Alan Rogers

For the 2006 GMR Report, Alan Rogers compiled a wide-ranging study on the theme of Training Adult Literacy Educators in Developing Countries. We reprint here chapters 3 and 4 on "Policies and Systems for Training Adult Literacy Educators" and "Training of Adult Literacy Educators." Alan Rogers has wide experience of training teachers of adults in many countries. Formerly Executive Director of Education for Development (UK), he is currently a freelance consultant and Visiting Professor at the Universities of Nottingham and EastAnglia in the UK. He is the author of many studies of adult learning, non-formal education and literacy, and has recently completed an international study of urban literacies which was published by the UNESCO Institute for Education under the title "Urban Literacy: communication, learning and identity in development contexts."

Training Adult Literacy Educators in Developing Countries

Policies and Systems for Training Adult Literacy Educators (Chapter III)

"Policy on training and refreshing instructors will need to take into account the average base of competence, the type and time of training required to secure the adoption of appropriate instructional habits, and the likely need for periodic review, reinforcement and moral support". (Oxenham 1999:21)


Policies for TOLE: Policies for TOLE may be at various levels - at national or regional level or at agency or programme level. Donors too have on occasion developed policies towards TOLE:

"The UNDP, for example, granted Nigeria some US$5 million between 1995 and 2000 to assist with the country's national mass literacy campaign. Part of the money was used to sensitise and train literacy instructors, literacy organisers, co-ordinators, community leaders, village librarians, social development workers, NGO personnel and management staff of state agencies for mass education, all of whom were involved in conducting the campaign." (Tahir 2004: 149)

In the World Bank and IIZ/DW-supported literacy programme in Guinea-Conakry, "Guinean NGOs ... organise their own local trainings as part of their projects", but IIZ/DW has developed a training programme which they "are proposing to the NGOs operating in the World Bank-funded EFA literacy programme." (Leumer e-mail 4)

National educational policies: There is a good deal of confusion about the existence of policies relating to TOLE. Few countries appear to have national policies for the training of literacy facilitators, although more have policies for ABET teachers.

"The first point to emphasise in relation to the training of adult educators is the non-existence of a public political recommendation. Hence there are no policies on the training of adult educators specified in the national plans or programmes of education in the different countries of the region [Latin America." (Messina and Enriquez 2005:41)

Thus for example, in Brazil, "within the National [Literacy] Programme, each partner is free to determine its own specific training programmes" (lreland:6). Nevertheless, "Brazil's National Plan for Education (2002)... emphasise[s] training for adult educators" (Young-man and Singh 2005:6), and "the Ministry of Education establishes a minimum number of hours for initial training (30 hours) and a minimum for continued training (2 hours per week)" during the 40-week literacy learning programme, irrespective of

Abbreviations Used in this Paper
ABET adult basic education and training
ABETT adult basic education and training teacher
ALF an both facilitator
ALE adult literacy educator (of pro gramme both facilitator and ABET teacher)
ALLP adult literacy learning programme
NFAE non-formal adult education
TABETT training of adult literac yfacilitators and training ofliteracyeducator
TALF training of adult literacy fadultliteracy
TOLE t,all of literacy educators (of all kinds)
TOT training of trainers of adult literacy educators

"the partners' capacity to fulfil such recommendations" (lreland:4,6). Elsewhere, the picture is clearer: "Namibia's National Policy on Adult Learning (2003) ... emphasisefs] training for adult educators" (Youngman and Singh 2005:6) with a concentration on the professional status of a wide range of adult educators,1 and Tanzania also "has an education and training policy (1995) which covers the training of ABE staff" (Ligate 2004:74).2 In Egypt, all literacy educators must be trained before starting work, and in Botswana, "All[Literacy Group Leaders] are supposed to have undergone initial training or a class demonstration before they can teach on their own" (Maruatona:10). On the other hand, it can be stated of Nigeria that "There appears to be no single body of policies on the training of ABE fieldworkers" (Tah ir 2004:145),3 and the Ugandan Functional Adult Literacy Strategic Plan had little to say about TALF; although the National Adult Literacy Strategic Plan had more, it was all very general (NAL sections 1.8, 1.9.4, 7.5.3). Some countries (e.g. Mozambique and Uganda) are reported to be looking at the development of policies on TOLE at the moment. But in most countries it would appear that the arrangements for TOLE are frequently left vague or very general. Most leave it to the providing agencies (NGOs, trade unions, employers etc) to determine the training modalities of their own literacy educators; in these cases, the role of the state seems to be to encourage and monitor rather than provide, although there are a few exceptions to this. In Brazil, for example, guidelines and funding are provided by the government for various agencies (Ireland).

Policies at programme level: Policies - where they exist - then normally lie within the literacy learning programmes themselves, whether they are provided by Ministries of Education, other government agencies or NGOs (international, national and local); such policies therefore vary. In most ALLPs, there is some (on-paper) provision for TALF but it does not always have its own budget and evaluation; and the training of those who train literacy educators (TOT) rather more rarely forms part of such planning.

Voices heard in policy making: Where such policies do exist, they are centrally controlled and reflect the voices of educational administrators and planners. Participatory curriculum development is very rare. The voices of the literacy educators are not apparently heard in the processes of developing policies for adult literacy learning. Indeed, in some countries such as Kenya and Uganda, the voices of adult literacy learners through their own organisations such as the Kenya Adult Learners Association (KALA) and ULALA (Uganda Literacy and Adult Learners Association) (Carr-Hill: 11) may be more influential than those of the ALFs, for most ALFs have no national organisations;4 indeed, in Zimbabwe the Adult Learners' Association (ZALA) has a major role to play in the provision of TOLE.

NGO and state policies: It would appear that there are more and clearer policies on TALF among NGOs than among state and international bodies: "Among NGOs there is generally greater clarity about the strategic nature of adult educator training" (Messina and Enriquez 2005:41). It is likely that state policies - where they exist or are being formulated - are concentrating more on the schoolingmodelof adult learning (ABET/NFAE) and that NGO policies are concentrating more on the developmental model of TALF.


