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2006/ED/EFA/MRT/PI/26 Background paper prepared for the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2006 Literacy for Life Pedagogical approaches to literacy acquisition Anita Dighe 2005 This paper was commissioned by the Education for All Global Monitoring Report as background information to assist in drafting the 2006 report. It has not been edited by the team. The views and opinions expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and should not be attributed to the EFA Global Monitoring Report or to UNESCO. The papers can be cited with the following reference: “Paper commissioned for the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2006, Literacy for Life”. For further information, please contact [email protected] 1

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Page 1: Pedagogical approaches to literacy Approaches to Literacy Acquisition and Effective Programme Design Anita Dighe

Background paper prepared for

Education for All Global Monitoring R

Literacy for Life

Pedagogical approaches tacquisition

Anita Dighe


This paper was commissioned by the Education for All Gbackground information to assist in drafting the 2006 report. It haThe views and opinions expressed in this paper are those of thattributed to the EFA Global Monitoring Report or to UNESCO. Tfollowing reference: “Paper commissioned for the EFA Global Mofor Life”. For further information, please contact efareport@unesco



eport 2006

o literacy

lobal Monitoring Report as s not been edited by the team. e author(s) and should not be he papers can be cited with the nitoring Report 2006, Literacy .org


Page 2: Pedagogical approaches to literacy Approaches to Literacy Acquisition and Effective Programme Design Anita Dighe

Pedagogical Approaches to Literacy Acquisition and Effective Programme Design Anita Dighe Context A recent study commissioned by SIDA (Torres, 2003) on the status of adult basic learning and education in the South in the context of Lifelong Learning has highlighted several issues that are cause for concern. Her literature review reaffirms that research and visions relating to adult basic learning and education (ABLE) in the South are dominated by researchers from the North, by international agencies and by English speaking researchers who often ignore and are dismissive of the research produced in the South, especially if it is written in a language other than English. Her study also shows that there is a terminological and conceptual chaos in the field of adult education. There is continued reduction of adult basic education and even adult literacy in general, to literacy and continued narrow perception of literacy as a single, elementary skill. Due to the major problem of adult illiteracy, there is a tremendous preoccupation in dealing with the problem of adult illiteracy. In recent years, however, there has been a disconcerting development worldwide. Adult education and learning are now a non-issue for most national governments. The once strong pledge for `eradication of illiteracy’ has now almost vanished and even the much more modest goal of `reducing illiteracy’ has been postponed due to lack of resources and absence of political and bureaucratic will. It is against this background that the present paper examines the pedagogical approaches and practices that have been found to be effective in the acquisition of literacy and suggests some broad principles for effective programme design. In dealing with this theme, the paper explores five inter-related themes and issues and attempts to highlight the current understanding and developments that have taken place in order to evolve a broad-based understanding of the main theme. This paper has limitations. A professional from a Third World country does not always have access to a variety of books and journal articles. This problem has prevailed- offset, however, to some extent due to the information that is now available on the internet. On


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the other hand, the Third World experience is focused mainly on India due to my background and years of experience. Evolving understanding of the concept of Literacy: a pedagogical concern An understanding of the concept of literacy is crucial in developing appropriate pedagogy. If we examine the concept of literacy we find it has evolved over the years. The traditional understanding has dealt solely as the ability to acquire the 3 Rs (reading, writing, and arithmetic). At the end of the Second World War, UNESCO assumed the responsibility for putting literacy on the educational agenda of the national governments. Since the narrow understanding of literacy had led to motivational problems for adults, the concept of `functional literacy’ was introduced. This focused on the economic and development potential of literacy and was later put into practice in the form of Experimental World Literacy Programme (EWLP) that was conducted by UNESCO from 1967 to 1973 in eleven experimental projects around the world. The EWLP experience, however, showed that illiteracy still remained a problem with the marginalized groups. In the 1970s, due to the influence of Paulo Freire, literacy was seen as a strategy for liberation. The aim was to enable the adults not only to read the word but also to `read the world.’ Freire’s (1970) emphasis on literacy to `liberate’ as opposed to literacy to `domesticate,’ captured the imagination of those who started understanding the transformative potential of literacy. Further developments in the last two decades have helped in viewing literacy as a broader and more complex social construct. Levine (1984) had focused attention on the social dimension of literacy and on the importance of understanding the social context in which literacy was being used. Street (1984, 1995) refers to two models of literacy. These are the autonomous model and the ideological model of literacy. In the former model, there is a distancing of language from the learners. Language is treated `as a thing,’ distanced from both the teacher and the learner. External rules and requirements are imposed and the significance of power relations and ideology in the use of language, ignored. In this model, language is conceptualized as a separate, reified set of `neutral’ competencies, autonomous of the social context. With regard to schooled literary as well as of most adult literacy programmes, it is the autonomous model of literacy that has generally dominated curriculum and pedagogy.


