The IIZ/DVV was invited by the World Bank to undertake a document study on two (2) strategies to promote literacy and training for livelihood skills:
In other words, one of these strategies is to use literacy programmes to help learners to make their livelihood skills more productive.
The other strategy is to make use of vocational training programmes - agricultural extension, micro enterprises - by incorporating relevant aspects of reading, writing and mathematics.
The research team, headed by Dr John Oxenham, consultant in chief, examined four (4) African countries in detail, Uganda, Kenya, Senegal and Guinea, and sifted the documentation held by a number of bilateral and multilateral organizations.
Our aim was to assess whether this type of incorporation can:
This invitation grew out of the World Bank evaluation of technical and vocational education policy in Africa. The Bank wished to look at the issue from the perspective of Education for All and lifelong learning, rather than solely that of schools, colleges, technical institutes and universities.
The complete report is being published in the Human Development Working Papers Series by the Africa Region of the World Bank. It can be requested at email@example.com. It will also be available electronically from the World Bank. In the Bank’s programme of work the study is one of a series of studies in the Africa Region on how best to support countries that wish to invest in vocational skills development. It also supplements earlier studies published recently on Adult Basic Education. More information on these studies is found at the Bank’s Adult Outreach Education website http://www1.worldbank.org/education/adultoutreach/publication.htm. The financial contribution of the Norwegian Education Trust Fund for Africa to these studies is much appreciated. Because of the size of the bibliography and the large number of references, we have only listed those relevant to the passages which we have published.
In April 2000, the delegates at the World Education Forum in Senegal collectively drew up the Dakar Framework for Action, in which they committed themselves to do everything possible to
The World Bank was one of the key players in the preparation and implementation of the Forum, along with UNESCO, UNICEF and the ILO, among other concerned UN organizations. Our Institute was involved in the preparatory process in Germany and participated in Dakar as one of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in education and development. For us, this marked another milestone in our almost four decades of continuous support for adult literacy with partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
When the Human Development Sector of the Africa Region of the World Bank asked whether we would be interested in managing a study of literacy and livelihoods, we could not but immediately agree on both the importance of the research and our readiness to support it. We considered it a great opportunity to inject fresh information and ideas into the discussion of approaches to improving literacy interventions in practice and theory, whether from our own many projects and publications or from the programs and documents of others. Over the years, our partners have again and again debated with us questions such as “Does literacy come first and development follow?” or “How much literacy is needed as a prerequisite to development?” or “How can both be integrated?” The issue of the relationship between literacy, skills training and livelihoods widens this quest for improved developmental outcomes. We think that the title “Strengthening Livelihoods with Literacy” adequately reflects the findings of the study. It is at the same time a programmatic title for future literacy endeavours by governments, NGOs, co-operating agencies, and the participants themselves.
It is our feeling that the study team has done an excellent job. At the beginning of the study, a workshop including the four authors of the country cases, the lead researcher and members of our staff, created a clear common understanding of the questions and a plan of work. At another workshop at the end, the five draft reports were reviewed and a set of common conclusions was formulated. What you have in front of you is the team’s product.
We would like to thank the study team and all those who supported their work. There were indeed many! We see the study as an important contribution to fulfilling our commitment to literacy learners and their providers, and to high quality education for all.
Prof.(H) Dr. Heribert Hinzen
Task Manager, IIZ/DVV
The first acknowledgements must go to the Africa Region of the World Bank and to the Government of Norway. By initiating and financing this study, they are helping to enrich a field that has not generated the attention and high quality evaluation and research that the rhetoric of poverty reduction, education for all, and lifelong education might have led the world to expect. The next salute goes to Dr. Josef Mueller, formerly of the German Foundation for International Development, now an independent consultant, for his Trojan work in collecting and annotating materials from a number of organizations in Germany and elsewhere.
The study itself depended to a large extent on documents that are not in the public domain. Most of them had to be identified, located, and retrieved from the files and archives of many organizations in many countries. That meant that many people had to make the time and take the trouble to suggest what work might repay attention, what documentation might be available, and where it might be found. Many also assisted in obtaining the documents, although laying hands on them was not always easy or always successful. The study team is heavily indebted to them all in the four countries of intensive study, Guinea, Kenya, Senegal, and Uganda, and in the headquarters of many bilateral, multilateral, and non-governmental agencies in Europe and North America. The full list of them is lengthy. Here, only the names of their organizations will appear.
The study is indebted also to 13 friends who, despite heavy work programs of their own, troubled to comment rapidly and extensively on the first draft of this paper: Terry Allsop, Julia Betts, Dipta Bhog, Harbans Bhola, Michael Brophy, John Comings, Pat Davis, Heribert Hinzen, Richard Johanson, Jon Lauglo, Josef Mueller, Helen Sherpa and Chij Shrestha. We hope that they judge their advice has been satisfactorily taken in this revised text.