Even where such policies exist, they are often not implemented. There is "a lack of progress in national policies on the training of adult educators" (Youngman and Singh 2005:11). Although lip service is paid to the importance of TOLE, less is done in reality: "While the desired norms of training were prescribed and sought to be followed, practices showed wide variations" (Mitra:5). So that even in areas where there are policies, it is sometimes reported that there are no or few TOLE programmes. "There exists [in the Indian TLC] a perfunctory attitude to training" (PRIA 4:10). Even when provided, "another study concluded that one of the basic reasons for the poor quality of training of instructors lay in the 'superficial training' given by the... trainers who perceived training merely as an 'official' duty" (Dighe 2005:60).

"The training was particularly limited in the Government FAL [Functional Adult Literacy] programme [in Uganda] where many of the educators had been trained only once for just three days and had never had any refresher training. This inadequacy in training is particularly serious in view of the very little supervisory support given. ... Moreover, in most cases, according to what they said during our field visits, the supervisors have themselves received no training in adult education and literacy methodology." (Uganda 1999:84)

Uniformity of provision: Even when the provision of training is left to the different agencies providing the programmes, the programmes do not reflect the difference between the various categories of adult literacy educators.

"The authors are of the opinion that a comparison of the curricula, methodologies and training presented by NGOs and government agencies [in Bangladesh] reveals no fundamental difference between the various providers with regard to the training presented to grassroots level facilitators." (Rashid and Rahman 2004:168)

A uniformity of format and content and processes appears to be characteristic of TALF, and even among the longer full-time formal and professional TABETT programmes, there is much common ground. Policies and practices may be borrowed from other programmes (e.g. Bangladesh borrowed from the Indian Total Literacy Campaign).


Systems: Some countries have developed relatively elaborate systems of training adult literacy educators. In Ethiopia,

"Professional adult educators with different profiles are trained by higher education institutions ...; administrative and teaching personnel of government and other institutions in selected regions and districts are oriented and partly trained with regard to planning, implementation and evaluation of demand-oriented and income generating adult education programs and projects; trainers for orienting and training personnel in livelihood skills are trained." (Sandhaas e-mail)

But on the whole, there are few such systems; it is urged that it "is important to develop clear strategies for training adult educators" (Singh and McKay 2004:24). Such systems seem to apply to government-sponsored programmes; although NGOs often have a commonality of practice, even large-scale NGO bodies such as CAMPE in Bangladesh (an umbrella agency for NGOs in that country) have no system for TALF.

Patterns of training: The basic system for most programmes of TALF consists of

  • pre-service initial training
  • in-service follow-up training
  • and continuing support

This pattern however is sometimes elaborated. For example, in some programmes, the pre-service training is preceded by a short period of orientation. In many countries, supplementary initial training is available for some of the ALFs. In Egypt, World Education's short (4-day) course on Integrated Health and Literacy (IHL) "trains both new and experienced literacy facilitators" alongside the government's training programme. (Potter: 5)

In practice however, much less attention is paid to in-service training and continuing education than to pre-service training; follow-up training is often left to local agencies, even where the initial training ingwas centralised… In Brazil,

"training was centralised ... in its pre-service phase. The [central training agency] also provided ongoing training, which the teachers received about once a year. Most of the in-service training however was in the hands of respective grassroots groups which were free to construct their own methodology and which provided this training in weekly meetings (Friday evenings) attended by monitors [facilitators] and supervisors... Some [grassroots groups] did not know how to proceed but were autonomous concerning their ongoing training activities". (Stromquist 1997: 43)

Levels of training: Training is offered at various levels. "World Education has two sets of training programmes, one for trainers (TOT) and one for literacy facilitators" (WE(N) case study). PACT in Nepal has argued that high level training using costly full-time staff should be provided to their local partners who then would use their less highly paid staff to engage in the training of the grassroots workers (PACT 2001:19).

Cascade model of training: Many programmes have developed a cascade model of TALF on the grounds that

"It is really very difficult to directly provide a huge number of course facilitators with training courses at central level" (Rash id and Rahman 2004:172). "A common approach to training adult educators on a large scale is the cascade approach used in literacy campaigns in India and Bangladesh. ... This involves providing initial training for selected resource persons who then become responsible for training others. In this way, training is provided right down to grassroots level". (Youngman and Singh 2005: 8; see also Dighe 2005)

In Egypt, World Education uses a cascade approach to their supplementary training (Potter: 3). In Brazil, MOBRAL trained 'multipliers' to "pass education to literacy workers" (Brazil website). In Ethiopia,

"the training of master trainers from all six regions, who in return are expected to train further trainers and CSTC [Community Skills Training Centre] co-ordinators at zonal and district level... (following the cascade model) is meant to strengthen the training capacity of the region at various administrative levels." (Sandhaas e-mail)

International cascade elements: Sometimes the top of the cascade is an international agency or international consultants (Lind 1986:36). In several cases, especially in Asia where the UNESCO PROAP Office in Bangkok has obtained a very strong influence over adult literacy learning programmes in many countries in the region through its APEID, ATPL and APPEAL programmes, internationally prepared training materials have been taken and used in various countries of the region: these are contextually adjusted rather than contextually constructed programmes. International trainers train key personnel, who then return to their countries to train others.

Problems of cascade model: Some problems relating to this model have been recognised:

"Differences in local contexts relating to culture, political economics, adult education, policies and traditions and so forth require that training be relevant to the local situation. Training activities developed in one context may not be relevant in other contexts."  (Youngman and Singh 2005: 4)

As has been commented several times, the cascade approach has two main problems: "it relies entirely on a top-down process" of the transfer of knowledge rather than learning by meaning-making, and secondly it "also entails considerable loss of information in transmission" (Youngman and Singh 2005:8). In India, it was reported that

"there was considerable training loss due to the time gaps between the training of [the various levels] and a lack of motivation among [the trainers and the facilitator trainees] who had neither genuine interest in nor any aptitude for teaching adults." (Shah 2004:38; see also PRIA4)

In Bangladesh, "Some system loss is sometimes experienced because of this cascade system of conducting training from TOT to grassroots level" (Rashid and Rahman 2004:172). At least one agency reported that in such an approach, most of the resources went to train the top level of trainers and less resources were available for the larger number of grassroots educators:

"It was concluded that while the cascade approach was useful for involving more people in literacy work, the availability of resources - in terms of training contents, materials, duration, funds and technical inputs - gradually diminished and reached its minimum at the level of [facilitators], whose training therefore remained weak." (Mitra:7)

Non-institutionalised TALF: Unlike the formal training of ABET teachers, TALF is not institutionalised. It is provided by many bodies in many different venues: "Training venues have ranged from meeting rooms in [government] offices to mosques, from local NGO facilities to hotel conference halls" (Potter:6); many meet in the open air. There are very few formal links between programmes, and very few, if any, national systems of assessment or accreditation.

