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Background paperdoc - ICTs for Literacy


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									                  ICT for Literacy Workshop for E-9 Countries

        Bangladesh | Brazil | China | Egypt | India | Indonesia | Mexico | Nigeria | Pakistan

                                       4 - 6 October 2007

                                        Bangalore, India

                                 BACKGROUND PAPER
The 21st century and the beginning of the new millennium have marked many changes in the way
the world thinks and functions. Perhaps the most significant of these are the developments that
have taken place in the sphere of information communication and technology (ICT); in fact we
now live in the information age with tools of information being more sophisticated and effective
than ever before. These developments have had a major impact upon different areas of human
life – education, livelihood, communication, healthcare, social behaviour, etc., and have
compelled governments to formulate policies to harness the utility of ICT for the larger benefit of

Undoubtedly amongst the major challenges across
the globe, the concern for ensuring that every           Information      and    Communication
country has a literate population is deepest and         Technologies (ICT) refers to forms of
most urgent. Today the world has over 771                technology that are used to transmit,
million non literates, most of whom are located in       store, create, share or exchange
the developing and under developed countries.            information. This broad definition of
According to the EFA Global Monitoring Report            ICT includes such technologies as radio,
2006, South Asia alone has 380 million illiterate        television, video, DVD, telephone (both
people, whilst in sub-Saharan Africa 80 million          fixed line and mobile phones), satellite
children are out of school. It is also an                systems,     computer    and    network
                                                         hardware and software, as well as the
acknowledged fact that the benefits of literacy
                                                         equipment and services associated with
transcend beyond the mere ability to read and
                                                         these technologies, such as video
write and instead are the starting point for the
                                                         conference and electronic mail.
achievement of the larger goals of social and
economic development as well as political

Literacy is a global commitment. The Declaration made at the World Conference on Education
for All at Jomtien in 1990, was reiterated at the World Education Forum at Dakar in 2000.
Recognizing the need for an invigorated and sustained campaign to promote literacy, the United
Nations Literacy Decade (UNLD) was launched in 2003. The UNLD (2003-2012) reaffirms “that
literacy for all is at the heart of basic education for all and that creating literate environments and
societies is essential for achieving the goals of eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality,
curbing population growth, achieving gender equality, and ensuring sustainable development,
peace and democracy.”

Prepared by Anil Roongta, Director, State Resource Centre, Jaipur, and Anita Priyadarshini, Deputy
Director, National Institute of Open Schooling, New Delhi, on behalf of the Ministry of Human Resource
Development, Government of India, and UNESCO New Delhi.
Government of India                                                            UNESCO New Delhi

The commitment towards literacy was further strengthened through the resolution taken at the
UN General Assembly in Oct 2005 to announce the launch of LIFE, the Literacy Initiative for
Empowerment. This programme is a key global strategic framework for the implementation of
the UNLD and is aimed at supporting countries in achieving their literacy targets. Through its
strategy for advocacy and communication, the LIFE programme envisages the extensive use of
ICT, both for communication between stakeholders as well as for use in distance education and
self directed learning by out-of-school children and adults, especially girls and women.

More recently The EFA Global Monitoring                 DAKAR EFA GOALS
Report 2006 has highlighted that literacy is a          1. Expanding              and       improving
right still denied to nearly a fifth of the world's        comprehensive early childhood care and
adult population. In such circumstances, the               education, especially for the most
use of ICT to meet the needs of literacy and               vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
education becomes particularly important for            2. Ensuring that by 2015 all children,
many countries. The present conference of E-               particularly girls, children in difficult
9 countries viz., Bangladesh Brazil, China,                circumstances and those belonging to
Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and               ethnic minorities, have access to and
Pakistan is one more step in this direction.               complete, free and compulsory primary
The E-9 countries comprise more than half the              education of good quality.
world’s population and account for nearly               3. Ensuring that the learning needs of all
70% of the world’s non-literates. Here the                 young people and adults are met
disparities amongst the populations are more               through equitable access to appropriate
acute, especially for marginalised groups such             learning and life-skills programmes.
as women, minorities, poor, deprived and                4. Achieving a 50 per cent improvement in
others. There is therefore an urgent need to               levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially
address the issue of promoting the use of ICT              for women, and equitable access to basic
for literacy amongst the people of these                   and continuing education for all adults.
countries.                                              5. Eliminating gender disparities in
                                                           primary and secondary education by
E-9 COUNTRIES – REVISITING                                 2005, and achieving gender equality in
CHALLENGES AND PRIORITIES                                  education by 2015, with a focus on
The E-9 countries share certain common                     ensuring girls' full and equal access to
challenges:     large      populations     and             and achievement in basic education of
demographic pressures, substantial remote                  good quality.
populations, unwieldy education systems,                6. Improving all aspects of the quality of
relatively low levels of government funding                education and ensuring excellence of all
for education, persistent problems in reducing             so that recognized and measurable
adult illiteracy and a wide literacy gap                   learning outcomes are achieved by all,
between men and women.                                     especially in literacy, numeracy and
                                                           essential life skills.
In today’s fast changing world, most countries recognise the critical role of ICT in development.
The need to narrow the digital divide by harnessing the potential of ICT to achieve the goals of
EFA as well as to provide adequate learning opportunities for young people to complete primary

