Good practice: Letters for Life

Letters for Life is a Portuguese initiative of Coimbra Higher Education School-Polytechnic Institute of Coimbra, developed between 2015 and 2017. It is available in Portuguese, referring to literacy, civic, personal and interpersonal and digital capabilities and targets dropouts as well as people who never attended school. 

The Portuguese adult literacy project Letters for life, contributed by the EAEA, develops workshops to promote literacy, family literacy, empowerment, civic education, self-esteem, self-efficacy and social inclusion, targeting people who never went to school or left school without completing basic education. Letters for Life also promotes social participation through digital literacy: for example, it provides older learners with knowledge and skills on how to use smartphones, computers, internet and social media. The program does not just work for the community, it includes working with the community and values the role of the (potential) partners.

The courses of the program are tailor-made in line with the learner’s needs. The learners are authors of their own education as they can choose the goals they want to achieve and contribute to defining the learning strategies. It is beneficial and important that different groups of learners meet in the same environment and support each other while they obtain ‘literacy with the heart’, and thus the affections are at the centre of all andragogic dynamics.

The innovative aspect of the program Letters for Life is that anyone can use the methodology anywhere in the form of workshops with a small group of local participants. The approach of ‘Paulo Freire’s methodology in a friendly environment’ can be easily applied by anyone (participants learn in an enriched environment with books around the walls, dictionaries and other auxiliary materials, flowers, and local and national newspapers on the table, which can be combined anywhere). The learning offers a starting point for the participants and thus is not linked to a particular context/educational system. It includes a multidisciplinary team alongside specific training in adult education and emancipatory literacy.