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Comparative Education Review





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Many countries have sought to increase literacy among their populations. Rationales for such efforts usually involve the consequences for economic development, as well as for human development, health, and lower fertility. Programs for increasing literacy have often involved the expansion of educational programs, in particular primary schooling, and the creation of literacy programs and campaigns. However, a central paradox in efforts to reduce illiteracy in today's world is that much effort has been invested and little knowledge gained about how best to achieve success. According to one recent analysis by a Unesco expert, the well-known Experimental World Literacy Program (EWLP) ended with very little information being used by subsequent literacy programs. Yet although adult illiteracy rates of most developing countries are thought to be relatively stable (roughly 35-55 percent in Africa and Asia), population growth has meant that the number of illiterates has actually grown significantly, from 760 million in 1970 to 857 million in 1985.1 Demographi and economic changes in the Third World have made literacy a key issue in the development programs of many countries. In spite of an increased sense of urgency, there is a lack of understanding of the breadth and depth of the "literacy program" in almost every society, particularly in societies where illiteracy appears greatest and evaluation resources are least available. Uncertainty about the nature and extent of literacy provides an important rationale for taking a new look at literacy assessment in Third World societies.2

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© 1990 by University of Chicago Press.



Date Posted: 25 April 2018

This document has been peer reviewed.