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According to Street (1995) the notion of multiple literacies is crucial in challenging the autonomous model which has promoted the notion of a single literacy, with a big `L’ and a single `y.’ It is important to recognize that this is only one sub-culture’s view and that there are varieties of literacy practices. He advocates the ideological model of literacy that views literacy practices as being inextricably linked to cultural and power structures in a given context. The work that has been done in the fields of linguistics, anthropology and education suggests for him new directions for literacy research and practice. In recent years, literacy is increasingly being conceptualized as multiple, socio-cultural, and political. UNESCO (2002) now conceives of literacy in the plural as `literacies’ and embedded in a range of life and livelihood situations. Thus, literacy differs according to purposes, content, use, script and institutional framework. The concept of `multiple literacies,’ however is complex. The term multiple literacies has different connotations. Consequently, the pedagogical implications are problematic. Due to the multiplicity of communications channels and increasing cultural and linguistic diversity in the world today, it is now contended that the very nature of literacy pedagogy is changing rapidly (New London Group, 1996). It is acknowledged that the new communications media are reshaping the way we use language today. When technologies of meaning are changing so rapidly, there cannot be one set of standards or skills that constitute ends of literacy learning. Multiple literacies are therefore a way to focus on realities of increasing local diversity and global connectedness (ibid, 1996). Recent work of Constructivist writers has further enriched our understanding of literacy. According to Wangsatorntanakhun (2001) each individual constructs the concept of literacy individually and as a result of social interactions, and that these interactions are mediated through and by socio-cultural identity, values, and beliefs. Given such an understanding it would mean that it is necessary to understand the multiplicity of literacies individuals face, as they become members of ever expanding groups and communities. Hence each of us could possess varying degrees of proficiency in multiple literacies within different communities of similarly literate


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persons. Wangsatorntanakhun (2001) re-conceptualises the aims of literacy acquisition to emphasise the following:

• Recognition of the close connection between social, cultural, and political dynamics and literacy practices, including the ways that literacy practices can be transformative,

• Acknowledgement and appreciation of the many diverse ways that people use and understand reading and writing, reflecting the multiple worlds in which they participate,

• An emphasis on the value of family, community, and personal contexts determined by the quality of social relationships,

• An appreciation of what has been called local literacies and the reading and writing done by ordinary people in their everyday lives

Due to the rapid technological advances in the West, particularly in the U.S., and the demographic and socio-economic changes that are taking place, Douglas Kellner emphasizes the importance of multiple literacies for a multicultural society. He then discusses how critical pedagogy can promote multicultural education and sensitivity to cultural differences and then focuses on the importance of developing media literacy to critically analyze the wealth of media materials that characterize a technological society. It is evident from the above discussion that while at one end of the spectrum, the concept of literacy is narrow, uni-dimensional, limited to technical skills, at the other end is a concept of literacy that is multidimensional, multiple, context-specific. In the countries of the South that face massive problems of adult illiteracy, it is the `autonomous’ model of literacy that prevails. This is also the `universal literacy for all’ model, which is generally advocated by international agencies. The pedagogical approaches that are used for literacy programmes in these countries are still limited. Pedagogical Considerations in Literacy Acquisition- what has been the experience? The two terms `pedagogy’ and `andragogy’ were used as polar opposites in the earlier writings of Malcolm Knowles. While pedagogy was considered to be an approach to childhood learning, andragogy was regarded as set of assumptions and methods that helped adults learn. Over the years, the two terms are no longer considered to be opposites. Knowles has clarified, expanded and modified his ideas about andragogy and has described six assumptions underlying the concept:


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1. “Adults need to know why they need to learn something before undertaking to learn it.”

2. “ Adults have a self-concept of being responsible for their own lives… they develop a deep psychological need to be seen and treated by others as being capable of self-direction.”

3. “Adults come into an educational activity with both a greater volume and a different quality of experience from youths”

4. “ Adults become ready to learn those things they need to know or…to cope effectively with their real-life situations”

5. “ In contrast to children’s and youth’s subject-centred orientation to learning (at least in school), adults are life-centred (or task-centred or problem-centred) in their orientation to learning”

6. “While adults are responsive to some extrinsic motivators (better jobs, promotions, salary increases, and the like), the more potent motivators are intrinsic motivators (the desire for increased self-esteem, quality of life, responsibility, job satisfaction and the like.” (Knowles, 1989, quoted in Merriam & Brockett, 1997)

Some of these assumptions have spawned different understandings about adult learning. One of them has been in the area of self-directed learning- that is, adults assuming control of their learning. While there is considerable work in this area, one criticism is that self-directed learning does not pay sufficient attention to the social context in which learning takes place. Transformation Theory: Experience is central to an understanding of the adult learner. Experiential learning is therefore an important concept in adult learning. However, it is not just the accumulation of experience that matters; rather, it is the manner in which individuals make meaning of their experiences that facilitates growth and learning. This idea is the foundation of transformation theory. It was Jack Mezirow who used the term perspective transformation to describe a change process whereby the frames of reference through which we view and interpret our experience (meaning perspective) are changed or transformed. Transformative theory is important because it focuses on how experience can lead to fundamental changes in the learners’ perspective. An important aspect of this theory is that it can serve as a process for empowering learners. According to Merriam and Brockett (1997), in addition to concepts such as andragogy and transformation theory, the importance of learner’s experience has helped shape techniques of “collaborative learning”- a sharing of


