Date of this Version
The Cambridge Handbook of Literacy
Few areas of social and economic development have received as much attention and as few proportionate resources as adult literacy. Across the world – in both industrialized and developing countries alike – it is widely acknowledged that at most, 5 percent of national education budgets is spent on the roughly 50 percent of the adult population in need of increased literacy skills.
For several centuries, it has been variously claimed that literacy – a key (if not the key) product of schooling – would lead to economic growth, social stability, a democratic way of life, and other social 'good things.' Detailed historical reviews have not been so kind to such generalizations (see several chapters in Wagner, Venezky & Street, 1999; also UNESCO, 2005), in that literacy 'campaigns,' in particular, were often more politically inspired than practically implemented (Wagner, 1986). General notions of national economic growth have been said to have a similar set of positive consequences for the poor. However, both universal literacy and universal economic growth have suffered from what has been called at times 'development fatigue' – namely, that governments and international agencies have come to feel that significant toil and funding have led to only limited return on investment.
This material has been published in The Cambridge Handbook of Literacy edited by Olson, D. & Torrance, N. This version is free to view and download for personal use only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. © 2009 Cambridge University Press.
Wagner, D.A. (2009). New Technologies for Adult Literacy and International Development. In Olson, D. & Torrance, N. (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Literacy, 548-565. Cambridge University Press.
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Date Posted: 24 April 2018