Agencies of Training

Wide range of agencies: The range of providers of TALF is very wide - government ministries or specialist agencies, universities and other educational institutions, prominent national and international NGOs, donors, consultant bodies and individuals etc. Many different ministries may have adult literacy learning concerns: in Oman, "the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Information, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, and the Omani Women's Association" as well as the Ministry of Education have been involved (website accessed 24/02/05).

Although throughout sub-Saharan Africa in general,

"the training of literacy educators is primarily the responsibility of Government Ministries, Departments or Directorates responsible for adult basic, literacy and non-formal education",

in Nigeria,

"the number of ABE training centres in the country is not really known, as the Federal and State governments, private institutions and NGOs all render different forms of training which could be regarded as adult educational." (Tahir 2004:160)5

Thus training agencies include national centres such as the Nigerian National Centre for Adult Education, universities like the University of Kwazulu-Natal in S Africa, some specialist bodies (government, NGO and commercial), and NGOs who specialise in or have experience of providing TALF and offer their services on a large scale to other providers of ALLPs in other countries, such as Dhaka Ahsania Mission in Bangladesh and ProLit in South Africa. A recent survey in Francophone Africa identified three main categories of providers of training for literacy - academic institutions, NGOs and what it calls 'non-academic institutions". The academic institutions provided academic training, the

"NGOs focus on literacy programmes implementation ... training programmes which relate more to refresher courses in literacy strategies rather than training in adult education as a global concept";

and the non-academic institutions

"provide back-up training for graduate adults in capacity building regarding economic and social development on the one hand and citizenship education on the other." (Hagnonnou 2005: 5)

Many literacy learning providers such as CIAZO in El Salvador train their own facilitators, developing their own training curriculum and either buying in trainers or using their own staff who may or may not have direct experience of teaching literacy to adults or of running training courses. "NGOs train educators in their preferred methodologies" (Maruatona: 3-4).

"Zambia has a combination of government training programmes and those operated by over 40 NGOs who provide literacy and basic education there." (Maruatona: 3)

In some countries, a national network of training centres has been established such as the State Resource Centres in India (Dighe 2005: 58; PRIA2). Some programmes use out-of-country consultant trainers or training programmes/materials/manuals prepared in other locations. Agencies committed to participatory training have emerged; among these is PRIA (Participatory Research in Asia), which operates over a very wide area and whose participatory training materials in a wide range of development programmes are widely used through its website, but it has in recent years done less in literacy learning.6 In Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Adult Learners' Association "is responsible for the training of instructors" for both NGO and government programmes (Maruatona: 3,6). A few specialist centres such as INEA in Mexico and CREFAL in Latin America, which combine training with research, also exist and perform a valuable function in their region, at times establishing policies and suggestions for the training of literacy educators on a regional basis.

The situation then is confused. Some NGOs rely on government programmes (Maruatona: 6); some governments freely use NGO staff and programmes. But equally governments and NGOs may follow different paths. And such arrangements often change over time. Some regard the diversity of agencies as a strength, others as a problem:

"There appears ... to be little or no co-ordination in terms of the roles and duties of the various agencies involved in the training of adult education grassroots fieldworkers. This might lead to duplication of efforts and some wastage of meagre resources." (Tahir 2004:160)

It is this which has created in several contexts the search for an overall networking agency which can provide some co-ordination and research functions.

The Trainers

Wide range of trainers: Again a very wide range of persons are being used as trainers in TOLE, especially TALF. Many are academics, and some university centres such as CERID in Nepal have developed extensive programmes of TALF. Others are drawn from the full-time staff of the providing agencies, governmental and NGO - "district or regional officers; staff of NGOs and churches" (Marua-tona:6). "The full-time trainers are the regular staff members of the NGO" (Rashid and Rahman 2004:171). Dhaka Ahsania Mission in Bangladesh has "a team of 15 highly experienced trainers ...the minimum qualification of the trainers is Masters degree with pedagogical experience in the field of literacy and non-formal education" (DAM case study). Some of the providing agencies like UNIVA in Nigeria have come to earn a reputation for training, and their staff are called upon by other bodies to run training activities. In Egypt for some time, the training of literacy educators in other NGO and government programmes was largely carried out by staff from CARITAS, and in central Africa, the staff of LABE (Literacy and Adult Basic Education) from Uganda are often requested to provide training both in that country and abroad. Some are local professionals such as journalists (because of their perceived expertise in the production of written materials and communicating with others). Overseas trainers seem to be employed fairly frequently; in Egypt, the CELL programme drew its trainers largely from overseas consultants (Sabri e-mail). Donors such as USAID, UNICEF, World Education (Shrestha e-mail), Save the Children and IIZ/DW provide trainers from time to time to programmes they help to fund, usually but not always working with local trainers.

It would seem that in some places,

"There are in fact just a few of them [trainers] in the country who are in demand constantly. Many of these trainers do not have much actual hands-on experience of teaching adults". (Mitra:9)

They are chosen for their educational level or other developmental expertise rather than for their experience and expertise in teaching literacy to adults.

"The upper layers of the hierarchy... were usually self-taught in ... literacy, often from universities or advanced NGOs and were seen as epitomising wisdom." (Mitra: 12)

Since few of the trainers have direct and recent experience of teaching literacy to adults, they can tell how it should be, not how it is.

"It is possible for a supervisor to become a trainer after participating in the facilitators' training programme and then demonstrating competence in supervisory activities." (Rashid and Rahman 2004:170)

It would seem that the majority of trainers are men, reflecting in large part the gendered nature of much educational planning and academic control. However there are (especially in south Asia) a significant number of women freelance consultant trainers, and several NGOs use female trainers. This is an area which needs much more research.

