ELSA Literacy Assesments

A person with good written and verbal language skills and good psychomotor skills could learn to master the generic operating skills and pass the knowledge assessment within a shorter period. Learners who have low literacy skills need additional coaching and learning to master the same learning programme. English Literacy Assessment (ELSA) assesses the language and numeracy competency input levels of respondents with educational levels up to ABET IV/Grade 9. In diagnosing, it shows up an individual’s strengths and weaknesses in an English language work/training environment

All qualifications and unit standards registered on the National Qualifications Framework require the learner to be at a certain Abet Level. Abet assessments should be conducted in the pre- employment process and before training commences.(Abet levels can be provided on request)

ELSA is unique in that it:

Predicts trainability outcomes, i.e. in formal training situations where English is the language of learning (medium of instruction)
Equates the functional skills level of a respondent to that of an English Mother Tongue (EMT) user
Shows up an individual’s strengths and weaknesses in an English language training environment, and
Prescribes remedial treatment and how to effect proficiency.

The question arises: why the fuss? Why not use school levels instead? After all, everybody learns English at school, and every school leaver gets an accredited school leaving certificate. The answer is simple: research shows that scholastic levels and English literacy (functional) levels are like chalk and cheese. This is especially true for the vast majority of African language users whose preferred language of learning is English (SAAL-E).

Second language users are either co-ordinate or compound bilinguals: A co-ordinate bilingual would be an employee who has acquired English by natural assimilation and, as a result, finds a transition to “learning in and through” English relatively easy. The co-ordinate bilingual copes because of COPE, i.e. COgnition and Proficiency (listening, speaking, reading, writing) in English. Compound bilinguals, on the other hand, learn the symbols of English as mother tongue equivalents. In other words, they apply their mother tongue as a mediator. If a compound bilingual is highly motivated and exposed to good models, he/she can attain a high level of competence at school and in the workplace. Yet, if the compound bilingual is poorly motivated and, in addition, exposed to bad models, he/she will be barely competent – even incompetent.What is more, this particular employee – and he/she is the rule rather than the exception in Southern Africa – finds the transition to “learning in and through” English very difficult. The compound bilingual does not cope because he/she lacks COPE, i.e. COgnition and Proficiency in English. He/she “loses meaning”, hence his/her tendency to revert to rote learning – which is meaningless learning. Meaningful learning implies conceptualization; i.e. integrating new knowledge with existing knowledge. Rote learning and memorization do not allow for the integration of new knowledge with existing knowledge. In fact, they even make learning systems dysfunctional in their entirety.

ELSA is a group assessment and the duration is approx. 60 minutes. Its predictive validity is 84% and its reliability 0,67. Major benefits are:

ELSA picks out employees with poorly developed COPE-skills. Once they have been identified, their COPE-skills can be upgraded
ELSA ascertains and verifies COPE-skills of new recruits
ELSA helps the employer to determine the “literacy” comfort zone of his/her workforce which, in turn, enables the employer to make training manuals, in-house publications, standing orders, IR procedures, memos, etc., user-friendly.

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