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LRDG seminar: Changing discourses: literacy and development in Nepal

Date: 18 November 2008 Time: 1.00 - 2.00 pm

Anna Robinson-Pant, University of East Anglia

Changing discourses: literacy and development in Nepal

'Illiteracy is receiving minimal political attention and remains a global disgrace, keeping one in five adults (one in four women) on the margins of society' (UNESCO Global Monitoring Report on Education for All 2007: 1)

Literacy policy and programming in developing countries continues to be influenced by these assumptions: that without literacy, an adult is unable to function on an equal basis in society and that an individual can be easily categorised as either literate or illiterate. Although this has led to prioritisation of primary schooling over adult literacy in many national government and donor agency budgets, there has recently been a movement away from regarding adult literacy as only 'second chance schooling' to explore how literacy programmes can build on participants' existing practices.

As a former literacy trainer, planner and researcher in Nepal, I have observed these shifts in the international policy discourse with interest. Being involved in the dynamic literacy scene in Nepal in the '80s and '90s, I have wondered how far the current literacy and development discourse in Nepal - defined as not just the ways of talking about development, but the practices - has changed. Many of the policy issues put forward in international policy documents today were being debated in the Nepal context at that time - dilemmas about mother tongue literacy teaching, how formal (school-like) programmes should be and how to develop 'literacy environments' in remote communities with little access to printed matter.

I returned to Nepal this year to meet with former colleagues (literacy practitioners and policy makers) and took the opportunity to discuss the shifts in literacy policy and programming that have taken place over the past decade. In this seminar, I will explore the changes in literacy policy discourse in Nepal and reflect on the interconnections with and implications for international debates on literacy and development.

Event website:


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Lancaster Literacy Research Centre, Linguistics and English Language


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
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