The study team expresses its deep gratitude to all its helpers and supporters and hopes that this product will help them feel that their time and effort were well spent. All responsibility for any misreporting, misunderstanding or misinterpretation that appears in the report lies with the team...
From the perspective of vocational education within the purview of lifelong education for all, this report aims to use available documentary accounts to compare and assess the effectiveness of two types of education and training programs for poor adults: (a) programs that have attempted to incorporate training for livelihood skills into mainly literacy instruction, and (b) programs that have incorporated literacy instruction into training for mainly livelihood skills. The comparison should help answer four questions about such efforts:
Because there is little published literature on the four questions, this report has had to rely largely on documentation internal to many organizations located in four countries of Africa, as well as in Western Europe and North America. However, in Guinea, Kenya, Senegal, and Uganda, brief field observations and interviews with interested parties have supplemented the documentation.
Much of the helpful documentation came from organizations that are in principle more concerned with employment and livelihoods than with education, but that find training in literacy and numeracy to be essential for their own purposes. Examples are FAO, IFAD, ILO and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that strive for holistic development. Unfortunately, we must emphasize that the nature of the available evidence makes the conclusions and recommendations of the study only tentative. They are more in the nature of reasonable hypotheses than incontrovertible facts.
Also, it is the case that the documentation did not yield satisfactory responses to Question 3 on management, implementation, and resource requirements. Neither did it further any discussion of the crucial issues of organizational and institutional development. The report shows that, without the construction of effective organizations and sound institutional norms, very poor people will not be enabled to use literacy to make their livelihoods more productive.
The study’s basic task was to examine two broad approaches to combining livelihood training with literacy instruction. One approach is to enrich a livelihood-led program with components in calculating, writing, and reading. The other is to enrich a literacy-led program with training for one or more livelihoods. Within these two approaches, a framework developed by Rogers (1997) that distinguishes five sub-categories, proved useful to the study. They are:
The first two sub-categories fall within literacy-led programs, the third and fourth fall within livelihood-led programs, while the type of programs of the fifth sub-category would depend on their origins and emphasis.
The report yielded 17 findings.
Overall, the evidence suggests that it would be worthwhile for vocational or livelihood education policy-makers to develop livelihood training with literacy/numeracy instruction for very poor, non-literate people, who tend to be mostly women, and, in Sub-Saharan Africa, mostly rural. The ten recommendations below give guidance on how this could be done. Justifications and further discussion are given in Chapter 8.
Before discussing the main study, a simple background note is desirable to clarify three points: the current linking of livelihoods with literacy, what is meant by livelihoods, and what is meant by literacy.
This section offers a historical or evolutionary perspective on the relationships between livelihoods and literacy. Adult educators have accepted for at least the past half century that the skills of literacy are not ends in themselves but need to serve some purpose and practice that is important to their users. The attempts to tie them closely to and even derive them from livelihoods began at least three decades ago with UNESCO’s pioneering attempt to integrate literacy and livelihoods in its Experimental World Literacy Programme, after the Teheran Conference in 1965. That is when the term “functional literacy” came into currency. So successful was the idea of such integration, that, even with the rise and rapid spread of Paolo Freire’s “conscientization” a few years later, it would be difficult to locate a contemporary or recent literacy course that did not claim to be functional, even if it did not claim to prepare its participants for a livelihood. In Kenya (Mwangi 2001) as early as 1969, literacy instructors were expected to assist their classes set up income-generating projects and to invite technical officers in to help deepen knowledge, understanding, and skills. In Guinea, livelihoods and literacy are now so closely entwined that it is no longer realistic to speak of two approaches there (Diallo 2001). Uganda’s national program is known simply as FAL, Functional Adult Literacy Program, while Ghana’s is the Literacy and Functional Skills Program.
For their part, vocational educators have long accepted that, without a sufficient mastery of reading, writing, and calculation, learners cannot take more than limited advantage of possibilities to enhance their knowledge, skills, and capacities. For example, FAO (1980) had this to say: “Thus, the concept that the stepping up of farm production by new technology must have training and literacy as part and parcel of the development process, and conversely, that training and literacy as an isolated process are of little avail in a developing society, is now well established.” More recently, ILO, working in Nigeria on income-generating activities for women in health development, reported, “functional literacy should be included... to increase the impact of training in new skills and technologies” (p. iii) and “In parallel... training in record/book-keeping, accounting, costing, pricing ...” (p. 5) (ILO 1994 [B]). Similarly, a multi-country study on the benefits of training for women observed: “While many of the women showed a great capacity for mental calculations and some an astute business sense, they remain relatively powerless in the world of business if they have no written records” (Leach et al., 2000, p.109).