Payment: Some trainers are paid for their services, others are not. There is frequently no specific budget for training, in which case the providing agency (government or NGO) covers the cost by using staff already on their pay roll. In Uganda, the evaluators noted that the government picked up the cost of training the literacy educators as this was not built into the budget. (Carr-Hill 1998:101)

Use of facilitators as trainers of new facilitators: Few programmes use experienced facilitators to help train literacy educators: "The trainers do not involve literacy teachers in the training of new recruits." (Maruatona: 10) A few however do so; in Bangladesh, one literacy facilitator

"Nasreen conducted 25 cycles of the adult literacy course, each of six months duration. ... Every year FW/DB [the NGO concerned] arranges several TOT (training of trainers) courses for the NGO's mid-level personnel. Nasreen is one of the grassroots facilitators who join them to share experiences in different sessions." (Rashid and Rahman 2004: 173)

However, observation reveals that in many cases these facilitator-trainers do not play a large role in the training activities. And on the whole, this is unusual; it may be more common in supplementary training such as World Education's Integrated Health and Literacy Programme in Egypt (Potter: 7).

Teams of trainers: Trainers often operate in small teams (Rashid and Rahman 2004:171). In World Education (Nepal), two or more trainers work with any one group of trainees (WE(N) case study). But in other cases, a single trainer will be working with a group at any one time.

Training of Trainers (TOT)

This section refers only to the training of those who train the literacy educators, for the training of the literacy educators see pp. 221.

Informal TOT

Few of those who train the literacy educators have themselves received any training for this task. There is a laissez faire attitude towards TOT. With such a wide ranging group of trainers (Egypt, for example, "uses GALAE staff, university and other professionals, school principals etc" as its trainers), it is often possible only to provide loose guidelines rather than carefully planned TOT.

Where TOT exists, it seems to take two forms, like TOLE - a formal programme leading to certificates, diplomas and even to Masters degrees, and informal orientation and training programmes. There is virtually no follow-up to initial TOT or on-going development programmes for trainers.

But the majority of trainers seem to have received little or no TOT. Formal education is often regarded as adequate: "in Botswana, literacy instructors are mostly trained by Certificate, Diploma or Degree in Adult Education holders from the ... University", even though it is accepted that "none of these courses necessarily teach them how to train literacy educators. They gain experience in the training of literacy educators on the job" (Maruatona:9-10). But there are some programmes where the non-formal training of trainers is taken seriously (e.g. WE(N) case study). In Somalia, where

"a group of some 30 trainers drawn from the various regions of the country was formed,... a one-week training workshop was held on distance learning for these persons. The workshop was apparently led by the AET[African Educational Trust] Programme Manager." (Somdel)7

In Bangladesh,

"In order to organise, put into practice and supervise adult literacy and basic education programme activities effectively to attain the set objectives, a two-week long training course is organised for the staff members of service providers and NGOs. These trainers ultimately train the course facilitators at grassroots training centres." (Rashid and Rahman 2004:171)

Dhaka Ahsania Mission in Bangladesh runs "in-service training, needs-based training at home and abroad ... for capacity development of the trainers.... Frequent internal workshops and working in a team" form part of the concern to "update and enhance professional understanding of the DAM trainers." (DAM case study)

No figures have been found of the take-up and completion of these TOT courses, but evidence elsewhere indicates that not all trainers participate in TOT and several trainers do not complete their courses. In the India TLC, the Key Resource Persons and Master Trainers were expected to receive some form of training. This took many forms: PRIA ran a nine-day residential training programme (led by three trainers) for 45 "District Adult Education Officers, Project Officers and Supervisors as well as a trainers' team" from two NGOs (PRIAI); other TOT activities were held locally. Several trainers however were unable to participate in this training as they were all perceived to be "very busy people"; instead of five days TOT, 40% received 3 days, while 6% received only one day (Shah 2004:39; see PRIA 1).8

Contents and approaches: The subject matter of TOT varies very widely. Some is theoretical and academic in nature; some is strictly practical.

"It was assumed that the trainers of instructors must have all the competency that an instructor needs to have plus the competencies of a trainer." (PRIA2)

TOT is however usually more tightly focused on adult pedagogy than are the TALF and TABETT programmes.

Manuals for trainers: In some cases, the training manuals designed for use in TALF programmes are also used in the training of trainers programmes.

Evaluation of TOT: Apart from internal evaluations conducted at the end of some TOT courses, there is relatively little evaluation of the effectiveness of these programmes. But where it does exist, it reflects many weaknesses. Thus in the Bangladesh Total Literacy Campaign, an internal evaluation report stated that

"Master trainers are selected from NGOs and trained by core trainers of DNFE. They are not all trainers by profession but are full time employees. When these trainers are conducting sessions, there is no one to monitor their performance. Many of them also skip sessions and do their office work during the course. All training materials are also not available all the time to conduct a proper training. The quality of the training further deteriorates when a trainer has to conduct sessions for 30 days at a stretch without even a weekend off!" (cited in Mitra 2004)

Formal Training of Trainers

In many ways, the formal TABETT programmes may be seen as TOT, for many of those who complete such courses and obtain their certification are appointed to positions within formal ABET or NFE institutions where they engage in training literacy educators, even if they have no experience of working at field level. Again, formal education is seen as adequate for this purpose.

Agencies and provision: Two recent surveys (Mpofu and Youngman 2005; Hagnonnou 2005) indicate that in Anglophone Africa, formal courses of training are known in at least nine countries, all of them institutions of higher education (universities or colleges of education),9 whereas in five countries of Francophone Africa, independent institutes and some NGOs complement the provision of the universities. The training staff are academics who have received formal training but "the least significant staff development programmes were field exposures (cited by none) and courses (cited by 2)" (Mpofu and Youngman 2005:9). Their own training consists of seminars and workshops of one or more days. Literacy is a major area of their research but it is strongly rivalled by other areas of interest (Mpofu and Youngman 2005:34

The Training of Adult Literacy Educators (Chapter IV)

"The training of facilitators differs greatly in different countries and is continually evolving, so it makes it quite hard (impossible!) to say 'this is the way facilitators are trained'". (Newman)

The training of adult literacy educators depends of course on the kind of adult literacy educators being trained; and the kinds of literacy educators depend on the kind of learning programmes for which they are recruited. It is therefore important that we start by looking at the various kinds of ALLPs currently being offered.

