Community Learning Centres
Country Profile: Nepal
Nepali (regional languages: Maithili, Nepal Bhasa, Bhojpuri, Tharu, Gurung, Tamang, Magar, Awadhi, Sherpa, Kiranti, Limbu, etc.)
|Poverty (Population living on less than 1 USD per day)|
|Total Expenditure on Education as % of GNP|
|Primary School Net Enrolment/Attendance|
|Total Youth Literacy Rate (15-24 years)|
|Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 1995-2005)|
|Programme Title||Community Learning Centres (CLCs) Programme|
|Implementing Organization||Ministry of Education and Sports (through the Non-Formal Education Centre, NFEC)|
|Programme Partners||National Resource Centre for Non-formal Education (NRC-NFE); UNESCO; National Federation of UNESCO Associations of Japan (NFUAJ) and Rotary Matching Grant Fund|
|Date of Inception||early 1990s|
Context and background
Nepal is one of the least developed countries in the world, with an economy that is largely based on agricultural production. As a result, about a third of its population, mostly from rural and semi-urban communities, live in absolute poverty with limited access to basic amenities, livelihood and educational opportunities.
According to UNESCO, the total adult female and male literacy rates were 35% and 63%, respectively, between 1995 and 2005. As such, about half (51%) of Nepal’s adult population still remains illiterate today despite impressive efforts to promote universal access to education in recent years. The high rate of illiteracy in the country, particularly among socially disadvantaged groups such as women, ethnic minorities (Janajatis) and low caste groups (Dalits) is largely ascribed to a combination of socioeconomic factors including poverty, socio-cultural practices which discriminate against women, minorities and low caste groups and the general lack of development in remote rural areas which prevents rural communities from accessing quality education.
Access to good quality formal education for the poor majority is further impeded by a paucity of educational resources, poor infrastructure and a shortage of qualified teachers. It was in response to these challenges that the Ministry of Education and Sports (through the Non-Formal Education Centre, NFEC) with support from UNESCO, instituted the Community Learning Centres (CLCs) Programme in the 1990s in an effort to make education more accessible to all, as well as to promote development, social empowerment and transformation.
The Community Learning Centres (CLCs) Programme
Definition of a CLC
According to UNESCO, a CLC is as a community-based non-formal educational institution or organisation which provides a range of services and learning opportunities to out-of-school children, youth and illiterate or semi-literate adults from socially disadvantaged rural and urban communities. The CLCs operate outside the formal education system and intend primarily to address the learners’ basic literacy and educational needs and therefore support the holistic development of citizens and communities. As non-formal educational institutions, CLCs are usually established and managed by local communities with financial and technical support from various governmental and non-governmental agencies. Furthermore, their activities are also tailored according to the local context in order to address the local community’s problems as well as to satisfy its basic needs.
The CLC Programme in Nepal
Within Nepal, the concept of CLCs has its origins in the Seti Education for Rural Development (SERD) project, an adult literacy or education and development programme which was initiated by UNESCO and UNICEF during the 1980s. Under the SERD project, about 154 village reading centres were established across the country to provide community-based post-literacy and continuing education training programmes. The village reading centre concept was later refined, revitalised and further broadened from a ‘reading’ centre to a ‘community learning’ centre following the introduction and implementation of the Basic and Primary Education Project (BPEP I, 1992–1998) by the Government of Nepal. The idea gained further momentum and ground in the late 1990s when the Government introduced the second phase of the Basic and Primary Education Project (BPEP II, 1999–2004) and established the National Committee on CLC. Following extensive consultations, the National Committee on CLC, an inter-agency board comprising of the National Resource Centre for Non-Formal Education (NRC-NFE) and UNESCO Kathmandu Office, established the NFEC to spearhead the CLC programme in Nepal.
The NFEC has since established more than 800 CLCs across the country with financial and technical support from UNESCO, through the Asia-Pacific Programme of Education for All (APPEAL) programme, the National Federation of UNESCO Associations of Japan (NFUAJ) and Rotary Matching Grant Fund. Furthermore, the Nepali Government has also pledged to establish 205 CLCs as part of its tenth five-year plan (2002–2007), the aim being to establish a CLC in every village development committee and municipality in Nepal.
As in other countries, nearly all CLCs in Nepal were established and are being managed by the local people. Similarly, the CLC programme in Nepal also targets out-of-school children, youth and adults from marginalised rural and urban communities. The implementation of the CLC programme is guided by the basic principle that the main purpose of education is, not only to enable people to read and write, but also to provide them with knowledge, skills and attitudes to enable self-reliance and to improve their living standards. Thus, the CLC programme in Nepal provides participants with skills training in:
- literacy (basic and functional literacy; continuing or lifelong education)
- early childhood education
- communication and social interaction skills training
livelihood skills training and support to establish income generation activities/projects (in, for example, handicraft production, carpentry, bee keeping, goat keeping, poultry farming, horticulture and cash crop production)
health (HIV/AIDS, maternal health, infant mortality, family planning, personal hygiene, sanitation, reproductive health and family nutrition)
- civic education (leadership training, human rights awareness, human security, democratic governance, conflict management and resolution, gender education including domestic violence, genital mutilation and rape)
- environmental management/conservation.
