|Using Literacy: A New Approach to Post-literacy Materials - Education Research Paper No. 10 (DFID, 1994, 57 p.)|
|Chapter 3: Developing new approaches to post-literacy|
"If we are going to continue to use a cost-benefit method of assessing education, it must include weightings for improvements in quality of life. Orthodox economic analysis cannot quantify the social rate of return from the education received by a non-working mother of four children; for the benefits of her education range over improved nutrition of her family, the ability to plan its size, her capacity to take on part-time work at home, her participation in the development of her community and her own ability to improve the quality of her life through cultural and political activity" (ODA 1990 p7).
The above statement indicates that traditional approaches to educational cost-benefit analysis (CBA) (Hough 1992), with their emphasis on economic rates of return set against inputs in terms of the amount and the levels of formal education received, cannot apply to adult literacy and post-literacy.
The value and significance of literacy and post-literacy programmes are best related to the quality of life issues noted above. These will of course depend on the practices of literacy in each area. But there is a lack of any criteria for assessing the benefits of literacy programmes. Other than in the health sector (Bown 1990 - which indicates that even here there are doubts about the direct causal impact of literacy on health practices), contrary to what is often assumed, it is simply not known whether the acquisition of literacy skills brings with it any direct economic or other benefits. There is some anecdotal evidence but nothing systematic.
There are however indications that the newer approaches to literacy which have been emerging over recent years show clear economic advantages over the traditional approach to literacy. The traditional approach, with its view that adults need to learn literacy first and apply it later to developmental activities, implies that the economic and other benefits will spring from a further developmental programme to be conducted after the end of the literacy course rather than from the literacy programme itself There will then be some delay between the literacy programme and any economic and social improvement which flows from literacy. It is true that many literacy programmes organise an income-generation activity alongside the literacy, but the economic benefits which derive in this case come from the income-generation programme, not from the literacy programme.
The introduction of literacy practices in real situations using real materials into initial literacy teaching, will bring greater and more immediate benefits to the learners, especially when those real literacy situations are related to social and economic activities. Many literacy practices in all societies are concerned with the management of money, access to credit, record keeping, budgeting and accounts. If these literacy practices are introduced as part of initial literacy teaching, the skills they embody will be assimilated more thoroughly and more permanently than if they form part of a 'bolt-on' programme delivered later. There will also be less delay in the benefits reaching the beneficiaries. It is the effective use of literacy skills rather their acquisition that will bring cost benefits to the users. Post-literacy, if seen as using literacy in real situations with real materials, and introduced during the initial literacy programme, will have greater and more immediate cost benefits than post-literacy seen as a further stage of literacy instruction.