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information in relationships of equality that promotes new growth in each participant. This has resulted in bringing together a number of related concepts. These include action research, action learning, participatory research and the like. These concepts place greater emphasis on taking action and working with informal theories and people’s experiences rather than formal theorizing and reporting on research results. Critical pedagogy: Some of the most important recent developments in the field of adult education are linked to the introduction of `critical’ perspectives in the theory, research, and practice of adult education. The central theme of critical pedagogy is that for true learning to take place, it is necessary to ensure that the voices of the marginalized groups are fully engaged in the learning process. It is critical theory, which has inspired critical pedagogy. Particularly well-known proponents of critical pedagogy are Michael Apple (1996), Henry Giroux (1997), Ira Shor (1992). Paulo Freire is the intellectual father of critical pedagogy. Freire advocated an approach that started with consciousnessness raising, enabling the poor and the oppressed to explore and analyse the sources of their oppression. Freire laid emphasis on starting the literacy classes with discussion and an identification of key words that would form the basis for developing literacy materials. The Freirian approach to literacy learning that emphasized the importance of a pedagogical process that was dialogical in nature, influenced the literacy campaigns of some Third World countries, but critics have raised questions about the efficacy of this approach. One of the problems relates to the difficulty of the process of conscientisation taking place in bureaucratically organized education systems, while a Freire-style response requires something much closer to a political movement. Finger and Asun (2001) are of the view that Freire remains unspecific about concrete action or result of the pedagogical praxis. While on the one hand, he rejects revolution and violence, on the other, his suggestions for alternatives remain unspecified beyond acknowledging they have to be political. Freire is also uncritical of institutions and of overall development process. Levine (1984) however, is of the view that Freire’s influence has been, broadly speaking, on the creation of a pedagogical climate which places great importance on treating the adult learner as a learner, entailing a recognition of his/her life experiences but opening the way to a self-critical stance towards it.


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Participatory Research (PR) and Participatory Action Research (PAR) are other practical approaches to social change through learning that developed in late 1970s and through 1980s. Like Freire’s ideas, PR and PAR flourished in the South and have been created and rooted in the South. There are, however, differences between critical pedagogy and PR/PAR. According to Finger and Asun (2001), the latter are critical of the development processes and advocate an alternative form of development that is people-centred and bottom-up. In participatory research, those who are being studied, become the co-researchers who share in the decision-making about why the study is being undertaken, who will be studied, how the study will be conducted, and how the results will be used. Participatory research plays down the role of experts and emphasizes the contribution of those whose lives and work are directly affected by the problem under study. PAR is pragmatic as it links adult learning to very concrete processes of community development and to specific problems in areas such as agriculture, health, sanitation and so on. For PAR, learning is through participatory action or through a problem-solving approach. Finger and Asun (2001), however, point out the limitations of the PAR approach. According to them proponents of this approach do not necessarily place development in the context of overall global development. Feminist pedagogy is both similar to and different from critical pedagogy. As in critical pedagogy, so too in feminist pedagogy, there is a commitment to giving voice to those who have been silenced, to the importance of reflection and action. Yet, there is a difference for there is no single model of feminist pedagogy. Tisdell (1993) distinguishes between liberatory and gender models of feminist pedagogy. The liberatory or emancipatory model of feminist pedagogy deals with the nature of structured power relations and interlocking systems of oppression based on gender, race, class, age, and so on. Feminist education theorists who write from the perspective of the liberatory model have been influenced by the Freire’s work but they have also been critical of Freire and Marxist education theories. According to them, the primary focus of the latter has been on class-based oppression, but that they have not dealt adequately with oppression based on gender, race or interlocking systems of oppression such as gender and race, or gender and class, or gender, race, and class.


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Inadequate attention has so far been paid to understanding how women learn and what are the barriers to their learning. The issue of women’s lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem in starting or returning to an educational programme is now well known. This lack of self-confidence, however, is endemic to women and cuts across cultural and class barriers. Due to a variety of reasons including social norms and mores as well as the process of acculturation and personal experiences, most women exhibit extreme lack of confidence when they join an educational programme. Coupled with this is what as been described by Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, and Tarule (1986) as the phenomenon of `finding their voices.’ This is a positive reinforcement and an assurance that women need to know that they are intelligent, that they are capable of learning. The adult education functionaries would therefore have to be trained to give positive and constructive feedback to adult women to ensure that their confidence is enhanced and not eroded. Research is also beginning to show that women seem to do best in learning environments where affective forms or knowledge that come from life experiences are valued (Belenky et al. 1986). In short, they do best in learning environments where there is an effort to relate theoretical concepts to real life experiences. In these environments, women begin to recognize their own ability to think independently, to think critically, and to come to their own conclusions. It is also in these connected teaching-learning situations that many women come to recognize and hear their own voices. Connected teachers, as defined by Belenky et al. (1986) see the teacher as a `midwife.’ The teacher’s task is to draw students out, to “assist the students in giving birth to their own ideas, in making their own tacit knowledge explicit and elaborating on it” (p.217), and to support the evolution of the learners’ own thinking. The idea of capitalizing on learners’ life experiences and relating theoretical concepts to these experiences is not new in the field of adult education. What is new, however, is the emphasis feminist pedagogy places on the importance of women in particular reclaiming and validating the learning that comes from their life experience as women. Women learners come to an educational programme with specific personal histories, learning styles and expectations that are shaped to varying degrees by their experiences as girls and women in a society characterised by male power and privilege. In addition to barriers posed by sex discrimination, many women are doubly or even triply disadvantaged as members of ethnic minorities, as working class women, or as members of other marginalised groups. In order to provide an


