Page 3 of 7ICT IN NON-FORMAL EDUCATION IN ASIA PACIFIC
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Education for All Global Monitoring Report for 2008, there are 774 million illiterate adults globally. Almost all of them live in developing countries, particularly in South and West Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Arab States where the literacy rates are about 60 percent. Women account for 64 percent of adults who cannot read and write with understanding. The problem of illiteracy among women is particularly grave in the South Asian region. Most of the illiterate women are poor, live in rural areas, are older in age, and belong to linguistic, ethnic, and religious minorities.
Achieving education for all and eradicating illiteracy by 2015 are among the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that the global community has set for itself. The education-related MDGs build on the EFA initiative agreed in Jomtien, Thailand in 1990 and reaffirmed at the second EFA meeting in Dakar, Senegal in 2000. In addition, the United Nations launched the UN Literacy Decade (2003–2012), which adopts the Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE) global strategic framework for assisting the 35 countries in which 85 percent of the world’s non-literate population lives.
Because of the established relationship between illiteracy and poverty, achieving the goals of the UN Literacy Decade is central to the realization of the MDGs. The International Action Plan for implementing the UN Literacy Decade states that ‘literacy for all is at the heart of basic education for all and creating literate environments and societies is essential for … eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy’ (UNESCO 2002).
The Action Plan calls for a renewed vision of literacy that goes beyond the limited view that has hitherto been dominant: ‘It has become necessary for all people to learn new literacies and develop the ability to locate, evaluate and effectively use information in multiple manners’ (UNESCO 2002, p. 4). In particular, people need to learn skills that are essential in what is now called the ‘knowledge economy’ and ‘information society’ where knowledge and technology, including ICTs, are increasingly playing a significant role and causing social transformation to take place at a rapid pace. Personal participation in knowledge-and technology-driven societies begins with literacy (Wagner and Kozma 2005), but requires continuing education and training throughout the lifespan. NFE programs, with their needs-based approach and flexibility, have an important responsibility to ensure that illiterate adults and out-of-school youth and children, as well as other marginalized and disadvantaged groups, are provided opportunities to access ICTs and to utilize them meaningfully to further their socio-economic growth and development.
In 2002, APPEAL launched the ICT-NFE project with financial support from the Japanese Funds-in-Trust to explore the use of ICTs in the delivery of education and skills training to help improve quality of life, alleviate poverty, and achieve community development through community learning centres (CLCs) and other community-based mechanisms. The project piloted the use of ICTs to foster the participation of disadvantaged communities in literacy, basic education, and continuing education activities in Indonesia, Lao PDR, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Uzbekistan.