Functional literacy


A person is functionally literate/illiterate who can/cannot engage in all those activities in which literacy is required for effective functioning of his or her group and community and also for enabling him or her to continue to use reading, writing and calculation for his or her own and the community’s development. (Definition originally approved in 1978 at UNESCO’s General Conference, and still in use today.)

UNESCO. Education for all: literacy for life; EFA global monitoring report, 2006. Paris: UNESCO, 2006.

Example of use

Although the Work Oriented Adult Literacy Programme did not achieve the success expected – it was, after all, an experimental and pioneering effort – it did help to establish more firmly the principle of linking literacy instruction with uses directly relevant to the adult learner. Indeed, the phrase ‘functional literacy’ remains very much in use. The question for the educational planner – whether a government official or a member of a voluntary body – is what uses or functions will be relevant to which groups of adult learners? (Oxenham, 2008: 62).

Oxenham, John. Effective literacy programmes: options for policy-makers. Fundamentals of Educational Planning 91. Paris: UNESCO-IIEP, 2008.