Family Literacy Programme

Country Profile: Nepal



Official Language

Nepali (regional languages: Maithili, Nepal Bhasa, Bhojpuri, Tharu, Gurung, Tamang, Magar, Awadhi, Sherpa, Kiranti, Limbu, etc.)

Poverty (Population living on less than 1.25 USD per day)


Total Expenditure on Education as % of GNP


Primary School Net Enrolment/Attendance

97.7% (2014)

Total Youth Literacy Rate (15-24 years)
  • Total: 82.4% (2011)
  • Male: 89.2% (2011)
  • Female: 77.5% (2011)
Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 1995-2005)
  • Total: 57.4% (2011)
  • Male: 71.1% (2011)
  • Female: 46.7% (2011)

Programme Overview

Programme TitleFamily Literacy Programme
Implementing OrganizationUNESCO Kathmandu Office
Language of InstructionNepali
FundingThe UNESCO Capacity Development for EFA (CapEFA) Programme (through its project ‘Building Capacities for Strengthening Literacy and Lifelong Learning in Nepal), voluntary contributions from the governments of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, the national government of Nepal and Shikharapur CLC.
Programme PartnersShikharapur Community Learning Center (SCLC), the Non-Formal Education Centre (NFEC) of the Nepalese Ministry of Education, the Education Resource Development Centre Nepal (ERDCN, a national non-governmental organization), UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, and the Hamburg Institue of Teacher Training and School Development
Annual Programme CostsUS $3,000
Date of Inception2013 -

Country Context

Nepal has a population of about 27 million and an annual per capita income of US $750 (World Bank, 2015). Since the introduction of democracy in 1990 Nepal has had twenty governments. Political instability has been a defining feature of life in the country. At present, the Nepali state is undergoing political transition following ten years of violent conflict that ended in 2006. This entails maintaining peace, power-sharing between the major parties and the development of a new constitution.

One challenge facing the country concerns access to secondary education (grades 9–12), which remains disturbingly low with a net enrollment rate of 24 per cent. More than half of students leaving primary school do not enter secondary school, and only half of those who do begin secondary schooling complete it. As a result, despite improvements in the literacy rate of young people, the adult literacy rate in Nepal is low. According to the most recent Human Development Index (2014), Nepal has an adult literacy rate of little more than 50 per cent, with a huge variation between men and women. In 2011, the literacy rate for men was 18 percentage points higher than that for women of the same age. Wide discrepancies exist also in literacy rates among various castes and ethnic groups.

To address this problem, the Nepalese Ministry of Education’s Non-Formal Educational Centre has been delivering non-formal education services to various target groups, including people living in remote areas, people experiencing poverty, women, and marginalized castes and ethnic groups. Literacy has been a priority of various ministries and organizations, with a focus on information-sharing, literacy for empowerment, literacy as a support for income-generating activities and literacy in self-determination. Despite these efforts, a high adult illiteracy rate persists. With more than 7.6 million adult illiterates, Nepal needs to develop innovative approaches and improve current literacy programmes if it is to achieve the Education for All (EFA) goals.

Implementing Organization

Since its establishment in 1998, the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu has been working with the government, development partners and civil society organizations to support national efforts to achieve the Education for All (EFA) goals. Its main priorities have been literacy and teacher training, strengthening the education system, and planning and managing education. In order to continue supporting the government of Nepal and the Literate Nepal Mission Campaign (LINEM) in their efforts to provide literacy for all, the Education Unit of UNESCO collaborates with the Non-Formal Education Centre (NFEC). Within the Capacity Development for Education for All (CapEFA) framework, an extra-budgetary funding mechanism, UNESCO and NFEC jointly organize activities to increase literacy in general and to strengthen capacities in the non-formal education sector in particular. The NFEC sets up centres across the country to reduce the high number of illiterate adults through non-formal education programmes.

The Shikharapur Community Learning Centre (SCLC),which runs the Family Literacy Programme, is a community-owned institution outside the formal education system. The centre is managed by locals under the guidance of the NFEC and it is part of the Ministry of Education in Nepal. Guided by an inspirational slogan – "If not here, then where? If not now, then when? If not me, then who?" – the aim of the SCLC is to provide educational and lifelong learning opportunities to communities in order to develop and improve local people’s lives. The SCLC believes in non-formal education where experiences are continuously shared by the community and literacy and lifelong learning are promoted. It plays an active role in the development of the community by carrying out health programmes, running non-formal classes for education-deprived people, and enhancing income-generating activities.

