Designing Adult Illiteracy Elimination Programs


The recognition of the importance and the necessity of education for the development of society has become a significant achievement of human civilization. Today, such a fundamental education level indicator as the literacy rate is acknowledged as a crucial element of the development of a country. Promoting literacy in the form of universal primary education is one of the goals of global cooperation in the 21st century.

A specific issue in this area is adult illiteracy. Addressing the issue requires extensive measures from governments and non-government organizations on creating adult literacy programs. Such programs are challenging to develop and conduct due to various reasons, including the difficulties with defining literacy in the modern world, designing curricula, and determining the effects of literacy on different aspects of individuals’ lives. Adult illiteracy elimination programs should be designed with the considerations of functional literacy, women’s vulnerable illiteracy position, and addressing serious social issues in teaching materials.

Annotated Bibliography

Billek-Sawhney, B., & Reicherter, E. A. (2005). Literacy and the older adult: Educational considerations for health professionals. Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation, 21(4), 275-281.

Billek-Sawhney and Reicherter (2005) study the phenomenon of health illiteracy among seniors in the United States. It is asserted that about 90 million people in the United States experience difficulties with processing healthcare information, which corresponds to the illiteracy rates stated by Roman (2004). Importantly, the concept of literacy is challenged by the authors, as they suggest that it should encompass finding, estimating, understanding, and using information rather than merely being able to read and write. When literacy is defined like this, it turns out that a very large number of people suffer from health illiteracy, which can affect their treatment and rehabilitation. The article suggests ways to detect illiteracy and provide patient education from healthcare practitioners to ensure that patients do not harm themselves due to the lack of knowledge and skills in health-related areas.

The article is relevant because it addresses the points of defining literacy and the effects of illiteracy on individuals. These points need to be taken into consideration when designing adult illiteracy elimination programs. The article also provides recommendations for preparing education materials based on these considerations.

Golbeck, A., Paschal, A., Jones, A., & Hsiao, T. (2011). Correlating reading comprehension and health numeracy among adults with low literacy. Patient Education and Counseling, 84(1), 132-134.

The research described in the article examines illiterates and adults with low literacy for the connection between health illiteracy and other literacy criteria such as reading comprehension scores. This effectively established a correlation between the modern-day notion of functional literacy (Roman, 2004) and the notion of health literacy associated with processing and utilizing specific information (Billek-Sawhney & Reicherter, 2005), both of which are relevant to this research. The study suggests that such important literacy skills as reading comprehension and numeracy are not necessarily in a correlation for particular groups of illiterates.

The article is relevant because it proposes a specific framework for health literacy measuring by testing certain criteria and determining the connections between them. Also, the research methods described in the article, such as the Test of Functional Health Literacy for Adults (TOFHLA), provide efficient tools for studying literacy. Although the authors claim that the research produces valuable results for “medical decision-makers, health educators, and health promoters working with traditional methods of assessing health literacy” (Golbeck, Paschal, Jones, & Hsiao, 2011, p. 132), it can be argued that there are broader implications to adult literacy research and activities in general.

Kabeer, N., & Natali, L. (2013). Gender equality and economic growth: Is there a win-win? IDS Working Papers, 2013(417), 1-58.

The article explores the connection between gender equality and economic development. It is concluded that the correlation is asymmetrical, i.e., the promotion of gender equality is capable of contributing to economic growth, while economic growth does not normally tend to immediately improve the gender equality situation. The authors describe various indicators of gender equality, including female literacy rates and conclude that promoting female education contributes, among other things, to the economic capabilities of households and, ultimately, to economic growth on a larger scale.

The studies described in the article correspond to the idea of the necessity to focus on gender issues in illiteracy elimination activities explained by Wen (2003). Women are described as a vulnerable group that should receive special attention when illiteracy issues are addressed. This is also to demonstrate the importance of creating educational materials that would feature raising socially important issues such as the position of women. The study is relevant because it provides valuable evidence for one of the major supporting points in arguing for the ways to design literacy programs. Confirmed data on the positive effects of higher female literacy rates on economic development is an argument for focusing on women and gender equality issues when conducting illiteracy elimination activities.

Roman, S. P. (2004). Illiteracy and older adults: Individual and societal implications. Educational Gerontology, 30(2), 79-93.

Roman (2004) explores the adverse effects of being illiterate on seniors. The study shows that illiterate people in most cases fail to recognize their illiteracy, as in the 1990s, “over 90% of adults who fall into the lowest levels of literacy [perceived] their abilities as sufficient or even above average” (Roman, 2004, p. 91). The situation is particularly daunting because some literacy programs claim that about 90 million people in the United States have limited literacy skills. These data correspond to the illiteracy rates stated by Billek-Sawhney and Reicherter (2005). The article states that illiteracy negatively affects health and other aspects of seniors’ lives. The statement is aimed at redefining the approach to literacy programs and considering them a contribution to the nation’s well-being.

What is particularly valuable about the article is the research into defining literacy. It is suggested that, in the modern world, literacy should be regarded as not only the ability to read written words but as well should include the notion of understanding them. The author uses the concept of “functional literacy” (Roman, 2004, p. 81), which is a shift from evaluating literacy as a technical skill to understanding it as the ability to function successfully within society. The challenge of defining literacy as the ability to process information rather than to read and write is important for all modern-world literacy studies.

Wen, Q. (2003). A gender analysis of the vocational roles in adult illiteracy elimination (IE) teaching materials. Chinese Education & Society, 36(3), 80-91.

The research by Wen (2003) was the first study in China to examine the illiteracy elimination of educational materials from the gender perspective. The research contained a thorough analysis of teaching materials for gender characteristics, such as the representation of women and messages to them. It was emphasized that women are the most vulnerable group among adult illiterates in China as women constitute up to 31 percent of illiterates in impoverished rural regions, which is almost a three times higher rate than that for men. The article stresses the importance of focusing on women in illiteracy elimination activities. Particularly, it is recommended to address the issues of women’s occupational situation as well as their social position in rural areas in teaching materials.

The article is relevant because it addresses the issues of what content of literacy programs’ materials are adequate to addressing social issues. The importance of focusing on women in illiteracy elimination has been stressed by many authors, including Kabeer and Natali (2013), but this article specifically explains how, along with literacy programs, other important aspects of education can be delivered, such as educating on the role and position of women.