From a somewhat wider perspective, some quotes from Easton (1998) are pertinent and reinforcing:
“Without introducing the technology of writing and effective literacy - in whatever language or script it may be, and acquired by any available type of education - training and assumption of new development functions both tend to remain stuck at the most rudimentary level of technical skill and the most incomplete forms of participation” (p. xix). “The training necessary to support self-governance initiatives is not, of course, limited to literacy instruction - far from it. But if the ‘tool of writing’ constitutes a threshold of effectiveness in the management of local institutions, mastery of this code is equally important as a means of magnifying the scope and the impact of the training” (p. xxiii).
In a balanced review of educational research in West and Central Africa, Maclure (1997, pp. 86-87) points, on the one hand, to the evidence that nonformal literacy training is strongly linked to improvements in several domains, including agricultural production and other revenue-generating skills, as well as enhanced managerial skills among members of agricultural cooperatives. On the other hand, he notes the frequency with which literacy and other training for poor, unschooled adults disappoint their sponsors and beneficiaries through poor implementation.
What has prompted the current study is the need to assess what seem to be the most effective strategies and methods for ensuring that the skills of literacy and numeracy do support the struggles of the very poor to develop livelihoods sufficient to lift themselves out of poverty.
Livelihood: Because this report is contributing in the first instance to a review of vocational and technical education, it treats the term “livelihood” in its traditional, restricted sense of simply making a living, rather than in the recently expanded senses initiated by researchers at the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex1, and adapted by some bilateral and multilateral agencies and international non-governmental organizations. More specifically, “livelihood“ in this report restricts itself to the knowledge, skills, and methods used to produce or obtain the food, water, clothing and shelter necessary for survival and well-being, whether the economy is subsistence, monetized, or a mixture of both. “Livelihood“ seems more appropriate than either “employment“ or “income-generating activities“, because the majority of people in Africa who participate in programs with literacy components derive their living mainly from subsistence agriculture, and often from the exchange of goods and services, rather than from earning wages or salaries. A livelihood can include more than one set of knowledge, skills, and methods. For instance, in an agrarian economy, a woman may earn her family’s livelihood by combining subsistence agriculture and horticulture on a small plot of land with remunerated labor on a neighbor’s land and with selling some of her produce as processed food in a local market.
Income-generating activities: Because most economies are now monetized, the terms “income-generating activities” and “income-generating projects” occur frequently in discussions of literacy projects and programs. They are not synonymous with “livelihood”, for the available literature suggests that they often - but do not always - generate only small incomes to supplement main livelihoods. Further, the literature gives the impression that, in most instances, income-generating activities do not involve much systematic training, in ways that courses of vocational and technical education would. Instead, a learning group usually seems to undertake an activity that is common, well known and established in the neighbourhood and for which little additional instruction is given.
In the main, then, this report will prefer the term “livelihood” rather than “income-generating activities”. A report on a project in Egypt makes this important distinction:
“Quite often the needs assessment identified the need for income-generation opportunities of which vocational training might be a part... An additional challenge is not to confuse income-generation with vocational training. Both are often important, but people developing vocational skills often need further support (such as with credit schemes and marketing) to be able to generate income” (UKDFID 1999[b] para. 8.4.3 and 8.4.8).
In short, livelihoods and livelihood/occupational training are not quite synonymous with income-generating activities, even if the latter do require some training.
At the most basic level, literacy entails simply the skills of (a) recording information of some kind in some code understood by the person making the record and possibly by other persons in some more or less permanent form and (b) decoding the information so recorded. That is the essence of writing and reading. Similarly, numeracy is the skill of using and recording numbers and numerical operations for a variety of purposes. During the past 5,000 years or so, the human race has developed these skills into systems that reach far beyond the simple recording of information. The systems now range from personal signatures through to the mazes of legal documents and higher mathematics. In this, they entail ranges of skills, usages, customs, and conventions in both recording and decoding information, which are conditioned by the particular contexts where they occur. These ranges and varieties have made defining literacy and numeracy in operational terms more than just difficult: UNESCO has been struggling with the task for half a century and has still not been able to bring its member states to a consensus. Each member operates its own definition for its own purposes.
The attainment of virtually universal primary schooling in the industrialized countries initially led to defining permanent or sufficient literacy operationally as the equivalent of four years of primary schooling. The tendency to use schooling as the standard against which to measure attainments in literacy persisted for some while, despite its increasing inadequacy in the face of shifting average attainments at different levels of schooling in different countries.