Programme Overview

The Family Literacy Programme is a pilot initiative run by the Non-Formal Education Centre as part of UNESCO’s CapEFA Programme. It benefits from the support of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning and the Hamburg Teacher Training Institute. The programme’s aims are to strengthen the capacities of the government at central, middle and local levels to efficiently plan, implement, monitor and evaluate literacy and non-formal education programmes from a lifelong learning perspective. It offers learning in a family environment, as mothers and their children sit together and share their experiences. Centre facilitators teach the women reading and writing skills and encourage children to support their mothers’ learning process. Interviews with the beneficiaries of the pilot family literacy projects show that this methodology empowers both women and children and contributes to the creation of a lifelong learning environment at community level. This innovative approach is supplemented by various non-traditional literacy materials, such as popular folk songs and religious texts. In addition, sixteen newly developed and locally produced learning materials were provided by a national non-governmental organization, the Education Resource Development Centre Nepal (ERDCN). These materials allow learners to link the content of the lessons to their personal lives, which boosts their motivation and interest in developing writing and reading skills.

A second feature of the pilot family literacy project is the way the development of literacy skills is combined with recognition of the participants’ prior knowledge. In communities, women, although illiterate, gain a great deal of knowledge in terms of household management and finance, raising children, cooking and family traditions. However, this knowledge often tends to go unnoticed and is not acknowledged by other community members. The learning approach of the programme, which involves cooperation and sharing, makes the knowledge gained more valuable and longstanding.

The Family Literacy Programme is a four-month pilot project which was first implemented in 2013 and is being repeated in 2015. So far, eighty women and children have benefited from the pilot phase of the project. The plan is to reach out to hundreds of families in the near future.

Aims and Objectives

Programme Implementation

Learning Approaches and Methodologies


The Family Literacy Programme applies a participatory approach with a focus on literacy and building the confidence of participants. Traditionally, facilitators have done most of the talking in literacy classes. However, in this case, learners’ participation is at the centre of the activities. The learners organize much of the learning activity themselves. The programme offers a literacy course based on the needs of the women and children. Children are taught during the classes how to teach reading and writing skills to members of their families. As they do not have experience of teaching, the facilitators help by showing them how to teach in easy ways. Interestingly, this new idea has been taken up by them and most of the children are helping their mothers with reading and writing at home. The mothers, in turn, join their children’s classes and gain insights into the school experience of their children. This strengthens the relationship not only between mothers and children but also between teachers and families.

During the pilot phase, three classes took place in different community places: the bottle house of an eco-farm, Shikharapur School Centre and Child Care Day Centre. The facilitators taught, on average, between ten and fifteen women and their children twice a week in each of the three classes. The classes ran for around six hours each week. During the lessons, women developed their reading and writing skills together with their children and shared their knowledge of local traditions, rituals, customs and festivals. Each month, a field trip was undertaken to gain inside into different organizations, for instance the Educational Resource Development Center Nepal and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development. Moreover, weekly tours within the community were offered to learners, to illustrate the importance of local places. For example, participants were taken to a local water resource to teach them about climate change, to a local temple and monastery to illustrate the importance of religious places and to observe economic activities developed around these places. They were also taken to model community organizations to learn how women can develop themselves.

Programme Content and Teaching Material


The facilitators organized meetings with the villagers and worked with local teachers and politicians in order to develop the content of the course. As the programme took a participatory approach, students were given the opportunity to express their needs and interests, and these were integrated into the class content. This included themes such as traditions, festivals, agriculture and the caste system. Certain topics, however, were predetermined and the government provided reading material to support teaching in these areas. Awareness sessions were organized beforehand with a focus on topics such as climate change, health, and children’s and women’s rights. The sessions used chart and paper presentations, with specialists from different organizations sometimes invited to talk about specific issues.

Learning materials such as story books, government literacy books, videos, pictures, song texts, religious texts, newspapers and sixteen family literacy booklets were provided by the Education Resource Development Centre Nepal. These learning materials were, for the most part, developed during the implementation of the pilot project. The team visited classes and interviewed facilitators, organizers and participants in order to develop practical texts and material for the lessons. The sixteen booklets were developed through in-depth analysis of literacy classes and an interactive teaching text development activity. The text development team visited the classes many times and interviewed facilitators, organizers and participants so that they could develop the practical text for that class and future sessions as well. The booklets cover a range of very practical topics, and are accessible to the learners, using big letters and pictures. The main topics featured in the programme were literacy, health and hygiene, rights of women and children, income-generating skills, public speaking, traditions, domestic violence, climate change, earthquakes, water, governmental services, marriage tradition, family, and gardening. During class, information and communication technologies, including videos and internet resources, were used to support the teaching process. Learners were also taught how to use a mobile phone.