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educational programme that would be appropriate to women’s needs, it would be necessary to understand more about their experiences, their learning needs, the difference and diversity among them so that a women-sensitive approach could be planned and implemented for them. The experience of Mahila Samakhya (an education programme for women’s equality of the Government of India) as well of various women’s NGOs has shown how women can generate their own learning materials on the basis of their lived experiences. Niranter, a feminist NGO in India, developed a curriculum collaboratively with village women on five issues that affect their lives. These included water, forests, land, society and health (Windows to the World, 1997). Niranter has also been successfully bringing out a newsletter called `Pitara’ with the participation of the village women in its production and content. Culture and Learning: In recent years, with globalisation bringing about demographic changes in the world, a large number of countries have school-going children as well as working adults who are from diverse ethnic and working class backgrounds. Questions are being raised about the kind of education- both for children as well as for adults- that would be appropriate, keeping the diverse background of the learners in mind. For it is contended that the traditional adult learning theories are limited and that they exclude types of learning that best suit people of colour, those from working class background, those unemployed and so on. Culture is regarded as central to shaping and molding the educational process. The way people communicate, express, think, learn and relate to others is a product of a value system of their home, community and culture. People from varying cultures may have different ways of thinking and learning. These cultural learning differences can be called `cultural learning styles.’ It is contended that the interrelatedness of culture and learning has been neglected in the study of learning. Flannery (1993) therefore avers “practitioners must increasingly conceive of learning not as an isolated ladder with progressive rungs to climb, but as a lattice with horizontal and vertical connections and interweavings. Just as the cognitive and affective domains are interwoven, so too are neurological and social cognition integral parts of the same lattice” (p.81). One way in which insights could be obtained to ascertain the role of culture in learning would be through ethnographic research studies. The case studies presented by Street (2001) under the New Literacy Studies show how the


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outcome of such research might lead to different curriculum and pedagogy than those in many traditional programmes. The ethnographic approach to literacy research has shown that by being sensitive to local needs, it would be possible to recognize where some local literacy practices are more central to practical `needs.’ The value of local literacies is that the everyday uses of literacy by marginalized groups in both rural and urban settings help identify specific literacy skills that are focused on immediate tasks. The pedagogical challenge would be to see how to make the link between the `local’ and the `central’ and to establish a dynamic relationship between the two so that generic skills could then be transferred to other situations. The ethnographic study done by Dyer and Choksi (Street 2001) on the Rabaris, a nomadic tribe from Gujarat in India, showed that there were substantial differences between their own and Rabaris’ perceptions of `literacy.’ Their ethnographic study helped in developing a much more substantial set of understandings about the complexity of what Rabaris understood by literacy. The Rabaris’ conceptions of knowledge, identity and being influenced their understanding of literacy and hence a literacy programme for the Rabaris would have to provide for such expectations. Studies on folk mathematics have shown the indigenous methods by which adults acquire numeracy skills. A study done by Saraswathi some years ago (Rampal, Ramanujam, Saraswathi, 1997) showed how, despite being illiterate, adults in rural Tamil Nadu had acquired sophisticated numeracy skills. These included ability of the elderly to calculate time and seasonal changes on the basis of the length of the Sun’s shadow. Or the ability of the village women to count in order to make sophisticated geometrical patterns as part of the cultural practice of making `kolums’ (a design made of rice paste and natural colours in front of the house each day as a sign of good omen). Such ethnographic studies present people’s perspectives on literacy and would undoubtedly be different from those of programme designers who sit in the state capitals. They would thus help design more culturally sensitive literacy programmes that would also have greater relevance and acceptability. Pedagogical issues in Curriculum Content and Curriculum Transaction As part of literacy education, primers and textbooks are written for pedagogical purposes. They are developed for the purpose of selection, construction and transmission of valued knowledge and practices that the students are required to study in order to be certified as literate by schools and other institutions. Extensive research on school curriculum has been done, particularly in the West, to draw attention to how `the choice of


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knowledge’ presented in the curriculum is part of the process of hegemony. Research studies on textbooks show that they are ideological message systems for the transmission and reproduction of values and beliefs of some groups, while those of others are invisibilised and marginalized. Apple (1990) has highlighted how class, race and gender inequalities work through schools in the content and organization of the curriculum. Adult literacy curriculum, however, has remained a neglected area of research. Even with regard to research on school textbooks in India, micro level studies are few in number (Scrase 1993). There has been little effort to explain how textbooks are biased in terms of social class or culture. An analysis of early Bengali language textbooks of pre-Colonial times showed that the content represented the values and interests of a small but socially powerful minority of Indians. A comparative study of primary school textbooks from Madhya Pradesh and Ontario, Canada, by Kumar (1989) showed the kind of socialization these textbooks presented to children. A study of the English language textbooks in use in the state of West Bengal showed that it was the culture of the mainly urbanized, middle classes that invariably got reproduced in the books (Scrase 1993). The legitimization of the culture of the dominant classes occurred at a dual level in the books: overtly, there was bias, stereotype and distortion of subaltern culture; covertly through omission of and silence about subaltern culture. Kumar’s study (1989) has shown how alienating the content of textbooks can be for the tribal children when they are depicted as being backward and illiterate. The Public Report on Basic Education in India (PROBE, 1999) has commented on how primary school textbooks waste a great deal of space on trivial and futile preaching and moralizing. There is an implicit bias of the curriculum makers and book writers towards the rural poor for they are depicted as `ignorant and illiterate’ and therefore are told how to conduct their lives `properly.’ In addition, textbooks go out of their way to present over-idealised situations- of democracy, panchayats, benevolent employers, good neighbours, functioning hospitals and efficient government. Simplistic generalizations are made and almost surreal situations are constructed, whereas natural conflicts and complexities of life are strictly avoided even if a majority of our rural children actually live such lives and are deeply conscious of its realities. The broad contours of the content of school textbooks closely approximate those of the literacy primers for the adults. An analysis of the literacy