In the light of the flux and because it examines situations in a variety of countries and cultures, this study uses no definition of literacy or numeracy. It simply uses the words in whatever sense was used by the program under study. However, as will be seen in Chapter 7 under “Synthesis of findings from the two strategies,” the study does attempt to estimate the minimum amount of instruction and practice a person needs to acquire sufficient skill in writing, reading, and calculating to be able to go on to obtaining and exchanging new and possibly complex information to improve the productivity of her or his livelihood. The discussion makes it clear that no hard and fast rule can be laid down. All that is offered is what might be a safe minimum.
According to this study’s terms of reference, its main objective is “to derive lessons from programs that have included livelihood skills as part of literacy education and programs that have included literacy skills as part of livelihood training. The final report should provide answers to the following questions:
The fourth question makes clear that the study aims to contribute to policy and practice mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa. ...
It is important to remember that the evidence reviewed is not particularly strong, so any inferences necessarily lack a solid empirical base and analytical rigor. Like the “Critical Assessment of the Experimental World Literacy Programme,” this study was compelled to offer its findings more as plausible hypotheses than as proven facts. That said, this section broadly aims to provide more grist for the debate on how best to operationalise the concept of lifelong education within a frame of education for all, where “all” includes unschooled and non-literate adults.
Model 1 offered a 12-month literacy course, followed by a 3-month vocational course and the establishment of a community reading centre.
Model 2 offered an 18-month course in 3 phases: first, a 9-month basic literacy and numeracy course, then, a 6-month course learning the livelihood skills (the functional phase), and finally, a 3-month course in actually generating and managing income.
Model 3 offered simply a 6-month basic literacy course, then encouraged its learners to seek livelihood training from other sources.
Model 4, which was most favoured by practitioners, started with women’s saving and credit groups, encouraged the development of income-generating activities, offered a 6-month basic literacy course, followed by either 3 months’ follow-up in both literacy and income-generation, or 6 months of more advanced training (1996, p. 51). The overall perceptions were that six months are insufficient for most men and women to develop satisfactory skills in reading, writing and calculating and that the need to link these skills with some form of income-generation was strong.
A Syrian project went further and concluded: “The 9-month duration of a literacy course is not sufficient to allow learners the mastery of basic literacy skills” (UNDP 1992). Yet a project in Afghanistan found, “Experience has shown that after 9 months of classes meeting 2 hours a day (some 350-400 hours in all) women can be brought to a fourth grade reading level.” (USAID 1994)
Ignoring differences of language, alphabets, literateness of environment, and levels of previous or other literacy among the learners, it would seem safe to reckon that the minimum time for developing skills in literacy and numeracy adequate to support livelihood and other development is 360 hours, plus more hours of learning and practice. Beyond that minimum, the duration of courses would depend on the complexity of the livelihood skills to be learned or developed.
Cadres of instructors - The broad experience of income-generating projects suggests that arranging for two cadres of instructors, one for livelihoods, the other for literacy, appears to be more prudent than relying on “generalist” literacy instructors to undertake livelihood instruction or income-generating activities in addition to teaching literacy and numeracy.
There is no argument about the need to train, support, and re-train the literacy instructors. However, there is a weaker consensus about how they should be recompensed for their contributions. Most of the programs reviewed make it clear that most literacy instructors do not have much schooling themselves, are not in steady or waged employment, and are themselves among the poorer of their societies. Naturally, they appreciate being paid in cash or kind. Most of the programs examined in this paper do offer pay, some at modest, others at more generous levels. Overall, it seems that NGOs are more inclined than governments to offer regular pay, rather than occasional moral or material awards. Some, like FAO’s Farmer Field Schools, follow the principle that “user pays” and expect the participants to negotiate the recompense with their literacy instructors (even though the agricultural instructors are paid employees of the program). A few other programs rely on the literacy instructors being pure volunteers, especially where they are recruited and selected by their own participants from among the local community. Overall, the broader trend appears to treat literacy instructors on a basis similar to livelihood specialists and to remunerate them for their efforts.
Costs - Very little information on gross or unit costs was found in the documentation available. However, on the basis of two programs, supplemented by inferences from observation, we believe that the unit costs of the programs we have studied are quite low. The Uganda FAL reckoned a unit cost of US$4-5 per person enrolled. A project in Senegal, supported by Canada, estimated that the cost per enrollee would be approximately CDN$20. However, faulty implementation raised the cost to CDN$45 per enrollee (CIDA 2001, p.13). FAO’s People’s Participation Programme had some 13,000 male and female participants in 12 countries. The average cost per participant was estimated in 1989 to be US$63 (FAO 1990, p. 36). All that can be observed here is that even the highest estimate does not appear inordinate.