Government of India                                                        UNESCO New Delhi

and secondary education and encourage vocational and technical training is seen as a national
                                                   MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS
Recognising that education is a fundamental       RELATED TO EDUCATION
right and a key to social and economic            • Goal 2. Achieve universal primary
development, the Ministers of Education and           education. Target 3. Ensure that, by 2015,
representatives of nine high-population               children everywhere, boys and girls
countries came together in Beijing in 2001 to         alike, will be able to complete a full
review the progress made in achieving the             course of primary schooling.
goals of Education For All, to assess the         • Goal 3. Promote gender equality and
challenges posed to EFA by the swift                  empower women. Target 4. Eliminate
development of the global information society         gender disparity in primary and
and to re-examine the strategies for                  secondary education, preferably by 2005,
developing EFA.             Reaffirming their         and at all levels of education no later
commitment to the goals set by the World              than 2015.
Conference on Education for All and the Delhi
Declaration as well as the Dakar Framework for Action to meet the basic learning needs of all
their people, the Ministers acknowledged that EFA had become a strategic priority on the agendas
of national development and adult
literacy rates as well as skills training Large populations and vast geographical expanses
had increased, especially for women.      present special needs, opportunities and challenges
Governments across the world were         for using the power of communication technology
encouraging the promotion of distance     and mass media in education.
education and ICT in order to improve                     Framework for Action, E-9 EFA Summit,
access to learning and enhance the                                               New Delhi, 1993
quality of education.

The Beijing Declaration adopted during the E-9 Ministerial Review Meeting underlined the
importance of harnessing the great potential of ICT to achieve the goals of EFA. During the
Beijing Review Meeting, amongst the notable strategies put forth for the achievement of EFA,
there were some that were directly related to the utilization of ICT. These included:

1. Recognising that ICT is only a means and not an end in itself, its application in all fields of
   basic education, especially to reach the un-reached and provide for acquisition of additional
   skills, shall be accorded greater attention and encouragement;
2. Create a network on the use of ICT to foster interactions and experiences and sharing of
   resources, both human and material, in view of the challenges and the constraints of
   resources facing E-9 countries;
3. Embark upon and sufficiently fund the comprehensive training of teachers, administrators and
   others in the use of ICT.

The Ministers also called for strategic collaborative projects that would inform practice and policy
in key areas of basic education among the E-9 countries. These included identification and
documentation of best practices in ICT and distance education and investigations for the reduction

Government of India                                                         UNESCO New Delhi

of the digital divide. It was acknowledged that there were opportunities ahead and that distance
education and the appropriate and effective use of ICT had an important role to play in
reinforcing basic education as a strong foundation towards lifelong learning and the creation of a
knowledge and learning society. There was also a commitment made to increase educational
provision for young people and adults and to create opportunities for lifelong learning.

The Ministers further felt that it was the special concern of developed countries to consider it
their moral obligation and duty to play an active role in bridging the digital divide, so as to
promote international co-operation, mutual understanding and peace.