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materials developed by World Education, an international NGO, showed that though Freirean terminology was consistently used, the content of the literacy primers was essentially `pseudo-Freirean’- for it perpetuated dependence and subordination (Kidd and Kumar 1981). This study also revealed how the literacy text can become an important symbolic system for expressing and disseminating economic and technical power and dominance. Kumar (1981) refers to the content of the literacy primers that are generally used in the literacy classes. According to him, a typical literacy primer tell the learners how a poor peasant can gradually become progressive by making certain rational decisions and dropping a set of backward and disagreeable characteristics and adopting an alternative set of characteristics that are modern and healthy. The areas covered by a typical literacy curriculum follow a certain `mythology.’ The problems of the illiterates are seen as the outcome of a disorganized, unthinking, ignorant personality whose salvation lies in new knowledge and skills (including literacy), planning and self-control. An analysis of literacy primers in use in six states of India (Dighe et al, 1996) showed how certain recurring patterns ran through each of the literacy primers in use in different languages. Thus, the overall approach was to treat the adults as those with `empty minds’ who had to be sermonized about the manner in which their lives could improve. The basic thrust was `victim blame’ and not `system blame’ Such individual blaming perspective did not attempt to link the development problems with the structural reality of the poor, perennially plagued with landlessness, lower wages, unemployment and lack of access to basic services and facilities. Development messages and information were communicated mostly either through a monologue or through a very limited conversation between the characters in the text. In general, hardly any dialogue or discussion was initiated to enable the learners to understand divergent points of view on a given topic. Such a top-down approach reinforces the dominance of the viewpoint of the `progressive’ protagonist while depicting the learners as passive recipients of development messages. There is therefore a tendency to talk down to the learners as though the illiterate minds are `empty vessels’ waiting to be filled by the sagacious advice given in the literacy text. Freire (1985) refers to this phenomenon as the `nutritionist view of knowledge’ according to which the illiterates are considered as `undernourished’ and have to be `fed’ or `filled’ in order to know. Pedagogically, such a didactic approach to learning does not recognize the indigenous knowledge of the learners and would neither


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allow them to think critically nor enable them to raise questions about whatever is learned. If one considers the issue of gender in literacy curriculum, some of the studies highlight how certain repetitive images and themes characterize the content of the literacy primers. These studies (Bhasin 1984, Patel 1987) have shown that the primers ignored women’s role as productive workers and focused exclusively on their roles as wives and mothers. The literacy primers thus generally reinforced traditional definitions of women and propagated the ideal for Indian women as being a person who is passive, submissive and self-sacrificing. There was no attempt to challenge or question the existing sexual division of labour and discriminatory practices against women in society. Greenberg (2002) quotes what a researcher had to say about the content of an adult literacy textbook in Egypt. “ I leafed through the whole textbook looking for pictures of women and found only one, though every story was accompanied by a picture. In this picture, every woman was pregnant or accompanied by small children or both. I asked what the story was about and was told the subject was family planning. The agricultural work Egyptian women undertake, participation in the paid labour force in a variety of capacities, food preparation, household work, beer brewing, and all the other types of work with which women engage, were completely ignored.” The study by Dighe et al (1996) showed that despite `women’s equality’ being stated as a goal, it was basically the ideology of domestication that was promoted in the literacy primers. The portrayal of women was stereotypical and did not reflect the reality of everyday lives of poor women. The role of the teacher in a formal classroom has traditionally been that of a knowledge giver. The relationship between the teacher and the students has been hierarchical and the channel of communication has been one way. Freire had termed this the `banking’ concept of education. The importance Freire has given to dialogue by equating it with education, as well as to the non-hierarchical relationship between the teacher and the learners has led to a change in the role of the adult literacy teacher. Such a teacher creates a learning environment, builds on learners’ experiences and facilitates social interaction and cooperation. A literacy teacher who makes learners feel comfortable, helps them voice their opinions, encourages them to question, critique, analyse and to arrive at their own decisions would go a long way in