That said, policy-makers in vocational/technical education need to bear in mind that, just as voc/tech education in schools and colleges is always more costly than general education, so analogous education for adults in villages and shanty-towns will unavoidably be more costly than simple literacy programs. In the cases of SODEFITEX, WEEL and WEP/N, which combine livelihood skills and the three Rs with training in savings, credit, and business management and development, considerably more is involved than simple literacy. In turn, teaching these skills will call for cadres of well-trained specialists, who will without doubt expect commensurate payment. Further, supporting them, as well as holding them to account - without necessarily employing them on a permanent basis - will require a soundly devised administrative structure.
Elements of cost - Although no specific suggestions are possible here, it may be helpful simply to supply a non-exhaustive list of program costs, without specifying how they are to be apportioned:
Learners: learning materials, learning supports like space, lighting, heating.
Instructors for livelihoods and for savings, credit, business management and business development (on the assumption that they already have expertise in these subjects): remuneration, travel, subsistence, instructional materials, initial training as instructors, refresher training.
Instructors/facilitators for literacy/numeracy and also for rights, responsibilities, civic, health and other topics in demand: remuneration, initial training, instructional and recording materials, refresher training.
Specialists for identifying new business opportunities (on the assumption that they already have the expertise): remuneration, travel, subsistence.
Trainers/technical supporters (whether community-based, contracted or public personnel): remuneration, training (initial and refresher), travel, subsistence.
Supporting administrative infrastructure (for production, storage, distribution, travel, payments).
Supporting infrastructure for monitoring (plus quality assurance in learning, attainments, application).
Financial sustainability - Given that the potential clientele for livelihood-with-literacy/numeracy programs is currently large and likely to remain large for a long time, and given the perspective of continuous, lifelong education, the issues of cost require consideration of financial sustainability. Here, the policy-maker needs to bear in mind that, even at fee-exacting universities, few, if any, students, however affluent, meet the full cost of their education. Tuition fees usually cover only a proportion of the full costs of tuition. Since programs that include basic literacy and numeracy always have as their major clients people who are among the poorest of the poor, they will require proportionately more substantial subsidies from external sources, whether public or private. This will hold true whatever the measures to minimize dependency and expectations of free handouts, and whatever the measures gradually to reduce subsidies and move to higher proportions of local self-finance.
However, the poor are not homogeneous. They can range from the destitute, who need a total subsidy, to those like the women of Rukungiri and participants in some of the Farmer Field Schools, who may be just above the poverty line but still able to contribute to the costs of their education. Further, the cases of WEEL and WEP/N suggest that groups of even very poor women can in a relatively short time mobilize their own savings and begin to pay for what they want. Thus, the proportion of subsidy could in principle vary from group to group, and, for particular groups, from time to time. Operating with such sensitivity and flexibility could well be beyond the capacity of a single central authority. However, decentralized approaches that set minimum standards but permit local adjustments to accommodate local conditions, communities, or groups could be feasible.
It is also true that the countries whose people could benefit most from livelihood-with-literacy/numeracy education are among the poorest and least able to provide subsidies from local sources, whether public or private. The cases considered earlier have shown that, even where local public and private resources have combined and been amplified by international official and non-governmental development assistance, they have still been insufficient to cover more than a small proportion of the potential clientele. On the other hand, the cases from Bangladesh, Guinea, India, Nepal, the Philippines, Senegal, and Uganda suggest that NGOs, both local and international, can and do sustain themselves and their programs over long periods, apparently at least to the sufficient satisfaction of their supporters.
If the government of a poor, indebted country, in alliance with nongovernmental and community organizations, and people of good will and energy, aimed to make livelihood-with-literacy/numeracy education available to substantially larger proportions of poor people and to maintain long-term financial sustainability, it would need to take three steps. First, in addition to fiscal allocations, it would need to develop a mechanism to mobilize local voluntary contributions to a special fund or even network of funds (village or community). Second, it would need to form large-scale and long-term consortiums with international donors, both official and nongovernmental. Third, the government would need to persuade international lenders, like the World Bank, its regional counterpart, the Islamic Development Bank, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development that investments in livelihood-with-literacy/ numeracy education would, in time, both reduce poverty and strengthen its ability to repay its debts.
Going to scale - Normally, vocational and technical education policies are not associated with programs of mass education. Yet the numbers of very poor people working in livelihoods that could be made more productive, force the question whether education in livelihood-with-literacy/numeracy can be conceived in mass terms. Clearly, the cases of SODEFITEX, WEEL, and WEP/N reflect the recognition that larger-scale programs are necessary and that strategies to achieve larger scales need to be devised. SODEFITEX chose an analogue to a “point-line-network,” whereby it started with educating just a few members per cooperative, then one member per farming family, then gradually included more and more people. WEEL and WEP/N selected a strategy of working through more and more local organizations to reach more and more groups of women. In five to six years, they reached and helped 10,000 and 130,000 very poor people, respectively. For projects that have harnessed the teamwork of only small NGOs, these scales, and the time-scale within which they were achieved, command respect.
