Literacy Through Distance Learning

Country Profile: Mongolia


2 951 786 (2007 estimate)

Official Language

Mongolian (other recognised languages: Turkic, Russian, Chinese)

Poverty (Population living on less than US$1 per day):

27.0% (1990-2004)

Total Expenditure on Education as % of GNP


Access to Primary Education – Total Net Intake Rate (NIR)

97% (2006)

Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 1995-2005)

Total: 98%
Male: 98%
Female: 98%

Total Youth Literacy Rate (15-24 years)

98% (1995-2004)


Programme Overview

Programme TitleLiteracy Through Distance Learning
Implementing OrganizationNational Centre for Non-Formal and Distance Education (NCNFDE), under the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (MoECS)
Language of InstructionMongolian
Programme PartnersUNESCO
Date of Inception2004

Context and Background


Since the mid-1990s, Mongolia has transformed its education system as the country has moved from a centralised, one-party state to a market economy and multi-party system of governance. Following a sharp decline in educational opportunities, standards and literacy rates during the transition, the Mongolian government has, with support from international organizations such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), implemented major policies to restructure and rehabilitate the education system. In particular, the government has introduced laws which guarantee free and compulsory education for all children under the age of 16. In addition, it has increased funding for schools development, resources procurement, human resources development and adult non-formal education programmes. By 2005, as a result of these reforms, primary school enrolment/attendance had peaked at near-universal rates (97%), while total youth and adult literacy rates were similarly high (98%).

Nevertheless, access to education for rural and predominantly nomadic people in remote areas remains restricted. School enrolment rates are therefore substantially lower in these areas, and drop-out rates are relatively high. In 2005, for example, it was estimated that enrolment in most rural schools was below 80%, with more than 20% of primary school children subsequently dropping out of school. This lack of access to education can be attributed to a number of socio-economic factors, including:

Overall, despite the sweeping reforms, more than 15,000 children are out of school and still more adult Mongolians are illiterate or semi-illiterate due to missed educational opportunities during the transition to democracy. Needless to say, adults with low levels literacy are less able to help their children and increase household income due to their limited ability to function efficiently within a market economy. The National Centre for Non-Formal and Distance Education therefore took steps to improve marginalised people’s access to quality education by initiating the Literacy Through Distance Learning Programme (LTDLP) in an effort to combat illiteracy and to promote the development of practical livelihoods skills. LTDLP uses the family as the basic unit of learning and thus promotes intergenerational learning.

The Literacy Through Distance Learning Programme (LTDLP)

LTDLP provides basic and advanced literacy skills training to out-of-school youth and illiterate or semi-illiterate youth and adults through distance education. The programme has been implemented in 12 of the country's 21 aimags (provinces), namely Bayan-Ulgii, Khovd, Uvs, Zavkhan, Bayan-Khongor, Sukhbaatar, Tuv, Umnugobi, Dundgobi, Dornogobi, Khentii and Gobi-Altai. It benefit 3,500 illiterates and 4,500 semi-literates per year.


The programme employs an intergenerational approach to literacy skills training and learning and thus focuses on the learning needs of entire families. The approach is furthermore designed to foster a positive attitude towards learning and to enable parents and their children to assist one another in the learning process. The programme encompasses a range of themes including: health (preventive measures and HIV/AIDS, nutrition and hygiene); literacy for economic self-sufficiency and community/rural development; and ICT skills training.

Aims and Objectives

LTDLP endeavours to:

Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies

The programme employs about 115 facilitators to offer literacy training to participants. NFE facilitators have been recruited to offer specific training to out-of-school children, youths and illiterate adults. Learners are selected on the basis of a needs assessment survey aimed primarily at school-age children and youths, which can also be taken voluntarily by adults. Before being deployed, facilitators receive professional training in, for example, adult literacy teaching methodologies and multi-grade teaching strategies for conducting classes attended by a range of age groups and learners with varying levels of literacy. This is intended to enable facilitators to conduct their lessons professionally and efficiently. Each facilitator is then assigned a relatively small group of learners, ranging in size from 20 to 30, in order to ensure effective and personalised teaching and learning. During the face-to-face training period, programme facilitators receive about US $45 per month and also receive some remuneration for supporting distance learning.

The project is implemented in two main stages. The first stage involves a range of activities including: conducting a baseline/needs assessment survey; developing learning materials (books, audio-visuals); and mobilising and training literacy facilitators. The second stage of the project focuses on face-to-face and post literacy training: Image

this strategy is a post-literacy approach for semi-literate learners that emphasises life skills and relies predominantly on distance or self-learning, involving minimal support from the facilitator. Distance learning caters for learners whose basic literacy skills enable them to continue studying either on their own or with assistance from family members. It is designed to promote independent and family-based lifelong learning. As such, the main role of the NCNFDE is to provide learners with learning materials (books, CDs) and mobile facilitators who monitor their learning progress and offer more personalised assistance when and where necessary. This strategy is particularly suitable for nomadic families as it enables facilitators to continue monitoring their learning progress without disrupting their way of life. Complementary lessons using ICTs (radio, video-CDs, DVDs) are also provided. Distance learning training takes place over a period of two months.

The following basic teaching-learning materials have been developed, produced and used in both the distance and face-to-face learning strategies:

Project Impact and Challenges

Facilitators and internal NCNFDE experts monitor the programme on an ongoing basis. In addition, external professionals have been engaged to conduct a qualitative evaluation of the programme in all twelve of the provinces in which is has been implemented. These processes have revealed a number of achievements, lessons and challenges encountered during the implementation of the programme.



In general, literacy education in Mongolia receives insufficient support from official sources. As a result, the public is unaware of the importance of literacy in their lives. Literacy has been neglected in part due to the widespread belief that the country had, by the late 1970s, eradicated illiteracy and that there was therefore no need to pay particular attention to the provision of non-formal education (NFE). Hence, despite the fact that distance education is a cost-effective means of promoting literacy skills and lifelong learning, the lack of adequate resources – in particular teaching-learning materials, vehicles to travel to remote nomadic villages and poor salaries for facilitators – have hindered the effective implementation of LTDEP. This has also compromised the quality of the programme’s outcomes as well as its overall outreach. In light of this, there is a critical need to secure sustainable funding.

Furthermore, participants’ nomadic lifestyle also increases implementation costs as facilitators are obliged to schedule the programme in line with seasonal migratory systems. Apart from the additional cost these systems of migration entail, they also make it impossible to offer literacy training on a consistent and long-term basis.



Although illiteracy rates in Mongolia are relatively low, the demand for distance learning remains high, particularly among rural populations whose access to formal education continues to be limited. The support and commitment of the local government is therefore needed to ensure that literacy programmes reach out to the needy on a long-term basis.

In addition, the programme has trained a network of facilitators and developed a wide range of literacy teaching-learning materials. These human and material resources form a strong basis for the sustainable implementation of literacy skills training programmes. This is already self-evident, as some NGOs, such as World Vision and Adventist Development and Relief Agency International (ADRA), have adopted and are currently using teaching-learning materials developed by the NCNFDEs.

Lessons Learned



Dr. Batchuluun Yembuu
Director of the National Centre for Non-Formal and Distance Education
Barilgachdiin talbai-2, Government Building-10
Ulaanbaatar-44, Mongolia
Tel.: +976-11-32 43 44 or +976-99091640
E-mail: batchuluun (at);info (at)