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facilitating and promoting adult learning. Even in the case of the formal schools, the focus is now shifting to learner-centred teaching practices. Learner-centred teachers understand that they must find ways to know their individual students and provide a safe and nurturing context to promote learning. Learner-centred teachers also understand that not only is learning a natural lifelong process, but motivation to learn also comes naturally when the learning context is supportive (McCombs 2003). Pedagogical issues relating to Language and Literacy Pedagogical issues relating to language and literacy have not received concerted attention thus far. This could possibly be due to what Illich has said is alien to the modern Western mind: the ability to make `a distinction between competence that derives from life in a vernacular setting and competence in a taught form of mother tongue’ (quoted in Pattanayak, 1981). In the multi-lingual, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, language is not only the criterion for ethnic identity but it is also the expression of ethnic consciousness. And yet, language policies that have been inherited from the colonial era have given importance to the colonial language or to the standard language/s and have marginalized the spoken languages or the mother tongue languages of vast sections of people in most Third World countries. A consideration of the language policy in India will provide insights about the politics of language. The 1961 Census recorded 1652 mother tongue languages in India. The corresponding 1971 and 1981 Census figures for mother tongue languages had shrunk to 221 and 106 respectively. The reason for this was that from 1971 Census onwards, the Census Commissioner was advised to drop listing all those languages that had less than 10,000 speakers. Presently, the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution recognizes 18 languages as standard regional languages with Hindi and English considered to be `official’ languages. It is evident that the Eighth Schedule takes no cognizance of the vast majority of Indian languages. While the standard and official languages have power, recognition and prestige, the others are left to languish with such demeaning labels as `dialects,’ `tribal languages,’ and `minor languages’ (Saxena 1997). Education, the judiciary, administration, mainstream trade and commerce, use the standard regional or the official languages for


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communication purposes, totally ignoring the vast majority of Indians whose mother tongue languages are different. For millions of children who are forced to seek formal education in schools where curriculum and language of instruction has no relationship with their home language, this neglect of mother tongue results in their acquisition of low levels of reading and writing skills. According to Saxena (1997) the principle reason for low language skills is that the child is forced to unlearn his/her mother tongue to learn a language that is alien to his/her milieu. But, more serious than the sheer inefficiency of teaching and learning is the violence that is done to the sense of self-respect of children whose languages are marginalised in this way. Now widely accepted, this realization has led to the reiteration of the pedagogical principle that `the mother tongue should be the medium of instruction’ for early childhood education. Likewise, in the case of the non-literate adults, it is recognized that the starting point has to be the dialect or the spoken language. And yet in the concern about making a switchover from the spoken dialect to the standard regional language, an unstated viewpoint persists that only education in the standard language will liberate people from ignorance and bring about national integration. Also, there is an assumption that the spoken `local’ languages are likely to encourage fissiparous anti-national tendencies, keeping people enslaved in backwardness. According to Saxena and Mahendroo (1993), standard languages divide society and control information flow. As such they are effective tools for maintaining regional and national status quo. In the process, people’s spoken languages are subdued and marginalized, ensuring the cultural hegemony of the ruling elite. But even if the medium of instruction is the mother tongue, there are complexities in making a transition to the standard regional language, which have to be handled sensitively. The case study by Bhog and Ghose (Ouane 2003) highlights how in the process of collectively evolving, with neo-literate women, a bi-monthly broadsheet, the latter defined not only the themes and the content of the broadsheet but also engaged in its writing and production. But as the women realized that they needed to have access to Hindi, the standard regional language as it was a language of power and of the powerful, the transition was made in a gradual manner, ensuring a limited fusion between Hindi and Bundeli (the mother tongue). The experience of Bhog and Ghose showed that as women gained greater control


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over their writing and reading skills, they were in a stronger position to handle the complex process of language integration. Pattanayak (1981) is of the view that in countries where multiple languages and cultures co-exist, the notion of one dominant language as the medium of instruction leaves thousands of children illiterate in their mother tongue and fosters low achievement levels in the dominant language itself. He is also of the opinion that language is a major factor in high dropout and stagnation among school children as well as to the high levels of illiteracy among adults. Commenting on the language of the school textbooks that are used in rural areas, the National Advisory Committee that was appointed by the Government of India said `our textbooks are not written from the child’s viewpoint. Neither the mode of communication nor the selection of objects depicted, nor the language conveys the centrality of the child in the world constructed (by the school)…words, expressions and nuances commonly used by children in their milieu are absent…. and an artificial style dominates, reinforcing the tradition of distancing knowledge from life. The language used in textbooks thus deepens the sense of `burden’ attached to all school-related knowledge’ (Learning without Burden 1993). A recent study undertaken by the Unesco Institute of Education (2003) demonstrates the normality of multilingualism and questions the teaching/learning systems, which are grounded on the principle of monolingualism. Investigations carried out in 30 African, Asian and Latin American countries showed that plurilingualism was a natural state in human society and hence strongly recommends the use of local languages and mother tongues in formal and non-formal education. An examination of multiculturalism in school and the language question in education in the United Kingdom and Canada showed that while both countries had nurtured the myth of cultural and linguistic homogeneity as a means of ensuring that power stays with the dominant group, multiculturalism and multilingualism were always prevalent in these two countries (Edwards and Redfern quoted in Ouane 2003). Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century: need for a new Pedagogy? In a virtual conference that took place last year as a preparatory process towards CONFINTEA V +6, adult educators from different parts of the world voiced their concerns over the transformations that have taken place in the world in the past few years. The issues raised by them are part of the


