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Asia-Pacific countries draft proposals to implement the literacy module for household surveys


Expert's Meeting on "Implementation and Strategic Planning for Using the Literacy Module for Household Surveys", a cost-effective and easily adaptible method for countries in collecting literacy data.

Representatives from departments of Education and National Statistical Offices (NSO) of Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand, the Non-formal Education Centre (NFEC) in Nepal, UNESCO International Research and Training Centre for Rural Education (UNRULED) in China, UNESCO Bangkok and Mr. Shiu Kee Chu, former Director of UNESCO Hanoi, gathered in Bangkok from 24-26 March 2008.

Participants discussed, planned and prepared proposals for the insertion of a literacy module into household surveys at the country level, in order to collect information on the literate environment and the individual's access and use of literacy materials.

The Expert's Meeting on "Implementation and Strategic Planning for Using the Literacy Module for Household Surveys" was organized and hosted by the Assessment, Information Systems, Monitoring and Statistics (AIMS) Unit, Office of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) Regional Advisor for Asia and Pacific, and supported by the Japanese Funds-in-Trust (JFIT) for UNESCO.

The AIMS-UIS Unit, in collaboration with the UIS Headquarters in Montreal and the UNESCO Bangkok Education Sector - with support from JFIT, designed a simple literacy module and prepared a guidebook on how to insert the module in household surveys.

The literacy module consists of 16 questions grouped under four sections, including access to reading materials, language background, education background and use of literacy skills.

During the meeting, participants drafted strategic country plans for the integration of this module into existing household surveys, addressing issues of survey administration, sample size, funding and dissemination of results within the context of their countries.

Several key issues were raised during the discussions, including choice of language, literacy assessments, coordination between various agencies especially the Ministry of Education and NSO for conducting the literacy survey, adapting the module to include local socio-cultural context and the wider dissemination of literacy data.

Mr. Shiu Kee Chu, former Director of UNESCO Hanoi was has been working on literacy statistics, also noted the growing interest in understanding how literacy is being used and how it impacts the individual, community and family life.

He also stressed the importance of the "literacy environment" and noted the trend now is towards measuring the various ranges of literacy levels, instead of simply classifying individuals as literates or illiterates.

The Literacy Module was first piloted in Sri Lanka. It was inserted into the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) survey in September 2007.

Ms. Priyadarshani de Silva, Director of the Sri Lankan Research and Special Studies Division, Department of Census and Statistics, presented the results of the MDG 2006/2007 survey, highlighting various issues relating to adapting the module for the MDG survey. She also noted that the insertion of the literacy module yielded very rich data on the individual's behaviour in accessing and use of literacy materials. 

On the final day of the meeting, it was proposed to set-up a technical working group to further discuss and share results from the planned country level activities to use the literacy module. All participating countries expressed interest in forming the technical group on literacy at the national and regional levels. Participants also noted the need to further define the technical working group's role and functions, as well as the inclusion of experts from other fields such as anthropology.

Dr. Ko-Chih Tung, UIS Regional Advisor for Asia Pacific and Head of the AIMS Unit stressed the nature of the literacy module as only an insert for existing household surveys, offering a cost-effective and easily adaptable method in collecting literacy data.

He urged country participants to finalize their proposals after consulting with their respective departments before sending it to UNESCO, who will provide technical assistance to the countries in adapting and pilot testing the module.

More information can be obtained from the project information sheet and presentations delivered at the meeting.


Introduction: Literacy Survey Project Proposal - Ko-Chih Tung, UIS-AIMS Regional Advisor/Head (PPT/436KB)

Introduction: Literacy Assessment and Monitoring Programme (LAMP) - Nyi Nyi Thaung, Programme Specialist, UIS-AIMS (PPT/259KB)

Project Background and Objectives - Nyi Nyi Thaung, Programme Specialist, UIS-AIMS (PPT/233KB)

Education for All (EFA) Mid-Decade Assessment Household Literacy Module - Leotes Lugo Helin, Assistant Programme Specialist, UIS-AIMS (PPT/2.7MB)

For more information regarding the outcome of this project, the literacy module and guidebook, please contact s.venkatraman(at)