Trainers and Facilitators

Since the facilitators are employed on a part-time basis, recruitment was internal, with candidates selected from among graduates of the Open School on the basis of interviews. The facilitators participated in training and workshops offered by the Institute for Teacher Training and School Development. This included exposure to community learning centres and feedback given during meetings and classes. The same facilitators accompanied all three learning groups. They were paid in part by the project with extra financial support from the SCLC.



People from the local community suggested potential participants who were interested in the programme. During implementation of the project, the facilitators visited the learners’ homes and observed their progress and changes. Reading and writing competitions were sometimes organized but participants on the literacy course did not have to take exams. Facilitators noted that both the children and their fathers supported their mothers and wives in becoming literate. This demonstrates a major change in attitude within families.

Monitoring and Evaluation

An external consultant evaluated the pilot project and wrote a final report. The evaluation employed a set of methods and procedures to gather quantitative and qualitative data that formed the basis for the findings and, subsequently, the conclusions. Relevant material related to the overall programme, as well as background material used in project preparation, was reviewed, along with the approved project design, consultants’ deliverables, progress reports, action plans and other available documents. A visit to one of the pilot districts in Shikharapur was conducted to facilitate in-depth interviews, site inspection, demonstrations and analysis of the project activities. Interviews were also carried out with staff from partner organizations which participated in the design and execution of the programme, namely UNESCO, the NFEC, the SCLC and ERDCN. Focus group discussions were organized with project stakeholders and students filled out a questionnaire regarding the course content, methods and materials. Since this is a pilot project, the evaluation has been undertaken by a team of stakeholders.

Impact and Challenges

Impact and Achievements

The capacities of the Non-Formal Education Centre, community learning centres and other literacy providers to deliver an effective literacy service have been enhanced. The life skills and livelihood components of the literacy curricula and materials have also improved with the introduction of family literacy modules, training and workshops, and the development of sixteen literacy booklets. During the pilot project, forty women have learned how to read and write, with the majority of them now fluent readers. Additionally, the children and husbands of the women have benefited from the programme by developing better reading and writing skills. The women also had the chance to practice speaking in public and to learn how to support their children at school. Maya, a participant in the programme, said: "I am much more confident in what I do and in what I need to do for my daughter."

The programme also offered a platform to connect parents, children and teachers. Teachers gained insight into the circumstances of the families involved, while mothers with their children learned how better to support each other’s learning needs. The platform also created a link between the formal and non-formal education institutions. Moreover, sixteen locally relevant materials were developed and disseminated to people from the community. An unintended outcome of the family literacy strategy, and the use of inter-generational dialogue, was that it fostered a sense of cultural identity among participants.

Lessons Learned

It was noted in the course of the project that students enjoy a playful atmosphere and that the awarding of certificates has a positive effect on the learners. Organizing competitions and quizzes with (informal) certificates is fairly easy for facilitators and supports the learning process. Discussions about popular folk songs and other innovative reading material also supported students’ literacy acquisition. The variety of the teaching material was also positively received. Another important lesson was that family literacy classes should be developed by motivating participants to engage on a voluntary basis, while the organization creates a platform for learning and provides a room to meet in and a facilitator to support their learning process. A graduation ceremony should be arranged as it encourages participants to continue their education.


There was a shortage of textbooks and other educational materials during the implementation of the project. When the pilot project started participants had no learning materials to work with as they were only developed while the pilot was running. The texts were only ready at the end of the project. The organisation of frequent field visits from representatives of stakeholders in order to provide advice to the facilitators also posed a challenge, as did the need to provide a good salary for facilitators. The project also faced a challenge in finding a suitable schedule for participants to attend programme activities. Since children follow their school curriculum, classes with mothers have to take place either early in the morning or late in the evening, or during holidays or weekends


Through the pilot project, Shikharapur CLC staff developed stronger project management skills and now have the opportunity to implement the newly learned approach and methods to the programme which began in February 2015. A plan for the future is to develop family literacy centres in villages to create a learning environment that can shared by interested participants.



Niroj Shrestha
Founder, Shikharapur Community Learning Center
Tel: 98510-13055, 9813-525770

Tap Raj Pant
National Programme Officer
UNESCO Office in Kathmandu (Nepal)
Tel: + 977 1 555 4396, Ext: 14
Fax: + 977 1 555 4450

Last update: 13 Agust 2015