International Review of Education

, Volume 61, Issue 3, pp 273–294 | Cite as

Literacy in the 21st century: Towards a dynamic nexus of social relations

Article

Abstract

Literacy is an essential means of communication. It enables individuals, communities and institutions to interact, over time and across space, as they develop a web of social relations via language. Effective literacy policies, programmes and practices expand the scale of social communication and interaction. Thus, literacy thrives when a state of connectedness – or social nexus of relations – is forged and sustained among individuals, households, communities and social institutions. This paper provides an overview of recent literacy trends and challenges as well as core aspects of the policy strategies which seek to address them. It reviews the main barriers or complicating factors which limit the effective implementation of literacy policies. The paper describes how the notion of non-formal education, which frames many scholarly and policy accounts of adult literacy work today, is under-conceptualised. One result of this is a relatively undifferentiated view of literacy programmes and their specific non-formal components. The author argues that the concept of the social nexus of literacy is implicit in many analyses of literacy policies and strategies. Thus, well-defined, context-specific and sharply conceived literacy policies, which enhance the social nexus of literacy, are crucial for improving the effectiveness of literacy work.

Keywords

Adult literacy Literacy policy Non-formal education Policy implementation Obstacles 

Résumé

Alphabétisme au XXIe siècle : vers une connexion dynamique des relations sociales – L’alphabétisme est un moyen essentiel de communication. Il permet aux individus, communautés et institutions d’interagir dans le temps et dans l’espace en nouant un tissu de relations sociales à travers le langage. Les politiques, programmes et pratiques efficaces d’alphabétisation élargissent l’ampleur de la communication et de l’interaction sociales. Ainsi, l’alphabétisme prospère quand une situation de connectivité – ou un tissu social de relations – est forgée et entretenue entre individus, ménages, communautés et institutions sociales. Cet article présente un panorama des tendances et défis récents en alphabétisme, ainsi que les éléments décisifs des stratégies qui tentent de les traiter. Il recense les principaux obstacles ou facteurs de complication qui entravent l’application efficace des politiques d’alphabétisation. L’auteur décrit comment la notion d’éducation non formelle, qui encadre aujourd’hui nombre de rapports scientifiques et stratégiques sur l’alphabétisation des adultes, est sous-conceptualisée. Une conséquence en est une vision relativement indifférenciée des programmes d’alphabétisation et de leurs composantes spécifiquement non formelles. L’auteur constate que la notion de tissu social à travers l’alphabétisme est implicite dans de nombreuses analyses sur les politiques et stratégies d’alphabétisation. Ainsi, des politiques d’alphabétisation clairement définies, adaptées au contexte, conçues de manière ciblée et qui affermissent le tissu social, sont décisives pour améliorer l’efficacité de cette mission.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational Administration and Policy Studies, School of EducationUniversity at Albany – State University of New YorkAlbanyUSA
  2. 2.UNESCOParis 07France

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