National Literacy Campaign, Nepal

  • Date published:
    7 September 2016

Programme Overview

Programme Title National Literacy Campaign (NLC)
Implementing Organization Non-Formal Education Centre (NFEC)
Language of Instruction bilingual (Nepali and other local languages)
Programme Partners Government of Nepal (through the Ministry of Education)
Date of Inception 2008


Context and Background

Nepal is one of the least developed countries in South Asia, with an economy that is largely dependant on agricultural production and the processing of agricultural products. The agricultural sector accounts for about 40% of Nepal’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs over 76% of its total workforce. As a result, about a third of Nepal’s population – mostly from rural and semi-urban areas – live in absolute poverty with limited access to basic amenities, livelihood and educational opportunities. In addition, the massive destruction of socio-economic infrastructure coupled with the large-scale population displacement and the extensive military conscription of children and youth during Nepal’s protracted civil war (1996 - 2006) not only further impeded the country’s economic development and increased levels of poverty but also deprived many Nepalese of educational opportunities. Similarly, entrenched socio-cultural practices which discriminate against women, ethno-religious minorities and low caste groups as well as the general lack of educational resources in marginalised communities also continue to deprive many poor Nepalese of access to basic education.

Concerted efforts by the State and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to address this anomaly and, in particular, to enable socially disadvantaged and marginalised groups to have equal access to basic education through various educational programmes such as the PEP (1980), Community Learning Centres (CLCs) Programme, the Basic and Primary Education Project (BPEP 1992 - 2004), the EPF (2000) and the Education for all National Plan of Action (EFANPA, 2001-2015) have been partially successful. According to a national census (2001), about eight million Nepalese aged between 15 and 60 years were functionally illiterate as of 2001. The national census further revealed that illiteracy rates were (and still remains) particularly high among women (65%), low caste groups or Dalits (73%) and ethnic minorities or Janajatis (53%). Overall, UNESCO has estimated that about half (51%) of Nepal’s adult population was illiterate as of 1995 to 2005 (see adult literacy rates above). Thus, in an effort to promote universal access to basic education and socio-economic development, the government of Nepal – through the Non-Formal Education Centre (NFEC) – instituted the National Literacy Campaign (NLC) in 2008.

The National Literacy Campaign (NLC)

The NLC is an extensive and integrated non-formal educational programme which primarily targets illiterate and semi-literate people (aged between 15 and 60 years) from socio-economically disadvantaged and marginalised communities. The programme is currently being implemented across the entire nation within the context of the Education For All National Plan of Action (EFANPA, 2001-2015). The fundamental goal of the NLC is to provide basic literacy and life skills training to about three million out-of-school youth and adults per year in order to empower them to be self-reliant. To this end, the NLC provides participants or learners with contextually appropriate life skills training in a range of subjects including:

  • Literacy (basic and functional literacy);
  • Livelihood or Income Generating skills training (in, for example, organic farming techniques, handicraft production, tailoring, animal husbandry and cash crop production);
  • Health Awareness (in, for example, HIV/AIDS, maternal health, infant mortality, family planning, personal hygiene, sanitation, reproductive health and family nutrition);
  • Civic education or life skills (leadership training, human rights awareness, inter-cultural studies, democratic governance; conflict management and resolution; gender education including domestic violence, genital mutilation and rape);
  • Environmental management / conservation and
  • Community forestry management practices.

The adoption of such an integrated curriculum is primarily intended to boost attendance and minimise participant dropouts from the programme. This also allows the campaign to cater for the diverse needs of learners, a majority of whom are more interested in acquiring practical life skills that would enable them to improve their living standards.

Aims and Objectives

According to the government of Nepal, the fundamental goals of the NLC are to promote universal access to basic education and, most importantly, “to eradicate illiteracy in the country within two years” in order to achieve the national EFA goals by 2015 as outlined in the Dakar Framework for Action. More specifically, the NLC also endeavours to:

  • Combat the scourge of illiteracy among socially disadvantaged and marginalised groups such as women, ethnic and religious minorities and low castes;
  • Achieve 75% adult literacy rate by the year 2015 inline with the EFANPA and global EFA goals;
  • Promote equal access to quality basic and life skills education (i.e. to reduce disparities between ethno-religious groups and between men and women with regards to access to education);
  • Nurture a culture of reading in the country;
  • Promote socio-economic and human development through the provision of quality basic literacy and life skills training to all citizens;
  • Combat poverty within the country;
  • Create quality and sustainable life-long learning opportunities for all through a dynamic national non-formal education system and;
  • Promote peaceful co-existence within the country.

Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies

Institutional Partnerships

As in other countries, the implementation of community-based non-formal educational programmes in Nepal is invariably encumbered by the lack of human and financial resources as well as by the lack of coordination between stakeholders. In order to circumvent these challenges and ensure the effective and sustainable implementation of the NLC, the NFEC has established functional partnerships with various key stakeholders including NGOs, local municipalities, District and Village Development Committees (DDCs / VDCs) and youth and women’s associations (i.e. Community-Based Organisations – CBOs). Apart from advising the NFEC in the design and development of the programme, these institutions have also been entrusted with the overall responsibility of ensuring the efficient implementation of the NLC at the community level. Accordingly, their main functions include establishing and managing Community Learning Centres (CLCs; in total, more than 2,100 CLCs have been established through-out the country since the inception of the programme in 2008), coordinating the recruitment and training of programme facilitators and mobilising community members to participate in the programme.

