Perspectives on learning in the Women's Economic and Empowerment Literacy program in Nepal
Agencies providing literacy education have sought to introduce program innovations that more closely reflect learners' everyday lives. A growing number of studies have documented the situated nature of literacy practices and their implications for program design. The concept of learning is at the periphery. Despite innovations and new insights into literacy practices, practitioners are more attuned to diverse content than learning or literacies. Researchers are more attuned to the concept of multiple literacies and their socially situated nature than learning.
The Women's Economic Empowerment and Literacy (WEEL) program integrates literacy and numeracy education, savings and credit group concepts, and livelihood training for Nepali women. This dissertation is a case study of the WEEL program, focusing on staff members', participants', and facilitators' perspectives on learning.
The research questions were designed to elicit research participants' narratives of their learning experiences. Four themes emerged as the most salient: the powerful role of aspirations; the meaning of education; learning as change; and the life-long, long-term, and life-wide nature of learning. The aspirations are closely associated with Scribner's (1984) conception of the metaphors of literacy: as adaptation, as power, and as a state of grace. Education is interlinked with issues of the women's social identity; gender and caste; concepts of modernization; and the women's hopes for the future. Descriptions of learning are associated with access to knowledge, "doing" or activity, and seeing from a different perspective. An understanding of learning beyond the program's boundaries is found in the themes of life-long, long-term, and life-wide learning raised in the interviews.
This research confirms and supports the movement towards more localized programs that is occurring in the field of adult literacy education. Program staff provided evidence to this effect, as the findings show how they consider a perspective of literacy and learning oriented to life-long, long-term, and life-wide learning as they engage in program design. The final chapter develops strategies to bring insights from a conception of literacy as metaphor and from adult learning theories to help strengthen program design and ensure programmatic responsiveness to learners' lives.
0516: Adult education
0516: Continuing education
0535: Reading instruction