Adult Literacy Learning Programmes

Adult literacy learning programmes (ALLPs) are very varied. Unlike primary education, most adult programmes consist of a fixed-duration campaign model, a single-shot training programme in literacy skills designed to 'make illiterate people literate' once and for all. Some are very large scale such as government programmes; some are small scale, mostly NGO programmes. The agencies which provide ALLPs and therefore employ the literacy educators consist of central and local government departments, international, national or local NGOs (which may implement government programmes or run their own programmes, which may be radically different from the government programmes), educational establishments, firms, churches, trade unions, social action organisations and local associations. There are parallel, competing and rival agencies in many locations: for example,

"despite [the Brazilian government's] efforts to harness all government programmes with the national effort, the Ministry of Agrarian Development (MDA) maintains an independent programme known as the National Programme of Education for Agrarian Reform, PRONERA, which works exclusively in ... rural areas ... its literacy workers and adult students are not included in the national register". (lreland:5)

At least three different scenarios can be detected:

  • non-formal literacy learning programmes (adult literacy classes) with or without other developmental material;
  • more informal literacy learning embedded within development projects and taught by other specialists such as health workers etc.
  • literacy within formal adult basic or non-formal education (ABET/ NFE) establishments.

We need to expand on these categories.

There are short-term time-bound programmes which are specifically literacy learning programmes. These seem to fall into two main kinds:

a) literacy stand-alone courses: the primary function of these learning programmes is instruction in the skills of reading and writing through various teaching-learning texts. Such "literacy programs are normally regarded as single interventions by temporary staff to deal once and for all with what is termed 'the problem of illiteracy'" (Rogers 2002:331). The success of the programme is measured in terms of the 'level' of literacy skill achieved.

b) literacy with other developmental messages: more usually however such programmes include other developmental messages as part of the learning programme, especially health or income generation skill learning or environmental messages or (especially in Latin America) citizenship etc. For example, learning to read and write

"is more than just mastering the graphic elements of reading and writing. The process should be understood as something that allows for a broader worldview and one that is practised as the most consistent exercise of citizenship." (Esteves 2004:246)

- but the programme is still designated a literacy programme (see ASPBAE publications under the title of 'Literacy Plus...'). Some programmes

"integrate literacy activities with a mix of non-formal education programming ... that takes content from another sector such as health, educational strengthening or asset development and develops the topics into literacy materials". (Potter: 1)

Thus the term 'literacy' can be included incidentally rather than centrate on specificthemes such as

"programmes that concentrate on specific themes such as citizenship, indigenous and peasant populations, work, gender, local development and literacy". (Youngman and Singh 2005:7)

In India, population education has often gone alongside adult literacy learning. Sometimes, as in Egypt, the additional elements are run side by side with the literacy learning:

"The program focuses on supplementing GALAE's basic literacy curriculum with newly developed literacy lessons that integrate basic literacy concepts with messages concerning maternal and child health care." (Rosser e-mail)

But the focus is always on the literacy learning in these programmes.

Secondly, there are literacy learning programmes embedded within other activities. The majority of these are developmental activities such as credit and savings or women's empowerment or livelihood activities (Oxenham 2002).10 Here the primary focus is on the developmental achievement rather than on literacy learning. The measure of success is not the level of literacy skills achieved but increased health or child care, increased agricultural yields etc.; and the literacy learning may be quite small: in Bolivia, for example, only 7% of the contents of the literacy learning courses surveyed was devoted to literacy; the rest was devoted to income generation, health, community participation, legal rights, decision-making and miscellaneous (Burchfield Bolivia 2002:110). In such programmes, the taught literacy element is usually separated from the developmental activities (and indeed confined to the so-called 'illiterate' participants rather than for all members of the development group), in which case they appear similar to the standalone courses. In some places, adult literacy learning programmes are being offered within workplace activities by educators hired by firms to teach their employees (Maruatona 2005). While there appears to be something of a downturn at the moment in this activity,11 this kind of provision is still substantial.

Thirdly, there are literacy learning programmes embedded within a wider curriculum of adult basic education and training (ABET), continuing education, or non-formal adult education (NFAE), often (but not always) located within adult education institutions. There has been a strong plea to see literacy within a context of lifelong learning just as there has also been a plea that ABET and NFE should not be seen solely as 'literacy learning' but should comprise a wider curriculum (UIE 2001; Torres 2001 - see Dighe 2005:56): thus CONFINTEA V urged a contextualisation of literacy within continuing or lifelong education and spoke of "education throughout life". South Africa is not the only country where it can be reported that

"During the 1990s, adult literacy... moved into a much more formal mode. Literacy work became ABET (adult basic education and training) ... and education generally adopted a standards-based system. Consequently the training of adult literacy facilitators/ ABET practitioners also had to move into a unit standard mode." (Tuchten e-mail)

In Nigeria, for example, a review of ABE training centres with learning programmes on social work, basic health work, agricultural extension, co-operatives, women's vocational education etc. showed that "half the training centres have programmes for literacy instruction" taught by the staff of these centres. Elsewhere, "much of the existing [ABE] training takes the form of traditional, school-type programmes leading to formal qualifications such as diplomas and certificates" (Tahir 2004:147,160). In Latin America, most adult literacy learning programmes are planned for "almostautomatic carry-on into continuing education" (Ireland). Even the more non-formal programmes are feeling the push into formalisation. In at least one NGO in Bangladesh, the

"adult literacy and basic education curricula are designed around life-related subjects including agriculture, health, nutrition, justice, dowry, poverty alleviation and so on." (Rash id and Rahman 2004: 182)

Indeed, in some places, 'literacy' is being subsumed altogether: in Egypt, the national General Authority for Literacy and Adult Education (GALAE) has now removed the word 'Literacy' from its title. On the other hand, while the growing institutionalisation of ABET is recognised in several countries, it is admitted that

"the majority of adults at the lower end who are without literacy and basic education, as well as workers in the survival or subsistence informal economy, lack access to these institutions" (Singh and McKay 2004:12)

and hence in parts of Latin America, the word 'literacy' is now being inserted into programme descriptions along with 'adult education' (Ireland).