In all three cases, the initiative was taken very carefully and gradually by a relatively small agency at a very local level. Yet the strategy of gradualism has not demanded an inordinate amount of time to attain a significant scale. These features point once again to the desirability of decentralized approaches that permit local organizations, whether public or private, to assess the pace and manner at which expansion can be soundly undertaken.
An additional factor counseling decentralization and gradualism is the complexity of the package needed to support livelihood-with-literacy/numeracy education. Developing the depth of capacity to support widespread instruction in a large range of livelihoods in a variety of environments, plus the necessary skills of fostering savings, credit, business management, and business development, requires not only time, but also careful amassing of local knowledge.
Finally, the findings of the PADLOS study of decentralization (Easton 1998) would counsel that assessing when to go to scale in a particular locality must take into account local infrastructure, natural and other resources, norms, and institutions.
This chapter attempts first to use the programs reviewed to suggest pointers for policy and practice in vocational/livelihood education for unschooled adults and adolescents in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. More broadly, it aims to inform thinking and discussion elsewhere on how best to implement the concept of lifelong education within a framework of education for all, where “all” includes unschooled and non-literate adult women and men in both rural and urban areas and in both waged employment and self-employment in monetized and subsistence sectors of an economy. The nature and quality of the documentation and other information available limit the force of the pointers and suggestions.
Overall, the evidence suggests that it would be worthwhile for vocational or livelihood education policy-makers to develop policies that offered livelihood training to non-literate, very poor adults, especially women, who are unable to access knowledge and skills that might relieve their poverty.
Enabling environments - Knowledge and skills by themselves cannot guarantee a decent livelihood. As UNDP/UNESCO (1976) and the IIEP evaluations of the literacy programs of Kenya and Tanzania in 1989 and 1990 suggest, the economic environment must be supportive. Indeed, Easton (1998) suggests that local norms, broader institutional factors, local resource endowments, infrastructure, and sources of finance all need to be favorable before education and training can be fully fruitful. Easton’s view is supported by the approaches of ADRA in Uganda, SODEFITEX in Senegal, SEIGYM in Somaliland, and WEP and WEEL in Nepal, which have all found it necessary to include institutional development as a constituent of their programs.
If these organizations, most of them in Africa, have found it possible to design and implement packages of livelihood training, literacy instruction, and institutional development, vocational education policy should be able to do the same. Further, while most of these organizations have needed to adopt relatively short-term perspectives for any given locality, national policy should be able to take the longer view of SODEFITEX and to plan in terms of decades rather than three to five years.
The first recommendation is that vocational education policy should assess what would be needed in particular localities to ensure an environment that would enable training in particular livelihoods actually to result in higher productivity, incomes, and well being.
Strategy for diversity - The livelihoods and sets of livelihoods that the very poor undertake are notably diverse. So are the environments in which they work. So, too, are the possibilities of enhancing those livelihoods and developing new ones. Managing these diversities calls for flexibility, imagination, and resourcefulness, and for institutions that can respond appropriately. It points ideally to a strategy that will
Such a strategy will avoid reliance on packages of standard curricula in fixed training centers with fixed equipment and permanent corps of specialists.
Capacities - High-quality analysis, design, implementation and support are required. “To be avoided is a weak response in the form of low levels of analysis and design, and inadequate supervision” (Middleton & Demsky 1989, p. 101). Ballara shows the complexity of what is required:
“Certain precautions should be taken when income-generating activities are included in literacy programs. Results obtained during the 1980s show that these activities have to be treated as enterprises related to the requirements of mainstream economic production, offering continuity and remuneration to the participants. To avoid becoming involved in poorly-rewarded activities, literacy programs incorporating an income-generating activity should begin with a study of market needs; they should prepare women in non-traditional sectors and for future entry into the formal sector, rather than be directed towards traditional low-level skills which barely supplement home income and which finally becomes a type of welfare” (Ballara 1991, p. 47).
A strategy of decentralization and delegation must presuppose the capacity to diagnose current needs, detect future opportunities, and design and deliver high-quality training. Where such capacity cannot be assumed, capacity-building strategies with appropriate incentives and inducements must be developed. As the present study attests, in a large number of countries, the voluntary and non-profit sectors at international, national and local levels have responded well to incentives and capitalized on opportunities to deepen and expand their capacities. It is possible, too, that private, profit-making vocational education specialists - already detected in the Guinea study - may see opportunities to help themselves as well as the poor. At the same time, experience in several countries suggests that, where these sectors are weak, gradualist strategies to increase their capacities would be prudent.