As a follow up to the Beijing Declaration, UNESCO designed a project called “ICT for the
promotion of literacy, especially in E-9 countries”. During the first phase, studies on best
practices in ICT-assisted literacy and basic education were carried out in Bangladesh, India,
Pakistan, China, Egypt and Mexico. Networking and cooperation between countries were also
promoted and national innovations identified for adaptation in other countries. The results of the
first phase are in line with the expected result of promoting lifelong learning through literacy and
NFE, while contributing to the achievement of EFA goals, particularly the third and the fourth
goals. The second phase in 2006-07 draws from lesson learned and results achieved in the
previous phase, focusing on the development and use of an ICT-based kit of literacy materials
and software in three E-9 countries i.e., Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. The second phase is also
in line with the broader UNESCO-supported “Literacy Initiative for Empowerment” (LIFE)
programme. Links between LIFE and the project are in the areas of development and production
of literacy materials on life skills and women's empowerment (for poverty reduction), training of
literacy teachers and facilitators of Community Learning Centres, support for gender responsive
literacy programmes, and capacity building through exchange of information on innovative
literacy programmes successfully experimented in other countries.


It is accepted that it is not the learning of literacy skills that brings about social and economic
benefits but the ability to use literacy in specific instances. According to Farrel (2003), “literacy
learning must encourage the use of skills in real life situations and promote the transfer of literacy
skills from the adult classroom into the external world”.

Over the years, the definition of literacy has broadened considerably. From the simple notion of
reading, writing and numeracy acquired by an individual, literacy today embodies many
meanings and has acquired a social context. The EFA Global Monitoring Report (2006, pp 148),
describes four distinct “understandings of literacy”:
     as a set of autonomous skills                          Literate societies enable the free
                                                             exchange         of      text-based
     as applied, practiced and situated
                                                             information and provide an array
     as a learning process
                                                             of opportunities for lifelong
     as text                                                learning.

                                                                EFA Global Monitoring Report, 2006

Government of India                                                        UNESCO New Delhi

In the world of today, besides reading, writing and numeracy, many other literacies are
simultaneously needed for functioning effectively. The fast changing world demands that neo-
literates be able to acquire new skills and engage in a process of lifelong learning. The changing
world, in which the role of ICT is central, now envisages a society where literate societies will be
the norm rather than the exception.

If a large part of the world’s neo-literates have to function in such a society, then the time to
prepare them is now. If this opportunity is lost, the divide between the two environments will
become wider and perhaps even insurmountable.

In recent years, non-formal and open and distance education schooling systems have become
important strategies in the field of education. The successful use of distance education and ICT
for reaching out to large numbers is recognised as an effective way of ensuring greater
educational access as well as ensuring undiluted quality of the programme. Besides the use of
ICT in the teaching learning process, the development of training of literacy workers through
distance education using ICT is an area that has tremendous potential. Countries such as
Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan have open and distance
education institutions that run literacy and basic education programmes.

Another important aspect is the linkage of literacy and livelihood. The importance of livelihood
for neo-literates cannot be denied. Literacy is seen by most neo-literates as a means for
subsequent engagement in an economic activity. Wagner (2005) refers to the UNDP model,
which illustrates the relationship between technology, skill development and economic
development. According to this model, a country’s ICT investments can directly enhance the
capabilities of its citizens. This in turn would lead to better productive usage of its technological
infrastructure and thence to creation of new knowledge and new industries, paving the way for
greater economic development. According to Wagner, the personal participation in this
technology-skill-economic development cycle begins with literacy.

In such a context, literacy programmes need to have a mandate that would equip neo-literates
with basic ICT skills and enhance their capacities. The role of industry and private enterprise in
finding placements for such neo-literates also assumes importance. Collaboration between these
two sectors would lead to sustained economic development, and thus be of mutual benefit.

ICT has many different roles to play in the promotion of literacy. While on one hand, it can be
used as a tool for broadening access to literacy and basic education, ICT also contributes to the
enhancement of learning and through this to the creation of an empowered society.

ICT can be a very potent tool for advocating the benefits of literacy programmes. With its
tremendous reach, the ICT has the potential to represent strategies, action taken and results
achieved to influence decision makers, stakeholders, civil societies and communities to create
positive change for creation of a sustainable environment for literacy.

Government of India                                                        UNESCO New Delhi

Broadening Access to Literacy and Education
Access to literacy education may be limited, or even denied, for a number of reasons. These
include social, cultural, economic, political and geographical factors, as well as lack of time to
attend classes, lack of qualified teachers, teachers absenteeism, lack of literacy materials in local
languages and issues such as delay in receipt of feedback and results. ICT can help to overcome
many of these barriers. For example, forms of ICT such as radio, television and the Internet can
help overcome geographical barriers by facilitating distance learning, thereby bringing literacy to
people who live in areas that are difficult to reach.