Aims and objectives
The CLC programme endeavours to:
- promote literacy development and lifelong learning in order to combat illiteracy in the country
- foster cultural preservation and dissemination of local/indigenous knowledge and practices
- raise social awareness or promote individual and collective/community empowerment through lifelong education for all people in the community and the dissemination of relevant information and skills
- empower communities to solve their local problems
- promote gender equality
- promote local socioeconomic development and improvements in communities’ quality of life through livelihood skills training and support of community-based income generation activities
- promote individual and collective (community) development through lifelong education and learning in order to facilitate social empowerment and transformation
- create opportunities and forums for communities to discuss local problems and development needs.
Programme implementation: Approaches and methods
In order to ensure the effective implementation of the CLC programme, the NFEC has helped communities to establish CLC management committees consisting of elected community representatives. The CLC management committees are responsible for the overall operations of the CLC as well as the implementation of the programme at a local level. In addition, the committees are also responsible for coordinating the recruitment and training of programme facilitators or instructors and for encouraging community members to participate in the programme.
Recruitment and training of facilitators
Generally, the CLCs in Nepal attract personnel with lower educational qualifications and professional capacity than those in the formal education system. In view of this, the NRC-NFE and the CLC management committees place greater emphasis on the training of instructors and teachers/facilitators in order to ensure the effective implementation of the programme. The Training of Trainers (ToT) programme is usually conducted by a mobile unit of experts from the local Ministry of Education office or from NGOs. During the ToT programme, practitioners are trained to:
- manage CLCs and network with other local organisations
- identify programme participants’ learning needs
- identify the community’s socioeconomic needs and problems
- design and develop locally-focused curriculum and learning materials
- conduct and manage non-formal literacy and life skills training classes
- assess or evaluate learning outcomes.
To date, more than 400 facilitators, supervisors and organisers have undertaken the ToT programme.
Programme monitoring and evaluation
The monitoring and evaluation of the CLCs and its programmes are the joint responsibility of the NRC-NFE, UNESCO and the CLC management committees, with the latter being responsible for monitoring programme activities at the local level on an ongoing basis. The model set up for monitoring, supervision and evaluation includes a number of approaches: inter-CLC monitoring; group reflection; inter-CLC sharing; and joint team evaluation. Of these, the most extensive has been the evaluation of the programme conducted by UNESCO under the CapEFA Programme.
Programme impact and challenges
The CLC programme has made some positive contributions towards community development, employment creation, poverty alleviation and social empowerment and transformation. The programme has successfully mobilised local resources and knowledge systems and used them to create sustainable learning and livelihood opportunities for groups of people in Nepal who are often marginalised. This has enabled children and youth to gain access to education and, eventually, to enrol (or re-enrol) in the formal education system.
Similarly, the programme has made a remarkable progress improving adult literacy rates, with a huge mass of rural people, especially women who are the backbone of the socioeconomic development within the community, having benefitted from the programme over the years. The programme has also equipped many adults with relevant technical skills and supported them to establish a variety of income generating activities. These activities have progressively fostered positive human development and empowerment, poverty alleviation and improvements in community living standards. Essentially therefore, the programme has opened avenues for deprived, disadvantaged and marginalised people to learn to be creative, analytical and productive and also able to make their own choices and decisions. In addition, the programme has provided communities with a forum to meet and discuss their local problems and developmental needs, a process that has not only improved community members’ awareness of their civic rights and responsibilities (social empowerment) but has also increased their participation in local developmental projects. Equally important, the programme has also precipitated a gradual change of attitudes among community members as manifested by the programme graduates’ more proactive approach to tackling family poverty and improving their living standards.
Despite the above achievements, the CLC programme still faces numerous challenges, such as:
- the lack of resources (human, material and financial) necessary for the effective implementation of the programme.
- being dependent on volunteers who, because they are poorly paid, lack the strong motivation necessary for the effective execution of their duties
- weak links between CLCs with other developmental agencies engaged at the local level
- weak participation of community members in the planning, implementation and management of CLC activities
- inability of CLC programmes to address communities’ long-term needs
- being dependent on external funding because poor local communities are unable to independently sustain them
- a lack of a well-defined national policy and/or a central agency to guide and coordinate the CLC activities at a national level
- the manipulation of the CLC programme by politicians for political expediency, an aspect which has distorted the principles and activities of the programme.
It has become evident over the years that the effective and successful implementation of CLC programmes should be dependent on the formation of strong working networks between CLCs, governmental and non-governmental organisations. Furthermore, there is also need for capacity building to strengthen existing CLCs in order to ensure their sustainability. Similarly, as a community-based organisation, a CLC has to actively involve ‘ordinary’ community members in the planning and decision making regarding the content of activities in the centre.
- UNESCO (2006) Community Empowerment through community learning centres in mid and far western regions of Nepal. UNESCO: Kathmandu.
- UNESCO: Community Learning Centre (CLC) Country Profiles
- The National Resource Centre for Non Formal Education (NRC-NFE)
- UNESCO (2008) Best Practices in Community Learning Centres: Case Studies from Asia- Pacific. UNESCO: Islamabad.
- Ministry of Education and Sports (the Non-Formal Education Centre, NFEC)
The Director (Mr Satya Bahadur Shrestha)
Ministry of Education and Sports (NFEC)
Email: User: info
Host: (at) nfec.gov.np