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close this bookFunctional Adult Literacy (FAL) - Training Manual (DVV, UNICEF; 1996; 106 pages)
View the documentAcknowledgment
View the documentForeword
Open this folder and view contentsIntroduction
close this folderUnit One: Functional Adult Literacy and Its Implications
View the document1.1 Introduction to Literacy
View the document1.2 Development and Methodology of an Integrated Functional Adult Literacy Approach
View the document1.3 Introduction to Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) in Functional Adult Literacy
View the document1.4 Gender Issues in Functional Adult Literacy
Open this folder and view contentsUnit Two: Facilitating Adult Learning
Open this folder and view contentsUnit Three: Facilitating FAL Classes
Open this folder and view contentsUnit Four: Organising and Managing FAL Programmes
Open this folder and view contentsUnit Five: Integrating Functional Adult Literacy in other Development Programmes
Open this folder and view contentsUnit Six: Monitoring and Evaluating Functional Adult Literacy Programmes
View the documentAnnex 1 - Sample Lesson Plan for Luganda Learners
View the documentAnnex 2 - Sample Lesson Plan for Runyankore/Rukiga
View the documentAnnex 3 - Sample Lesson Plan for Lusoga

1.1 Introduction to Literacy

a) Introduction.

Practically, everyone will agree that literacy is only meaningful if it is functional. However, not everyone means the same by Functional Literacy.

This Topic Covers:


• the three main approaches to literacy.
• the development of the Functional Approach.
• the implications of Functional Literacy.

b) Objectives:

By the end of this topic the participants should be able to:


• explain the three main approaches used in teaching literacy.
• describe the development of the Integrated Functional Literacy Approach.
• explain the implications of the Functional Literacy Approach for preparing and teaching FAL programmes.

c) Time: 2 hours 05 minutes.

d) Learning/Teaching Aids: Pictures, charts or Primers using different approaches, hand-outs on the approaches. Blackboard, Newsprint and Markers.

e) Procedure and Learning Points:

1) [15 min.] Ask the participants what they understand by literacy and allow a short discussion on this. Ask participants what they understand by functional literacy.

Learning Points: The meaning of Literacy: UNESCO has given two definitions -the Basic and the Functional.

Basic: A literate person is one who can, with understanding, both read and write a short simple statement on his/her everyday life.

Functional: A functionally literate person is one who can engage in all these activities in which literacy is required for effective functioning of his/her to continue to use reading, writing and calculation for his/her own and the community’s development.

Being functionally literate differs from one particular community to another. An example of being functionally literate may be of a person who is engaged in brick-making, can count, read and write the records concerning the number of bricks made, their dimensions and cost of producing them in order to determine the profit margin.

2) [30 min.] Explain through a lecture the three literacy approaches: Traditional, Functional and Psycho-social.

Learning Points:

The three main literacy approaches are traditional, functional and psycho-social.

Traditional approach:


(1) It is associated with learning the alphabet first, progressing to syllables and finally meaningful words and sentences.

(2) It has a long history - can be traced right from the time of ancient Greek learning up to the time of missionary work in Uganda.

(3) It was widely used by early evangelists in teaching catechism to converts.

(4) The approach’s pre-occupation is teaching reading and writing, accompanied in most cases by elementary arithmetic.

Functional approach:


(1) Has its origin in the life experience of the human being.

(2) The learner is not restricted to the learning of reading, writing and counting skills only, but is led additionally to discover his/her function.

(3) The approach has undergone changes over time. At first, it was based on the psychology of an adult at work. The teaching of literacy and economic skills were to be integrated. The integration was to be so good that the learners would experience the two teachings as one learning. However, practitioners tended to emphasise economic functionality and ignored the aspect of reading and writing.

(4) The question of whether or not literacy is functional depends on the context, that is, it has to be re-defined for every time and in every place. Literacy is learnt for the sake of making the person function better in his environment or community.

Psycho-social approach:


(1) Associated with the great Brazilian educator - Paulo Freire.

(2) The approach is problem-solving, that is, it provides a framework for thinking, creative, active participants to consider a common problem and find solutions.

(3) The approach is based on the importance of having the participants themselves choose the content of their education rather than having “experts” develop curricula for them.

(4) After a session characterised with dialogue, a common generative theme is developed from which the reading, writing and counting is based.

(5) The psycho-social approach has contributed to the development of the REFLECT technique which was started by ACTIONAID in 1993 and uses PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal) within adult literacy - hence the name; Regenerated Freirian Literacy through Empowering Community Techniques (REFLECT).

(6) It is stated that in a REFLECT programme, there are “no primers” and no “preprinted” materials apart from the facilitator’s guide. Each class develops its own learning materials by constructing maps, matrices, calendars and diagrams representing different aspects of community experience. This is the technique ACTIONAID uses in Bundibugyo district in Uganda.

3) [30 min.] Divide the participants in groups and ask them to discuss; the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.

Learning Points: Advantages and disadvantages of each approach.







- Enabled the development of systematic reading and writing.

- It is work-oriented.
- Linked with other development activities.
- Results into projects.

- Creates awareness.
- More participatory (learner-centred) than others.

- Easy to use.
- It is cheap.

- It is motivating.

- Once it gains root, it motivates.




- Does not motivate adults, i.e. those interested in income- generating activities.

- Time consuming.
- Skills of literacy may take long before being acquired.

- Literacy comes as a by-the-way.
- Difficult to implement.

- Not related to other activities.

- More expensive to run.

- Requires a committed and well-trained facilitator.
- Uses more resources especially time.

- Learners do not participate effectively.

- May not make learners who are used to traditional methods to adjust accordingly.


4) [30 min.] Back in plenary session let each group report their ideas, discuss them and guide the participants to realise that the approach to be adopted should be functional, but should integrate other advantages of the other approaches.

Learning Points: Assess advantages and disadvantages of these three approaches.

5) [10 min.] Wind up by explaining the implications of such a functional approach for preparing the literacy programme and teaching it.

Learning Points: Implications for such a functional literacy approach:


- The programme should respond to the needs of the people.

- Literacy must be directly linked to the economic and other activities of the people.

- Learning, reading and writing must go hand-in-hand with learning how to improve on people’s other activities.

- The literacy programme should have ideas from specialists in other subjects like health, agriculture, law, cooperatives, marketing, etc.

(f) [10 min.] Assessment:

Participants can be asked to explain in their own words what they consider to be the advantages of literacy in their community.

(g) Follow-up:

Read the hand-out on the meaning of literacy and the different approaches in literacy.

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