International Review of Education

, Volume 47, Issue 6, pp 573-595

First online:

The Dominant Tradition in Adult Literacy – A Comparative Study of National Literacy Programmes in Botswana and Zimbabwe

  • Stanley T. MpofuAffiliated withDepartment of Adult and Non-Formal Education, University of Namibia
  • , Frank YoungmanAffiliated withDepartment of Adult Education, University of Botswana

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The article highlights the renewed significance of adult literacy for international and national educational policy as a result of the World Educational Forum in 2000, at which a new vision of literacy was advocated. The difference between the new and old paradigms of adult literacy is considered. The article argues that the traditional approach which has dominated the international discourse on adult literacy has profoundly influenced national decisions. This influence is illustrated through a comparative analysis of national adult literacy programmes in Botswana and Zimbabwe. The programmes exhibit a high degree of similarity despite differences in the national contexts. The analysis shows that the traditional approach has been relatively ineffective in improving adult literacy levels. However, proposals for change influenced by the new paradigm have not been taken into account. Thus the examples of Botswana and Zimbabwe indicate the difficulty in displacing the dominant tradition in adult literacy at the level of national policy-making.