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close this bookAction Research Report on «Reflect» - Education Research Paper No.17 (DFID, 1996, 96 p.)
close this folder1. Introduction
View the documentClaims & Counter-claims
View the documentPolicy makers & donors
View the documentRe-framing the questions

Re-framing the questions

Many problems appear to have arisen from the way in which literacy debates have been framed. We have been asked in the past to look for the benefits of "literacy-in-itself" (the raw skills/ techniques) and this has not usually been related to the process of acquiring literacy or to the socio-economic context of particular programmes.

In developing REFLECT we accept that literacy is not in-itself "empowering". It is not, in-itself, something that will bring spontaneous benefits. It does not in-itself transform people and their ways of being.

However, the process of learning literacy is a significant moment in an adult's life. Joining a literacy class represents, in one way or another, a desire for something to change. The experience of learning - what happens within the process - is thus of fundamental importance in determining what happens to that desire. The imparting of literacy techniques will not significantly transform lives, but the wider processes involved and the collective experience of learning may do so.

This is dependent on the literacy methodology used. If people are lectured at, made passive or treated like children, the benefits may be minimal. But if the literacy class becomes a forum in which people can actively participate as equals and engage with some critical issues of their community, then some of the benefits of literacy might pass from the realms of myth to reality.

In this evaluation of the first two years of the REFLECT approach we have sought to explore the extent to which adult literacy programmes can act as a central catalyst for development. We have looked at the past claims and we have tried to determine whether, by using a more effective methodology, we can reassert some links to wider development. The central hypothesis was that there is a relationship between the power practices within the literacy process and the empowering outcomes flowing from that process.