If public resources are to be used to promote the decentralization and delegation, supervisory mechanisms are needed to ensure that they are properly applied and that the intended beneficiaries do indeed enjoy a proper quality of instruction. One increasingly well-known model for such mechanisms is the “Faire-faire” strategy of Senegal (Diagne & Sall 20015). Of course, the supervisory mechanism should be so designed that it does not actually obstruct, rather than promote, the decentralization.
The second recommendation is that vocational education policy should pursue a strategy of decentralization and capacity-nurturing that will permit resourceful responses to local actual and potential patterns of livelihood.
Savings, credit and content - As for actual courses of vocational education, this review suggests three pointers. First, because the learners are very poor, the approaches of ADRA, SODEFITEX, WEEL, Saptagram, and WEP/N indicate that immediate connections and access to sources of credit should be a component of every livelihood training program, without necessarily involving a special micro-finance institution. SODEFITEX, WEP/N, WEEL, Saptagram, and other programs supply models for encouraging savings as a means to create the resources for credit for business development and ensuring discipline in repayments. Special micro-finance institutions are not essential. However, in such situations, the expertise for helping groups mobilize savings and manage them through lending and recovery needs to be very reliable.
Second, there is a consensus that the actual content of a livelihood-with-literacy/numeracy course should be the result of a local survey and negotiations with the prospective participants. At the same time, current demand in a locality should form only the initiating basis for training in livelihoods. Opportunities for new livelihoods and businesses, especially those that would help people move into the economic mainstream, would need to be sought and demands stimulated for training to undertake them. In connection with this point, to strengthen the negotiating hand of would-be participants and to encourage accountability among instructors, the idea of vouchers, as used by the Somaliland Education Initiative for Girls and Young Men, merits observation and exploration.
Third, the literacy/numeracy component should, in the initial stages of the training, be subordinated to the language and idioms of the livelihood and business skills, in the manner that WEP/N has selected. As educators in Melanesia have shown (ASPBAE 2000[a]), and as the REFLECT approach has pioneered, instructional materials can be readily fashioned for particular languages, idioms and localities. This recommendation does not of course imply that the literacy/numeracy component should be restricted throughout the course to the discourse of the livelihoods in question; that would undermine the wider uses of the skills in other dimensions of daily life (recall Mikulecky’s observations that spontaneous transference did not occur). A report on a current project in Egypt notes: “Women attending groups and classes which treated them as whole persons reported major changes in their lives: skill development, greater income-generating opportunities and confidence development” (UKDFID 1999, para 8.4.5).
Our recommendation does, however, urge that the experiences of ACOPAM, SODEFITEX, and WEP/N be used as capital to construct more effective programs.
The third recommendation is that vocational education policy should provide for courses that combine savings and credit training with negotiated livelihood content and literacy/numeracy content derived from, but not limited to, the vocabulary of the livelihood.
Time on task - One of the most common observations in adult education, particularly in programs for very poor women, is the difficulty of maintaining regular attendance and of sustaining attendance over long periods. Against this is the need for adequate “time on task” in both the livelihood and the literacy/numeracy components. As noted earlier, although there is no firmly settled opinion on the minimum time needed on average to attain “sustainable” or permanent literacy and numeracy, a safe minimum would be 360 hours of learning and practice. To that minimum has to be added the time needed to teach the required livelihood and business skills.
Most literacy and livelihood programs now strive to negotiate their class times with their participants to minimize inconvenience and opportunity costs. Even so, if the daily commitments of the participants made a single stretch of time difficult, then the phased or modular approach used by WEP/N and WEEL (as well as the ILO’s use of Modules of Employable Skills for more than 20 years) might be used to encourage attendance and perseverance. Nonetheless, the SODEFITEX experience suggests that this could be a second-best solution Further, because many participants, however well intentioned, do miss sessions and attend irregularly, a margin of as much as 20 percent might be worth adding to the duration of a course. That would allow such participants some room to catch up, while affording the more regular some more space for practice and reinforcement.
The fourth recommendation is twofold. First, to ensure that the “average” adult learner masters literacy and numeracy sufficiently well to use them in support and development of a livelihood, the literacy component of a livelihood course should offer at least 360 hours of instruction and practice (the livelihood and business components will of course require additional appropriate time). Second, to help optimize perseverance, completion, and retention of learning, the course should be offered in a single session or term, if at all practicable.