Reaching the Poorest of the Poor
In every society there are the poor and then those who are the poorest of the poor. In many cases
the benefits of government schemes and donor contributions do not percolate down to the poorest
and weakest sections of society. It is also a fact that the target groups for government schemes
for health, rural development and child welfare are common. It is through ICT that these most
vulnerable groups can be identified and reached. The development of an objective and
transparent method using a standardised computer database for doing this would ensure that the
poorest get assistance from all quarters and this in turn would have an overall impact upon

Multi-channel Learning
The World Declaration of Education for All spoke of an “expanded vision” of basic education
that “surpasses present resource levels, institutional structures, curricula and conventional
delivery systems while building on the best in current practices”. It is in this context that we need
to look at the concept of multi-channel learning. Multi channel learning is a strategy for
enhancing educational access, quality and equity as it caters for those diverse out of school
groups whose needs cannot be met through one single channel. It is felt that the chances for
effective learning are increased when more than one learning channel is used and the educational
delivery through these channels is aligned. Undoubtedly the use of appropriate educational media
can play a significant role in reaching learners in different situations and in countries with
different levels of resources.

Enhancing Learning
ICT can be used as a tool for the acquisition of literacy skills. For example, radio, when used in
combination with printed course material, can make literacy lessons more true-to-life and
interesting. Television, video, video compact disc (VCD) and digital video disc (DVD)
technologies provide words, images, movement and animation in combination with audio. This
combination can facilitate reading comprehension and accelerate literacy and learning.

Creating Local Content
ICT can enable the rapid and cost-effective creation and distribution of socially, culturally and
linguistically appropriate learning content. For example, word-processing software can be used
to modify literacy education material that has been developed elsewhere, to make it available in
local languages and on locally-relevant subjects.

Professional Development of Teachers

Government of India                                                        UNESCO New Delhi

Qualified and trained teachers represent the key to quality teaching and learner motivation.
However, in many countries professional expertise is limited and thinly distributed, particularly
for non-formal literacy education. While ICT cannot be a substitute for teachers, it can
supplement and support teachers by reducing their workload and enhancing the quality of

Creating An Empowered Society
ICT can be effectively used to promote and support literacy programmes. Technology can
support the development of basic literacy skills as well as encourage continuing education
through distance education. It is also important to assess what ICT means to a literate person.
While the use of ICT in the context of a neo-literate will lead to acquisition of new skills and
knowledge, ICT in the broad sense can lead to social and economic development, helping in
creating an empowered society.

A number of innovative programmes on ICT for promotion of literacy have been taken up in the
E-9 countries. The sharing of experiences and learning from these programmes will lead to
mutual benefits.

Little Explorer
This project, implemented in Mexico by the National Council for Education Development, uses
ICT to improve communication skills and logical reasoning skills of young children. The project
has an integrated approach, combining the provision of computer hardware and software with the
training of teachers. An innovative feature of the Little Explorer project is that it promotes a
collaborative educational environment and encourages parental involvement in the children’s
education process.

Proforma Escola Do Radio
The Programme Escola Do Radio is one of several non-formal literacy education programmes in
Brazil. This project aims to provide low-cost literacy education for youth and adults living in
remote areas in the State of Paraiba. The literacy course is five months long and uses a blend of
face-to-face and distance education. Course material is provided via three forms of media: radio,
television and books. Lessons are presented via 15-minutes radio programmes which are
repeated three times per day each week. The radio lessons are supplemented by a weekly
television programme which presents information on the various themes covered in the radio

The Tata Solution
The innovative Computer Based Functional Literacy (CBFL) programme has been developed by
Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in India. The CBFL project uses a mix of methods, teaching
software, multimedia presentations and printed material to teach an illiterate person to read in less
time than conventional methods. The TCS course has been designed based upon material
developed by the National Literacy Mission.

