Latin American Group of Specialists in Literacy and Written Culture (GLEACE)

GLEACE, the Latin American Group of Specialists in Literacy and Written Culture, was founded in November 2006 in Mexico. They are a member of CREFAL (Centro de Cooperación Regional para la Educación de los Adultos en América Latina y el Caribe). Here is the GLEACE declaration as released at CONFINTEA VI.

On Illiteracy and Literacy


We, the undersigned members of the Latin American Group of Specialists in Literacy and Written Culture (GLEACE), wish to express that:

  • We valorise the renewed efforts which have been made in Latin America and the Caribbean in the field of Adult Education.
  • We consider specially propitious the setting and the moment created by the 6th International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VI, Belém, Brazil, 1st – 4th December 2009) to be held for the first time in the southern hemisphere and specifically in this region.
  • We feel ourselves moved by the call to advance “from literacy to lifelong learning” set out during CONFINTEA V (Hamburg, 1997) and repeated in the case of this region in the preparatory regional conference, held in Mexico in September 2008.

At the same time, and in this framework, we observe with preoccupation:

a) The predominant emphasis which has been given to literacy, to the point of once again reducing Adult Education to literacy. In addition, the traditional dichotomies between illiterate and literate and between pure illiterates and functional illiterates, widely questioned by abundant research as well as by the very development and complexity of the written culture in the world, persist.

b) Literacy activities which are implemented in a vacuum, both at national and regional levels, ignoring the rich and lengthy history of adult literacy for which Latin America and the Caribbean are well know internationally.

c) The persistence of a simplistic and facile conception of literacy seen as a process which can be executed in a short period of time, in precarious conditions, by educators with little or no training, using just one method, with scarce reading and writing materials, a feeble use of modern technologies and without taking into account the linguistic and cultural diversity of the students. Precisely because they are illiterate people or with low levels of schooling these poor sectors which have for years been denied the right to education, deserve contemporary educational provision of the highest quality.

d) The absence of learner assessment, often considering as literate those people enrolled in programmes or who declare themselves as literate, without verifying what they have really learned and without creating conditions in which they can use what they have learned and continue learning. This way of proceeding not only ignores the centrality which should be attributed to learning in the whole educational process but also the very experience of rigorous evaluations of mass literacy campaigns and programmes carried out in the same region in the past and in the present, by which as a result instead of advancing, in many cases we witness regression.

e) The political use of numbers and literacy rates, including the declaration of “territories free of illiteracy” or “literate countries” on the basis of a purely statistical estimate. Instead of facing up to the problematic with the integrity which this deserves, the illusion is created of having solved illiteracy in a record time. This contributes, on the other hand, to the contrary effect which is the greater marginalization of those people and groups who are declared as literate when they are not.

f) The continued separation of illiteracy from its structural conditions of reproduction, principally poverty and the denial of the right to a public free quality education for the whole population, without which it is unthinkable to solve the question of literacy in a sustainable fashion.

In this context, we make a renewed call to the international organisms to coordinate inter-agency actions and to carry out their technical role, assuming their responsibility in the face of the indispensable seriousness, transparency and credibility of those government actions which they support. It is not an exaggeration to record that organisms like UNESCO and others dedicated to the tasks of international cooperation, were created to offer support to governments for the benefit of their peoples.

Finally, we request that CONFINTEA VI deals in a critical and reflexive manner with the question of illiteracy and the literacy of young people and adults in this region and in the whole world, encouraging government initiatives but within the framework of a sincere and not demagogic dialogue, open to the participation of social organisations and to the diverse national and international actors who intervene in this field.

Adult Education and Development


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