and also as part of the regular curriculum in the primary and secondary grades.
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