Skills and Literacy –
Effective Combination for Better Livelihoods

The development of any nation or region is indicated by the level of education of both men and women. That is why ‘education for all’ is strongly recommended and focused on by our government. India has made considerable progress in this sector and with all the efforts the literacy rate grew to 74.04% in 2011 from meager 12% in 1947. Even though, women constitute 48% of the total population in India – the women literacy rate in urban areas is 79.11% as against 88.76% in males and the figures are even lower in the rural scenario where 57.93% women are literate as against 77.15% literate males. Low female literacy rate means an overall sluggish growth as it impacts every arena of the development.

Illiterate rural women are seen to be not aware of their rights and entitlements and most of the time also ignorant about initiatives taken by the government for their welfare. India is struggling hard to stabilise its growing population through family planning programmes, but with so many rural women being illiterate, it has a negative impact on these initiatives. Schemes and policies designed for women and youth do not reach them due to lack of awareness.

The most common definition of livelihood encompasses the capabilities, assets and activities used in order to gain a living and for this literacy and skilling both prove to be of tantamount importance. In a study done by the Institute for International Cooperation of German Adult Education Association (IIZ/DVV) to look at the intersection between training in livelihood skills and basic education for illiterate and semi-literate youth and adults, it shows that combinations of livelihood skills training and adult literacy education help improve poor peoples’ livelihoods. Firstly, there is a widely noted ‘empowerment effect’ that learners acquire enhanced confidence and social resources which help them take initiatives to improve their livelihoods. Secondly, literacy and numeracy skills are a clear advantage in market transactions in the informal economy and thus especially important for entrepreneurship. Thirdly, better productive agricultural or livestock practices result from learning new vocational skills.

Overall, the evidence suggests that it would be worthwhile for vocational or livelihood education policy makers to develop livelihood training with literacy and numeracy instruction for poor, illiterate women. Livelihood plus literacy and numeracy programmes can greatly improve their chances of success, if they incorporate training in savings, credit and business management, along with actual access to credit. One major recommendation of the study is to ensure that the ‘average adult learner’ masters literacy and numeracy well enough - to use them in support and development of a livelihood. Another recommendation is that vocational education policy should provide for two cadres of instructors - livelihood instructors and literacy instructors instead of one taking responsibility of both.

Similarly, in another study done in three countries, the authors suggest that the use of literacy practices embedded within the livelihood activities might be a better starting point for adult literacy learning than a school-based textbook. Going to scale would require capacity building, decentralisation, gradualism and underpinning by local infrastructure, natural and other resources, norms and institutions for sustainability.

Alka Srivastava

References seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents PMC6191674/ AFRICAEXT/Resources/skills_and_literacy.pdf  


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