Effective adult education

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Helpdesk Query:

What has worked to improve adult literacy and numeracy in resource constrained settings?

Summary:

The most important element for successful adult literacy and numeracy learning is to take a people-centred approach. Literacy and numeracy teaching should be incorporated into subjects that are directly relevant and useful for participants. Ideally, learners would be consulted on their priorities and be involved in the planning and design of the programme and of educational materials. The most effective learning will happen when adults are actively engaged in the construction of their own knowledge. Inter-generational or family learning programmes is one possible approach which has seen success in being responsiveness to the needs and concerns of learners.

Skills development should be considered in combination with literacy and numeracy learning, an approach known as ‘functional adult literacy’. This can be difficult to apply when standardised literacy programmes are sought, limiting the skills areas that can be incorporated. Two successful examples come from Afghanistan: literacy and numeracy learning within the teaching of poultry rearing; and using exercise books for police with activities relevant to their work. The functional adult literacy approach was found to be effective for women’s income generating skills and empowerment in Uganda.

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