Government of India                                                        UNESCO New Delhi

Literacy Lessons via Television
An initiative by the Pakistan Television Corporation, the Adult Functional Literacy Programme
and the Education Television (ETV) project, uses television in combination with literacy primer
books to provide literacy lessons to adult students. Lessons teach learners to read and write
simple sentences relating to their daily life and work.
                                                                     Minimum requirements for ICT and
Grameen Telecom                                                      development projects
In Bangladesh, the Grameen Telecom project uses telephone            1. Initiatives should be explicit about
and internet facilities to support the development of economic           their development goals and how
security of rural women with some incidental learning                    they will directly impact the target
benefits. Drawing on loans from the community Grameen                    population.
Bank, women buy mobile, telephones and receivers and rent            2. Initiatives should be driven by
them out to pay off the loan and make an income. The                     user demands, identified and
availability of the telephones also enables the other users in the       realised        through        direct
village to develop their business.                                       participation and ownership.
                                                                     3. ICT solutions should be ‘built to
PUBLIC–PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS:                                             last’.
INCREASING COLLABORATION                                             4. Initiatives should be sensitive to
In today’s global context, partnerships and collaborations are       local    conditions and limitations.
of utmost importance. It is very difficult to survive in             5. The interests of key stakeholders
isolation.    Partnerships lead to synergy that not only                 must be broadly aligned with each
strengthens the programme but also increases the outreach of             other and with the goals of the
the benefits. Partnerships could be diverse involving private            intervention.
sector, trade, NGOs, media and/or civil society.            The      6. Initiatives with the most impact
partnership approach needs conscious consideration from                  have approached development
governments while formulating policies. It is more significant           problems       in     holistic   and
in the case of developing countries where investment in                  coordinated ways, not only
education/ literacy /ICT needs to be sourced from the private            through the provision of ICT.
sector. For this, the government has to put ICT and literacy on                       (Source: UNDP et al,
the agenda as a priority and clarify the roles and                   [2001].)
responsibilities of all the partner agencies. It is important to
explore the possibility of partnership between government, NGO and civil society organisations,
between formal and non-formal education and also with universities and professionals.


While there is no doubt that ICT has a significant role in the promotion of literacy, it is important
to keep in mind some issues related to implementation of ICT-based literacy programmes.

In the case of the E-9 countries, many of them face the challenge of large populations, scarce
resources, economic underdevelopment and inadequate infrastructure. As a result, each country
has to ensure that investment in ICT is well planned and based upon a strong and well defined
national ICT policy. In today’s age when a wide range of technologies is available, it is
important that each country selects technology for a particular task based upon its availability,
appropriateness and relevance. Choosing a combination of technologies is also another option.

Government of India                                                      UNESCO New Delhi

Another issue while using ICT is that of its adaptability to local conditions and culture.
Experience has shown that development of software in local languages as well as development of
rugged hardware that functions even in adverse weather conditions has expanded the use of
computers. The birth of regional language FM channels and community radio has brought more
people within their reach. The declining costs of cell phones have made them more easily

E-9 countries also need to seek ways by which the digital divide can be reduced. In some
communities, socio-cultural restrictions are responsible for restricting the use of technology by
girls and women. In the case of high cost technology, access by individuals is difficult. In such
circumstances, the use of technology in literacy programmes, where the target audience is largely
women, would have a positive impact.

The issue of training has to be explored from many angles. While ICT can be used for training
and upgrading skills of literacy personnel in the Community Learning Centres, there is also a
need for trained persons to maintain ICT equipment.

The issue of costs and optimum utilisation of technology is an overriding one and it depends upon
many factors. For instance countries like India and Brazil which have large geographical areas
and populations can consider the use of high technology educational satellites, but this is not
necessarily an option available to all. Thus decisions about the available financial outlay for
technology and ICT-related interventions depend on several factors including the potential
availability of support from the private sector.

In order to deliberate these issues and share experiences among the E-9 countries, the Ministry of
Human Resource Development, Government of India and UNESCO, New Delhi are jointly
hosting a workshop on the theme of ICT for Literacy, in Bangalore, India, from October 4-6,
2007. The purpose of the workshop is to provide a platform to policy makers, administrators,
programme managers, donor agencies, educators and others to exchange and share information
and experiences and discuss strategies for the present and future course of action for undertaking
programmes for ICT for Literacy. All participating countries will share country papers
highlighting the present status of literacy, challenges and the role of ICT for promotion of
literacy, as well as presentations highlighting specific innovations and lessons learned. During
the workshop, UNESCO as well as other organisations will share presentations on best practices
in implementation of ICT based literacy programmes to help participants arrive at an
understanding of practices that can be replicated in their respective countries. The workshop will
also explore the possibilities of collaboration with civil society organisations and the private
sector for furthering social and educational development in E-9 countries.

Government of India                                                     UNESCO New Delhi


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Government of India                                                      UNESCO New Delhi

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