Linking literacy and numeracy programmes in developing countries and the UK

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As is now well known, the developed world has major literacy and numeracy problems and all the United Kingdom (UK) countries have developed major strategies to address them. In Europe, the Lisbon goals were set in 2000 to ensure that everyone in European Union countries should have the ‘key competences’ to survive and flourish in the economy and society of the future.

With so much activity and a real commitment to supporting men, women and children in communities across the world, it is a good time to think how we can best address problems – together. This report makes a strong case for much closer working links between the UK and countries in the developing world. Often, it is expected that the knowledge and skills of the developed world can help other countries – we offer expertise and others learn. This report suggests we can also benefit as much from others’ expertise as they can from us. Family learning is just one example where there is a long record of good initiatives in developing countries from which we can learn. There are many others explored in this report.

The need for dialogue and mutual learning was immediately apparent at the NRDC meeting held in December 2003 from which this report arises. Supported by DfID and held at the Lancaster Literacy Research centre, the symposium brought together researchers, practitioners and development professionals from across the world.

The spirit of the event was one of sharing values and principles and thinking hard about practices and their applicability to vastly different contexts. Participants came from across the developing world: India, Nepal, Jamaica, Namibia and Uganda. There were also people working with ethnic minority communities in the ‘developed’ world, such as Canada. In addition, there were people working on literacy and numeracy with developing countries, including World Education in the United States (US) and the UK and literacy and numeracy professionals in the UK with long experience of working in developing countries across five continents.

This report demonstrates the diversity and vitality of basic education throughout the world – notwithstanding the urgent need for better resources and support.

Barton. D & Papen. U (2005) Linking literacy and numeracy programmes in developing countries and the UK. NRDC: London