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document titled Education for Inclusion throughout Life (2003) and enumerates the various economic, political and technological changes that have brought about far-reaching changes in our lives. The concerns that are raised relate to the problems of a globalised world. What role does adult education have in such an altered scenario? What kind of pedagogy would be appropriate? The section below attempts to describe briefly the changed post September 11 2001 scenario and to define broad contours of what needs to be done and what has already started happening worldwide. We are now part of a globalised world, dominated by one single power which promotes unilateralism, a return to militarism and where the markets play a dominant role. Globalisation has made a few countries and sections of their population very rich, while endangering the lives and livelihoods of millions of others. Likewise, the communication and information technologies have brought about enormous changes in our lives. Thus, middle class families in most Third World countries now have better access to information and news. Due to digital communications, they are now able to access the latest news, and are able to remain in touch with their family members and friends in various parts of the world. Likewise, it is now possible for the middle class youth to buy designer clothes from the Internet, inasmuch as it is possible to seek/share advice on care of a loved one with cancer or HIV/AIDS. However, access to technology is highly iniquitous. This is evident when we realize that that there are more telephones in Tokyo or Manhattan than in all of sub-Saharan Africa and internet use in Africa can cost a month’s salary or more. Capitalist globalisation has had a powerful impact on all aspects of human life. In the single-minded pursuit of wealth, growth, power and control that characterise capitalist globalisation, the values that are promoted are those of increased competition, production, marketing, privatisation, and deregulation. Capitalist production requires that the raw materials or natural resources have to be made into saleable commodities. Such a development has had a direct impact on the natural environment. Furthermore, in order to sale commodities, consumerism has to be promoted. The communications technologies have become instruments for promoting a culture of consumerism and are under the control of few trans-national corporations. As a result, they are driven by the logic of profit-maximization.


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Capitalist globalisation is dependent on the world’s natural resources in order to sustain and propel itself. As a result, there are struggles to obtain and/or maintain control of natural resources worldwide. Majority of the wars that have been fought in the recent years were fought not due to differences in ideology but in order to gain control over territory, land that is rich in natural resources. The relentless exploration and exploitation of natural resources has uprooted and displaced people around the world and forced them to live in conditions of poverty and degradation. It is also important to understand the role of the global economic institutions and the manner in which they are affecting the lives of poor people in Third World countries. Global economic institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation are now taking decisions that affect the lives of people all across the world. These institutions are not elected democratically and are not answerable to citizens. The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is one of the most important agreements of the World Trade Organisation. The Agreement, which came into effect in January 1995, is now privatising services that have been known to be public utilities. These include education, health, energy, and communications, even water. What is happening is that while these services had been defined as `rights’ earlier, are now becoming `goods’ that have a price tag. As a result, only those who can afford to pay for these goods can have access to them. Those with limited means or no means are excluded. What is evident from above is that we live in a highly complex, polarised and unequal world. A question that needs to be asked is, what kind of education would be required in order to face the enormous challenges that we are faced with. Countries that have still not ensured primary education to children and face massive adult illiteracy have been involved in the Education for All programmes. The problem with the Education for All (EFA) discourse is that it has reduced the concept of adult education to just literacy and basic education. It would therefore be necessary to have an expanded vision of adult education. As was proposed at the Unesco meeting in Hamburg, it would be useful to consider the concept of lifelong learning as a broader concept that would include the participants as active subjects in their own learning, as well as include formal, non-formal and informal dimensions of every educational process.


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Presently, there is a mis-match between the educational discourse at the international level and the manner in which it has got translated into educational policies in different countries. This is particularly true with regard to countries of South Asia region. The concept of Lifelong Learning has not found mention in the policies of a large number of countries in the Region. In order to move beyond such a narrow perception and mind set, concerted efforts would have to be made to examine the shortcomings of the existing educational policies and plans and to re-shape them in the light of the rapid changes that are taking place nationally and internationally and which are influencing educational discourse. New challenges of social and economic development such as those mentioned above as well as other concerns (eg. human rights, HIV/AIDS, sustainable development, meeting the Millennium Development Goals, etc.) would have to be addressed. Commitment would have to be made to meet the educational needs of the marginalized groups such as poor rural and urban women, out-of-school children and youth, physically challenged people, migrant workers, ethnic minority groups, refugees, etc. A well-defined educational policy would be necessary to guide the educational programmes in most countries of South Asia.

One of the problems with the existing system of education is that it does not recognise that diverse groups of learners have diverse learning needs. As a result, there is a tendency to offer a narrowly focussed `one size fits all’ educational programme. Experience, however, is now showing the need to move away from such narrowly conceived educational programmes. The educational programmes would need to recognise that adults have diverse learning needs and interests. The pedagogical processes would need to encourage processes of critical self-reflection, thinking, questioning, exploring, interacting, creating, connecting, and discovering. Such processes are directly linked to the notion of empowerment in which an individual learns to create, appropriate and to share knowledge, tools and techniques in order to change and improve the quality of his/her life. These processes would need to be used for empowering communities so that learning communities can be established. The link between the local, the national and the global would need to be constantly made so that the local reality can be perceived and understood in the light of the changes taking place at the national and international levels.