Instructors - The effectiveness of a course will stand or fall by its instructors. The experiences discussed in this study counsel against having the lay people who serve as literacy instructors being livelihood instructors or organizers of income-generating activities as well. Lay people who are sufficiently literate can be trained to be effective literacy instructors. However, appropriate specialists seem to be the best people to handle instruction in livelihoods or income-generation. It is of course possible to train livelihood specialists to teach literacy as well. Indeed, the Experimental World Literacy Programme suggested that such people seemed to teach literacy and numeracy more effectively than school teachers. Where such a combination of skills is feasible, it could be worth fostering.
All the programs reviewed place much importance on not only training their literacy instructors but also supporting them closely and continuously, as well as offering them periodic refresher training. In this, they echo the Critical Assessment of the Experimental World Literacy Programme: “... a consensus seems to have emerged from EWLP concerning the need to give great stress to in-service as well as pre-service training of instructors” (UNDP/UNESCO 1976, p.135).
As for remunerating instructors, it would seem prudent to follow the majority trend of paying both livelihood specialists and literacy instructors. Where literacy instructors are paid, either by their participants or by the agency organizing the program, they tend to be more accountable, reliable, and regular. This may be one reason why most NGOs choose to offer a salary or honorarium, rather than appeal for voluntary effort.
The fifth recommendation is again twofold. First, vocational education policy should provide for two cadres of instructors: livelihood instructors and literacy instructors. While neither should be a permanent cadre, their patterns of recruitment, training, and support can differ from each other. Second, both cadres should be remunerated for the instruction they give.
Instructional methods - The consensus on teaching methods is that approaches that promote activity and interaction are likely to be most effective, however hard these approaches are to put into practice with instructors who have themselves had only limited traditional schooling. Easton writes: “Observation at the forty sites strongly suggests that teaching literacy and becoming literate in one’s own language or a familiar tongue, and acquiring new knowledge on this basis, are not terribly difficult provided the application of the new knowledge is clear, and the pedagogy progressive and participatory (1998, p. xxiii).
The sixth recommendation is that vocational education policy for non-literate poor adults should promote active, participatory, and interactive forms of instruction and learning in both livelihood and literacy components of training.
Finance - This study is not in a position to offer any estimates of the financial resources needed (see Chapter 7, subhead “Conditions of effectiveness - Costs” for a brief discussion).
The seventh recommendation is merely that vocational education policy-makers support further research on the issue of costs.
Financial sustainability - As education in livelihoods and literacy is likely to require long-term programs, financial sustainability is a necessity. Although poor people, poor countries, and poor governments will probably be able to meet at least part of the longer-term costs on their own, they are unlikely to be able to shoulder all of them and will need external assistance.
The eighth recommendation is that countries form local alliances of government, non-governmental and community agencies, and energetic people of good will to (a) raise local fiscal and voluntary finance, (b) form appropriate consortiums with external donors and (c) attract resources from international lenders.
Mass scale - The numbers of people who could benefit from education in livelihoods and literacy are sufficient to warrant large-scale programs. However, the complex nature of such programs and the requirement that they adopt local rather than general focuses counsel slow rather than rapid dissemination. The experiences cited suggest that slower dissemination need not involve inordinately long periods.
The ninth recommendation is that strategies of capacity-building, decentralization and gradualism govern the process of going to scale, with due attention to local infrastructure, natural and other resources, norms, and institutions.
Capitalizing on knowledge - The final recommendation derives from the experiences of ACOPAM (ILO), ADRA, the Farmers Field Schools (FAO, CARE, World Education), and the programs supported by IFAD.
The tenth recommendation is that any review of vocational educational policy should exert itself to identify, locate, and capitalize on the empirical experience and expertise that those organizations and others like them must have accumulated in their work in Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere; and make it more readily accessible than this study has found it.
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1 “A livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets (stores, resources, claims, and access) and activities required for a means of living: a livelihood is sustainable which can cope with and recover from stress and shocks, maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets, and provide sustainable livelihood opportunities for the next generation; and which contributes net benefits to other livelihoods at the local and global levels and in the long and short term,” Chambers R. and G. Conway, 1992, Sustainable rural livelihoods: Practical concepts for the 21st century, IDS Discussion Paper 296, Brighton, Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex.
3 This observation does not deny the attested fact that many adults learn to read and write for the simple satisfaction of being able to do so, while others learn for religious reasons quite unconnected with considerations of material gain or betterment. However, these motivations on their own have not been sufficient to engage the majority of illiterate adults.
4 This point concords with Mikulecky & Lloyd’s observations in Canada that people with relatively low levels of schooling tend not to transfer literacy skills spontaneously from one domain to another (Mikulecky & Lloyd, 1993).
5 The faire faire strategy, supported by the World Bank, is not discussed in this paper, as the Senegal study found that it was not yet linked to either livelihood training or to income-generating activities.
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