The increasing institutionalisation of some adult literacy learning into an adult basic education framework suggests that there is in these cases some considerable increase in resources available for adult literacy (and basic education); but since much of this trend is supported by donor funds, there is doubt as to its sustainability.12 And we need to notice that fashions change in this field very quickly. The drive towards literacy for, or with, livelihoods with its practical developmental orientation which the late 1990s and early years of 2000 saw has now to some extent lost its momentum and the drive is more towards formal ABET programmes with a more or less formal curriculum. Adult literacy learning is not like formal primary schooling - it is subject to short term fluctuations of interest and neglect.

Madrassa school literacy: We need also to note one special category of adult literacy learning - the madrassa or maktab schools. These vary greatly in different contexts. Some are short weekly meetings, others are full-time classes for several days in each week. The work in these schools ranges from memorising parts of the Koran or the suras to learning through a whole curriculum including literacy in Arabic or another language. The teachers in these schools range from persons who may not be professionally 'literate' but are very knowledgeable in the Koranic traditions to highly trained and qualified persons (Rahman 2005; Andabi et al n.d.; Zaman 1999). These schools are spreading widely, especially through parts of Asia, and many adults as well as children acquire their first literacy through such schools. I am unable to say anything about the provision for training of those who teach in such schools but their contribution to adult literacy is substantial.

Innovatory approaches to ALLPs: There have of course been several innovative approaches to the learning of literacy skills, mostly by NGOs and/or educational agencies such as universities. These include some less-than-successful attempts to harness radio, television and other distance learning technologies to the learning of literacy skills. The Allama Iqbal Open University in Pakistan ran some courses specifically for women; and in India, several attempts have been made "to promote literacy through the... transmission of literacy support materials" (Shah 2004:51; see Yates and Bradley 2000 for an overall review).13 Some have experimented with the use of ICT with non-literate adults (e.g. Dighe 2004: 325-335; Gerasch 2004). The training of the educators involved in these experimental programmes has always been seen as something special, innovative approaches lying within the projects themselves rather than a part of any overall approach to TOLE (Uganda ICT). There are other innovatory approaches including short-term intensive residential courses such as the "Literacy Crash Course" provided by Astha in India in 1999 with three linked 5-day residential sessions (Astha 1999), drop-in centres (Aderinoye and Rogers 2005), nomadic, migrant or pastoral literacy programmes, indigenous literacy programmes, literacy in emergency and conflict situations etc.; but on the whole these are relatively few (though increasing). Family and inter-generational literacy programmes are also growing, as are religious literacies and faith-based groups. Normally, special provision is made for recruiting and training the literacy educators in such programmes, for they need "a creative and innovative teacher who could use things from the environment rather than depending on prepared materials" (Astha 1999), and their engagement both in training and in working with the literacy learners tends to be much more intensive than the traditional ALLPs.

The Ethos behind Adult Literacy Learning Programmes

Division between education and development: It has been suggested that running throughout the provision of adult literacy learning opportunities today is a fault line between those who see literacy learning as part of a development programme, contextualised to each specific programme and with developmental rather than educational goals, and those who see literacy learning in 'educational' terms, with a standardised curriculum to be delivered by the literacy educator and learned by the literacy learner, where the aim is to raise "the educational or literacy levels of adults and young people" (COLLIT 2004; Singh and McKay 2004:13). The emergence of what has been called "an expanded vision of basic education" (Dighe 2005:64) and the equally strong call for literacy to be located within a 'lifelong learning context' (UIE 2001; Torres 2001; Dighe 2005:56) are both part of the educational model for literacy. In this model (as for example in AUPEP in Namibia), the curriculum is centrally determined and common to all adult learning groups, unlike the livelihoods model where the curriculum is locally determined by the learning group. Universal Basic Education (UBE) largely replicates Universal Primary Education (UPE), and adult literacy lies at the heart of UBE. The developmental model has equally strongly been related to the livelihoods model of literacy learning (DFID 2002) but it is also wider than this, encompassing health and citizenship as well. This distinction may be related to the distinction between programmes which are curriculum-led and those which are more participatory. It may also be described in terms of the distinction between those who see basic education for adults as much the same as primary education for children and those who see adult literacy "as a branch of education which is distinct in its character" (Duke 2000: 362). It is however possible to view these two focal points as the ends of a continuum with intermediate points rather than two different categories.

Literacy first or literacy second: This fault line has also been categorised as a dichotomy between a 'literacy first' and a 'literacy second' model (Rogers 2000). The educational model talks of literacy learning as the essential first step to a continued process of further learning, a 'key' or gateway into further educational opportunities, even formal schooling. Programmes built on this model start with literacy, even when some other developmental messages are included. The developmental ('literacy second) model talks of literacy skills being only one of many different sets of skills which people may wish to learn to achieve their own developmental objectives; literacy is useful but not essential to progress. Programmes built on this model start with some developmental activity and build into the process a contextualised 'relevant literacy' rather than a universalised decontextualised literacy. The purpose of this literacy learning is a developmental goal achievement.

Purposes of ALLPs: We also need very briefly to consider the purposes for which ALLPs are promoted, since these will affect both the selection and the training of the educators. Some agencies see 'literacy' as a means to an end, some see it as an end in itself. Some ALLPs are motivated by economic reasons, especially poverty reduction, some by a view of 'literacy' as a human right. Some are aimed at support for the existing government and dominant systems, some at social transformation. Some agencies, whether providing, funding or advocacy, such as UNESCO and many governments, of course claim both purposes - a human right and a useful tool; a form of socialisation and at the same time of social transformation. But we note today a trend towards the increasing politicisation of all forms of development including literacy learning, so that for example in some contexts, radical forms of social transformation are less acceptable than they formerly were; in many contexts, even in Latin America and especially in parts of Asia, it is no longer politically acceptable to talk about 'conscientization' as part of the goals of development, education or even literacy learning, and literacy learning programmes which challenge government can be isolated from the mainstream, as BGVS has become in India. These changes reflect the differing balance between the changing interests of advocacy bodies, funders, governments, NGOs and other bodies involved in adult literacy learning programmes.14 And apart from the mismatch between the radicalism of some providers and funders and the desire to maintain the status quo of governments and other elites, there is often considerable mismatch between the purposes of the providers and the purposes of the literacy learners. All of this will often be felt by the literacy educators and reflected in their training.