Development of Teaching-Learning Materials

In order to facilitate the efficient and sustainable implementation of the NLC, the NFEC with support from various stakeholders has developed various illustrative teaching-learning materials for use by learners and programme facilitators or trainers. The reading materials have been translated into nine major local languages in order to cater for the various linguistic groups of participants. Overall, the teaching-learning package that is provided to learners is comprised of:

  • Two Activity / Reading Books
  • Pens and Pencils,

Recruitment and Training of Facilitators

The actual implementation of the NLC is heavily dependant on a cohort of about 100 000 community-based volunteer trainers or facilitators, most of whom are youths with a School Leaving Certificate (SLC). The volunteer trainers work under the supervision of young Higher Secondary School graduates. A few professionals such as local health workers and agricultural extension officers have also been recruited to assist the volunteers in providing specialised training to participants.

In addition to providing basic skills training to programme participants, the volunteers are also responsible for recruiting (mobilising) new learners through community-based literacy advocacy or awareness campaigns. The NFEC and its partners have produced literacy campaign leaflets for use by trainers in their literacy advocacy and community mobilisation activities.

As noted above, an over-whelming majority of the volunteer trainers have lower educational qualifications and no professional training or practical experience in non-formal educational practices. In light of this and in order to ensure the effective and efficient implementation of the NLC, the NFEC provides the volunteer trainers with on-going technical training and mentoring in non-formal educational practices, including:

  • Adult appropriate teaching-learning methods or approaches;
  • Class room management practices;
  • Development and production of appropriate teaching-learning materials;
  • Management of CLCs and networking with other stakeholders, and
  • Assessment or evaluation of teaching-learning outcomes.

Once trained, each volunteer is tasked to teach a class of between 20 and 30 learners over a period of three months. The trainers are paid a monthly stipend of NPRs 2000 (US$28).

Teaching-Learning Approaches and Methods

NLC participants are obliged to attend literacy and life skills training classes for six days a week (two hours per day) over a period of three months. Classes are mostly conducted at the CLCs but in very few instances and often in response to some learners’ requests, trainers also conduct home-visits to offer specialised assistance to learners and or their families. In either case, trainers are obliged to employ participatory teaching-learning methods including group discussions and debates.

Programme Impact and Challenges


The NLC programme has made some positive and indeed impressive contributions towards community development, poverty alleviation, social empowerment, and creation of literate environments across the entire nation. The major impacts of the programme include:

  • Reduction of the number of illiterates: as noted above, at the beginning of the NLC in 2008, there were about eight million illiterate people in Nepal. However, as of 2010, the NLC had provided educational training services to about three million Nepalese. This reduction in the number of illiterate people in the country indicates that the NLC has enabled many Nepalese but especially those from disadvantaged and marginalised communities to gain access to basic literacy and life skills training,
  • Improved adult literacy skills: there are noticeable improvements in the literacy skills of many NLC adult graduates as manifested by their ability to take full control of their everyday lives through activities such as filling bank and hospital forms, reading work instructions and voting. Such high levels of self-reliance have not only resulted in improved levels of self-confidence among adults who previously relied on others for such basics but have also changed their perceptions with regards to the role and importance of education in their families’ lives. The positive changes in attitudes and perceptions have reportedly contributed to improved and increased parental involvement in their children’s education;
  • Improved living standards: the programme has also equipped many youths and adults with appropriate life skills which have enabled many NLC graduates to improve their living standards by, for example, improving their farming techniques or establishing profitable income generating projects. This process of social empowerment is now central to national efforts to combat high levels of poverty,
  • Improved State support of Community Learning Centres (CLCs): In order to ensure the effective and sustainable implementation of the NLC, the State has increased its support of CLCs. This has enabled communities to easily access a variety of reading materials and in the process, adapting a culture of reading,

It is in light of these impressive achievements that the programme was awarded the UNESCO Confucius Literacy Award 2010, three years after its inception.


Although the NLC is being supported by the State, its full and effective implementation has been impeded by a critical shortage of financial, material and human resources. For instance, while the government provides about 17% of its total budget to the Ministry of Education, only 1.4 % of this budget goes to the non-formal education sector. Financial and resources constraints have also been exacerbated by the fact that the NLC is, according to many critics, an over-ambitious programme. Most critics have, for example, argued that targeting to train about three million Nepalese in two years was practically impossible not only because this over-stretched the little available resources but also because it compromised the quality of training services provided to the people given that most trainers are secondary school graduates who are therefore technically ill-equipped for such a huge task.


The long-term sustainability of the NLC hinges on several critical factors including:

  • The programme is a State initiative and is therefore guaranteed of financial and technical support;
  • The NFEC has also fostered strong institutional networks with several stakeholders (see above) who can be trusted to promote the programme on a long-term basis;
  • The NFEC has also promoted active community participation and support in the implementation of the programme;
  • The NFEC has developed and adopted an integrated curriculum that specifically addresses participants’ basic and multiple existential needs.


  • Jibachh Mishra, The Development and State of the Art of Adult Learning and Education with ERT, Ministry of Education (Non Formal Education Center)
  • BBC, 14 January 2009, Nepalese Literacy Campaign Begins.
  • People’s Daily Online, 14 January 2009, Nepali Prime Minister opens national literacy campaign.
  • Non-Formal Education Center (Government of Nepal, Ministry of Education). 2015. NON-FORMAL EDUCATION IN NEPAL STATUS REPORT 2014-15. http://nfec.gov.np/main/publications/NFE%20Status%20Report_2014_2015_with%20correction.pdf


The Acting Director Mr. Jibachh Mishra
Ministry of Education and Sports (Non-Formal Education Centre - NFEC)
Telephone: 00977-9849361313
Fax: 00977-1-4331535
Email: mishrajibachh (at) hotmail.com
Web site:

For citation please use

U. Hanemann (Ed.). Last update: 25 July 2017. National Literacy Campaign, Nepal. UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. (Accessed on: 16 September 2021, 18:24 CEST)

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