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The findings > Thematic Studies> Literacy>Part 4
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4.1 National capacity building
Capacity building is at the heart of the renewal of effective and high quality work in literacy and adult education. Unfortunately, the fields of literacy and adult education tend to get a very small share of resources when it comes to national capacity building, as the largest share of new resources since the Jomtien conference has focused on building capacity for primary schooling. This is unfortunate, since the types of innovations described in this paper are dependent on enlightened, skilled and motivated professionals, including policy makers, programme directors, specialists, MIS technicians and so forth. This kind of capacity remains very thinly dispersed in most of the countries most in need of improved literacy programming.
In this effort to improve the quality of literacy work, there is a need to support national, regional, and international networks that enable literacy and adult educators from diverse settings and types of programmes to form communities for generating and disseminating knowledge in the field. As part of this effort, the International Literacy Institute and UNESCO have been offering, since 1997, an annual month-long international Summer Literacy Training Programme in Philadelphia, to which professionals from more than 70 countries have participated (for more information, consult the ILI's website at:
One area of special importance for building capacity is that of local universities and institutes, as well local and regional NGOs. Indeed, NGOs, as noted elsewhere, are playing an increasingly important role in literacy provision, and so their involvement in capacity building is essential. Until local capacity building can be achieved, the field is likely to remain fragmented; amount of international assistance can be effective without a local capacity to build upon. This is surely one of the highest priorities for improving literacy work in any country.
4.2 Professional development and training
The committed involvement of professionals is necessary for any system-wide change in educational services. As noted earlier, a major constraint in attempts to innovate is voluntary (or near-voluntary) role of many literacy workers, leading to high turnover and, at times, low motivation. Clearly, with limited resources, the lack of full-time professionals makes it difficult to carry out meaningful professional development. Thus, there is a major need to develop systems and capacities that enable staff to engage in professional training and development as an ongoing process within programmes and to link staff development more closely with service improvement and evaluation/monitoring. Teachers and administrators should have more opportunities to understand and learn from local problems and to invent local solutions.
4.3 External agency support

Many agencies, bilateral and multilateral, provide support for literacy and adult education, but only UNESCO has put literacy in its top list of educational priorities from its inception and over the decades. In addition, two UNESCO-supported institutions - UNESCO Institute of Education in Hamburg, which organized CONFINTEA-V in 1997, and the International Literacy Institute, which organized the World Conference on Literacy (Philadelphia, 1996) and a series of regional forums on literacy - have helped UNESCO's international agenda in literacy and adult education. In addition, UNESCO's regional offices have organized a wide variety of events on literacy and non-formal education, even within the constraints of very tight budgets.


In addition, UNDP, UNICEF and the World Bank have supported adult literacy programmes over the decades, along with a number of key bilateral agencies (such as NORAD, SIDA, DFID, CIDA, DSE, DANIDA, USAID). As part of its Education Sector Review (1997), the World Bank, in collaboration with Norway, has begun recently an important initiative on adult basic education and literacy in Africa. Various evaluation projects have been commissioned such as in Uganda, and projects in Ghana, Senegal, Gambia and elsewhere are underway or in planning. UNDP was active in the 1960s-1970s with the Experimental World Literacy Programme, and UNICEF remains active in promoting basic skills and life skills for out-of-school youth (particularly girls and young women).
In most developing countries, it is probably accurate to say that there are as many out-of-school youth and adults with low basic skills as there are school-age children in school. Yet, on average, the resources spent on NFE programmes for such out-of-school youth and adults rarely exceed 5% of the national educational budget in any country. A similar statement can be made about the support from most donor agencies, which provide the bulk of resources for new projects in education in LDCs. With so little invested by such donor agencies, it is no wonder that renovation and innovation are difficult to achieve. However, given the increased emphasis of the World Bank and others on 'poverty reduction' and the centrality of literacy in achieving this goal, it would seem likely that external agency support of literacy and adult education would grow substantially over the next decade or so, as it has in the OECD countries during this past decade.
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