Fundamentalism and literacy learning: We may note here one comment on recent developments in the field of adult literacy:

"An alarming trend that is emerging in the region, however, is the growth of fundamentalist (especially religious) organisations who seek to promote literacy. In fact, if in the 1980s and 1990s, the literacy movement was accompanied by major initiatives in the fields of gender empowerment, ecological regeneration, income augmentation of the poor and so on, as well as raising critical consciousness of the masses, literacy initiatives in the late 1990s and early 2000s have often been accompanied by an upsurge of religious fundamentalism and cultural intolerance, with accompanying gender inequity. This is at the behest of right wing religious fundamentalist parties as well as the state, in both India and Bangladesh." (Mitra:14)

Trend towards ABET/NFAE: Throughout the developing countries, the main trend would seem to be towards the ABET/NFAE model - towards institutionalisation of adult literacy and its internationalisation, towards the educational rather than the developmental or livelihoods approach.15 In part, this may be a response to these more recent trends, an attempt to stress a 'neutral' concept of literacy learning. Nevertheless, the majority of ALLPs at the moment would seem to be of the literacy alone or literacy with developmental messages categories. And most of the training of literacy educators takes place within this framework.

Adult Literacy Educators

Since ALLPs are very varied, it follows that those who teach literacy to adults are also very varied:

a) some are part-time, local persons engaged on a casual basis to teach single groups of adult literacy learners. Many of them have had no previous experience of teaching anything to anyone: in one survey of the Indian Total Literacy Campaign,

"more than 70% of the volunteer teachers interviewed... had no previous experience of teaching literacy... in any governmental, non-governmental programmes or privately (e.g. at home) before becoming voluntary teachers." (Yagi 2001)

Some of these 'volunteers'16are paid, others are unpaid; several have other occupations (lreland:13) but in many localities, the majority engage in no other income-generating activity. Student volunteers on occasion gain credits in their formal education programmes. Some of these have little formal education but others are well educated. They have no formal qualification to teach adults.

b) some are full-time formally qualified adult educators employed within wider programmes of ABET or NFE.

c) some are full-time teachers in other sectors of education (e.g. primary school teachers) who engage in adult literacy teaching voluntarily or as part of their duties. They are qualified teachers but not of adults.

d) some are full-time or part-time NGO staff or other employed development workers such as extension staff who teach literacy incidentally. Some of the NGO staff have come up through social movements with high levels of commitment (e.g. in South Africa and Latin America), others have been pressed into service. They are usually qualified in some area other than adult education/literacy.

It is not possible to indicate the relative strength of each type of literacy educator except in very general terms. The majority today appear to be the part-time local persons; many countries use primary or other school teachers, other countries do not use them at all extensively. The number of full-time qualified and professional adult educators teaching literacy is still small but appears to be growing. Each local situation needs to be examined to determine the balance between these categories of adult literacy educators.

It is important to recognise that there is often a strong element of control of adult literacy educators by governments and/or the employing agency, even NGOs. They are not free agents, even within their own learning situations. And from time to time they become caught up in political situations for which their training (and personal inclinations) have not prepared them and which cause them at times to avoid the full implementation of their programmes including training.17 And since their continued employment depends upon their maintaining good relations with their agencies and trainers, they are in many cases not inclined to raise doubts or questions even in training sessions, or provide realistic evaluations at the end of training programmes:

"In theory, the trainees often evaluated the training programmes. However, not much seems to have happened in practice. Part of the reason ... was that the trainers were held in great awe by the trainees, who often belonged to the community they belonged to. In Bangladesh, the other issue that emerges is that the literacy facilitators generally belong to the informal [economic] sector. They and their families depend on the NGOs for a whole range of things, including micro-credit. Since the NGO [providing] literacy [programmes] in the region also plays an important role in the village, including the selection of the facilitators who were given small stipends, it was felt that voicing/writing adverse opinions on the training programmes could antagonise the NGO personnel and thereby jeopardise the other development benefits they potentially gain." (Mitra:13)

Trend to professionalisation: The main trend would seem to be towards the professionalisation of adult literacy educators. The majority of ALEs however would seem to be volunteer facilitators.

Two Kinds of Training of Adult Literacy Educators

Since the training of adult literacy educators is of necessity adapted to the particular circumstances of the ALEs, the programmes of TOLE are very varied, ranging from formal to informal. "Training of adult educators, like adult education itself, takes many forms and modes" (Duke 2000:363), even in the same country and sometimes even in the same programme. The format varies greatly from formalised lengthy full-time courses to very short part-time informal programmes. A workshop run by PRIA in 1992 reviewing the training strategies in the Total Literacy Campaign in India reveals very wide variations of practice and effectiveness in the districts covered (PRIA4). Generalisations then are always dangerous but some may be attempted.

The non-formal training of adult literacy facilitators (TALF) and the formal training of ABET/NFE teachers (TABETT) are of completely different kinds. TALF programmes are almost always very short, and on the whole not certificated. We may include here the more informal training in literacy teaching offered to school teachers, to NGO staff and extension workers. The TABETT programmes are elaborate, lengthy (one to three-year), usually full-time or distance learning, and certificated. Most of these are for professional 'adult educators', who may rarely teach literacy to adults directly; some include adult literacy in the curriculum covered. There are of course programmes between these two extremes.

The main trend seems to be towards the formalisation of TOLE, from literacy training into adult education training and human resource development/continuing professional development (Youngman and Singh 2005; DAM case study). In particular, this is part of the process of providing some measure of institutionalisation to TOLE, a process which (it is argued) will make it more sustainable by bringing it closer to the mainstream formal education system, regularising it throughout the country and bringing it under stronger state control or influence. At the moment, the majority of TOLE programmes devoted to those who actually teach literacy skills to adults are in the first category - short informal TALF courses, ad hoc, and localised to the ALLPs, rather than the formal TABETT programmes.


1  The Namibian National Policy sees both the university UNAM and the distance learning college NAMCOL as having joint responsibility for the "training of professionals", and the National Council for Adult Education as having responsibility to "promote and advise on training programmes for those engaged in the provision of adult learning as facilitators, organisers, curriculum developers, planners and researchers", National Policy Statement 2003:14-15.