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Also, there would be need to address the issues of consumption and production by analysing marketing practices that promote `good life’ on the basis of material ownership and conceal practices of overproduction and unethical resource extraction. Critical media literacy would play an important role in deciphering media messages that covertly influence lifestyle changes, attitudes, and values. Alongside, there would be need to go through a process of unlearning which as a principle has been well articulated by the women’s movement. Thus, it would be necessary to unlearn the primacy of the male figure as the power of domination; to unlearn that war resolves conflicts and is in the best interests of nations; to unlearn practices of consumerism; to unlearn the condition of dependency, exclusion, and marginalisation and so on. Unlearning some of our previously held attitudes and beliefs would enable us to have open minds to consider that another human condition is possible, that another world is possible. Beyond the utility of technology in formal educational programmes for adults, existing and readily available information technologies can also provide unprecedented opportunities for informal learning by adults. Broadcast media, interactive video, and the internet can provide rich informal learning opportunities to adults in a wide variety of contexts. It is this kind of informal learning that has started taking place across the globe through the use of technology. As a result, a new consciousness is now developing. This new consciousness understands and sees human nature from a complex and multidimensional perspective. Such an understanding sees the biological, cultural, social, historical, political, and economic aspects, not in isolation but as interlinked and inter-related, all linked to the same cycle of cause and effect. This new consciousness is now beginning to reject inequality and to celebrate diversity. The recent meetings of the World Social Forum in Puerto Allegro in Brazil and in Mumbai, are beginning to show that `another world is possible.’ Interestingly, the communications technology has played an important role in promoting and facilitating this new consciousness. Thus, cyber networking has started taking place and people who share the same views and opinions but who live in different locations and in different countries form cyber committees. Also, there are alternative media projects such as use of community radio, short documentaries and protest/community music on videocassette tapes and digital discs. These alternative media projects are enlarging the space and reach of critical thinking and oppositional politics to global capitalism.


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People around the world are becoming increasingly politically active and are speaking out, weaving the pedagogical with the political. To conclude It is evident from the above discussion, that there are no clear-cut pedagogical models for adult literacy. The models are diverse and the problems associated with them, are complex. It would therefore be difficult to articulate specific strategies for effective literacy programme design. However, on the basis of the developments that have taken place in the field, it might be appropriate to spell out a few principles for effective literacy programme design that might be of some help to literacy policy makers, planners and administrators.

• Focus on the marginalized groups. Literary programmes do not necessarily focus on the poor, the disadvantaged, and the marginalized groups. A clear statement that the literacy programme would focus on these groups would help establish its priority concerns

• Ascertain the diverse needs of such groups of learners. Ethnographic research studies would be one way of finding out these needs. Various participatory techniques are also available that would help in prioritizing the learner needs

• Articulate a vision for the literacy programme along with the learners. Most literacy programmes falter due to lack of a shared vision. Would such a programme deal with multiple literacies? How would these be defined? What would be the appropriate pedagogies?

• Work collaboratively with learners in developing a curriculum for the literacy programme. Participatory processes would facilitate the curriculum development process. Sensitivity to the culture of the learners and use of local language would ensure learner involvement and learner motivation

• Facilitate curriculum transaction by creating an environment that promotes and sustains learning. Learning strategies that evoke curiosity, questioning, analysis, synthesis, perspective building among the learners would help sustain learner interest

• Sustain learning environment through learner involvement in eliciting information from different sources, helping develop


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learner-generated materials and empowering learners whereby they can seek information or data from sources they had no access to earlier

• Help learners to learn holistically. Rather than confining learning to a few limited areas or attempting to compartmentalize learning, establish cause and effect relationships, establish inter-linkages so that adult learners can begin to understand their own local reality within a wider context

• Help in building learning communities. While acknowledging that learners have diverse needs and interests, facilitate the process of developing a variety of programmes, using technology wherever possible

• Link with the larger struggles and democratic movements be they women’s movement, peace movement, ecological movement, human rights movement and the like so that the literacy programme can become part of a larger struggle for social, economic, and political change.


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Kellner Douglas, `Multiple Literacies and Critical Pedagogies,’ in Revolutionary Pedagogies- Cultural Politics, Instituting Education, and the Discourse of Theory, Peter Pericles Trifonas, Editor, Routledge, 2000 Kidd Ross & Kumar Krishna, `Co-opting Freire’, Economic and Political Weekly, 16:1 & 2, 1981 Kumar Krishna, The Social Character of Learning, Sage, New Delhi, 1989 Learning without Burden: Report of the National Advisory Committee, appointed by the Government of India, Department of Education, New Delhi, 1993 Levine Keith, The Social Context of Literacy, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1984 McCombs Barbara L., `A Framework for the Redesign of K-12 Education in the Context of Current Educational Reform’, Theory into Practice, Volume 42, Number 2, Spring 2003 Merriam, Sharon B. & Brockett, Ralph G. The Profession and Practice of Adult Education: an Introduction, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1997 Ouane Adama (ed), Towards a Multilingual Culture of Education, UNESCO Institute for Education, Hamburg, 2003 Patel Ila, Non-formal Education for Rural Women in Gujarat: for Development or Domestication? 1987 (mimeo) Pattanayak D.P., Multilingualism and Mother-Tongue Education, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1981 Public Report on Basic Education in India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1999 Rampal, Anita, Ramanujan, R, Saraswathi, L. S. Numeracy Counts!; A Handbook for Literacy Activists and Resource Persons, National Literacy Resource Centre, Mussoorie, 1997


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