2  In Tanzania, "in terms of the Education and Training Policy (MOEC 1995) the ministry responsible for teacher education was commissioned to provide for the training of a specific cadre of adult education teachers and tutors. Thus in the Basic Education Master Plan (BEMP) (URT 1997), the government of Tanzania included an Adult Education/Literacy Expansion programme forthe training of district co-ordinators/facilitators and literacy teachers in order to provide equitable access to adult literacy and post-literacy training for disadvantaged groups" (Ligate 2004:74).

3  On the other hand, "the National Policy document has committed the [Nigerian] government-owned institutions and training centres and NGOs to the training of all categories of adult education staff... [including] grassroots adult education personnel" (Tahir 2004:146).

4  The Indonesian Tutors' Association of the 1980s was an exception; it is not clear how effective it was or is. Oxen ham 2003:93.

5  For a list of the "training centres and institutes in Nigeria", see Tahir 2004:148-9.

6  "For the last two decades, PRIA along with its partners, has been engaged in promoting Training of Trainers (TOT) programmes, aimed to prepare trainers in participatory training methodology. The initial TOTs helped in preparing a manual on participatory training methodology which has since been translated into nearly twenty languages in India and abroad. In collaboration with regional partners, regional TOTs have been organized, helping to scale up this methodology" (PRIA website, accessed 17.02.2005). These TOT programmes however are not specifically for literacy.

7  But it is strange that in this programme, these trainers who had received one week of TOT were called upon to give only two days training to the literacy educators, Somdel.

8  Interestingly, a quarter of all the trained Master Trainers "did not conduct any training of Vis (voluntary instructors)." (Shah 2004:39)

9  Surprisingly, these surveys omit the provision of the University and the College of Open Learning in Namibia and the distance education course of UNISA in S Africa.

10 It must be noted that some programmes labelled 'literacy learning programmes' contain no literacy learning at all; they are using the 'literacy' label to make them acceptable in certain cultural contexts.

11  "Many firms that in the past offered workplace adult basic education programmes have realised that it is cheaper and more effective to meet targets such as 'a literate workforce by 2010' by retrenching older functionally illiterate workers and employing young school leavers. This means of course ... fewer employment opportunities for ABE educators". Land e-mail.

12   e.g. in S Africa, UNISAis supported by donor funding and the withdrawal of funding threatens the continuation of the training programme, especially as the government has also withdrawn for the time being the South African National Literacy Initiative (SANLI). In parts of Asia, the ABET/NFE provision is supported by the Asian Development Bank and other international anennies

13   We do need to be careful here. ODL has very rarely been used for initial literacy programmes and then normally to support the educators. Its use has been confined to post-literacy and literacy enhancement programmes. In Mongolia, for example, ODL learners "needed to have already a certain level of education in order to participate"; they were required to keep a written journal. Robinson, (Mongolia website)

14  Perhaps the most significant changes are those taking place at the moment as revealed by the Report of the Commission on Africa: Our Common Interest (London: DFID2005). Based on the work of the Task Force on Education, this argues that the heart of development is (or should be) small enterprises in both rural and urban areas (rather than industrial development in urban and livelihoods in rural areas), the strengthening of the private sector, and that education including literacy should be re-oriented towards these goals. However, the report emphasises that education cannot be seen alone; indeed that education in Africa at the moment is not pro-poor but is reinforcing poverty. The mere expansion of education (including literacy) will not promote growth, it will only be effective in a dynamic environment with massive targeted investment in all forms of infrastructure. UPE/UBE cannot be reached by concentrating solely on UPE/UBE but it must be accompanied by a concentration on holistic development including investment in other educational sectors (especially higher education) and in other developmental sectors, especially leadership. This is a radical document which will affect adult literacy learning programmes and the ideas behind it are already influencing the education and training of adult educators, as Hagnonnou's 2005 report shows.

15   It has been suggested this is part of the politically motivated move towards lifelong learning for the formal economic sector and away from the radical forms of ALLPs.

16   I do not like restricting the use of the term 'volunteer' to those who are not paid, for very many of those who are paid (usually a pittance) are also volunteers in the sense that they are doing this work voluntarily. In Brazil, although paid, the literacy educators "are considered to be volunteers in accordance with the concept of voluntary service instituted by the Law 9.608 of 1998" (lreland:4). It is best just to distinguish between those who are paid and those who are not paid.

17  Mitra speaks of programmes in India which "antagonised the local administration as well as the very facilitators at times". He gives as an example: "Thus for instance, northern Bihar is perpetually plagued by floods due to human built embankments. The first primer dealt with this issue graphically. At the time of the floods, the local populace in many places organised to break down the embankments in a particular district. The administration clamped down and the primer had to be withdrawn. Those facilitators who were from the urban areas did not agree with this analysis and participated in both the training and the instructing in a rather niggardly manner." (Mitra:5)


Case studies written for this study

Fentiman Alicia (SomDel), Somalia

Dhaka Ahsania Mission, Bangladesh

LABE, Uganda

World Education, Nepal

Nirantar, India

Papers written for this study

Mitra Amit, Training of literacy instructors/facilitators in Asia.

Ireland Timothy D, Initial and continued formation of literacy workers: methodological plurality and diversity within the Literate Brazil Programme of the Brazilian government.

Potter Kristen E, Integrated health and literacy: supplementing the national literacy curriculum in Egypt.

Doronila Maria Luisa C, Case study (Philippines) on training of adult literacy facilitators; Case study (Asia-Pacific) on training of adult literacy facilitators; Case studies (Asia-Pacific region) on training of adult literacy facilitators (summary).

Maruatona Tonic, An overview of training of literacy instructors/facilitators in southern Africa.

Newman Kate, Reflect facilitator training.

Selected References and Bibliography

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Astha 1999 Om Shrivastava, Literacy Crash Course: an experience with tribal women, LRC Activity Report.

Burchfield Shirley et al 2002 Women's Literacy in Bolivia report, World Education.

Burchfield Shirley et al 2002 A longitudinal study of the effect of integrated literacy and basic education programs on women's participation in social and economic development in Nepal, report, World Education and Harvard University.

Carr Hill Roy 1998 Evaluation of Functional Adult Literacy Programme (draft); see Uganda 1999.

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Hagnonnou Bernard 2005 Survey of TOT provision by higher and non-academic adult education institutions in Africa/Asia-Pacific: case studies Francophone Africa, unpublished paper for IIZ/DW.

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