Punjab Literacy and Livelihood Programme, Pakistan

  • Date published:
    9 September 2016

Programme Overview

Programme Title Punjab Literacy and Livelihood Programme
Implementing Organization Government of Punjab, Department of Literacy and Non-Formal Basic Education
Language of Instruction Urdu
Programme Partners Local communities and Punjab Vocational and Technical Council
Date of Inception 2009 – 2012

Country Context and Background

Successive Pakistani governments and several local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have made concerted efforts to universalise the provision of basic education through a wide range of policies and programmes, including increased funding of education, a national literacy programme (http://www.unesco.org/uil/litbase/?menu=14&country=PK&programme=66) and the promulgation of a compulsory education law that guarantees every child between the ages of five and 14 years the right to free basic education. Despite these efforts, access to basic education, and, thus, the level of literacy in Pakistan, remains low. Figures from the 2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report suggest that while the primary net enrolment ratio has increased from 58% to 74%, “the ratio for girls is still 14 percentage points behind the ratio for boys, leaving only eight girls to every ten boys in primary school”. The number of non-literate adults is equally staggering at 49.5 million and is expected to rise to 51 million by 2015.

School attendance and literacy rates are believed to be even lower in socio-economically disadvantaged and marginalised communities, such as urban slums and rural areas. In addition, there are huge gender disparities with regard to access to basic education, partly reflected in the large disparities between male and female literacy rates across all age groups (see above).

The lack of adequate educational opportunities also prevails within the country’s geographically, economically, demographically and culturally diverse provinces. For instance, Punjab, the largest and most developed province in the country, with a population of 93 million, had about 4 million out-of-school children (aged five to nine years) and about 27.3 million non-literate people (aged 15 years and above) in 2011 (NIPS 2011, MICS 2011, PSLM 2011). The overall adult (15-plus) literacy rate in the province was 57% in 2011, but was believed to be even lower among women and those living in urban slums and rural areas. As with the rest of the country, efforts to promote universal access to basic education are hindered by several factors, such as poverty, mismanagement, entrenched socio-cultural practices like early marriages, acute shortages of educational resources, and opposition to ‘modern’ or secular education by religious conservatives. In order to address this situation and its overall impact on development and the general standard of living, as well as to achieve the planned 100% literacy rate in the province by 2020, the Government of Punjab (GoP), through the Department of Literacy and Non-Formal Basic Education (DLNFBE), with financial and technical support from central government and several local and international NGOs (see above), initiated the integrated Non-Formal Education Programmes (NFEP).

The NFEP comprises the following programmes:

  • Punjab Literacy and Livelihood Programme (completed);
  • Literacy Programme (completed);
  • Campaign for Enhancement of Literacy (ongoing);
  • Establishment of adult literacy centres and non-formal education schools at Brick Kilns in Multan and Khanewal districts (ongoing);
  • Community Learning Centres Phase I (completed);
  • Community Learning Centres Phase II (ongoing);
  • Capacity building of the Literacy and Non-Formal Basic Education Department (ongoing);
  • Punjab workplace literacy (ongoing);
  • Punjab Literacy Movement (on-going); and
  • Non-Formal Education Promotion Project (ongoing)

These programmes work together to create access to sustainable, high-quality literacy and vocational skills learning opportunities for the citizens of Punjab, especially for those living in impoverished urban slums and rural areas. The NFEP complements national efforts towards Education for All to combat the issues of low levels of education, poverty and to promote peace and socio-economic development in the province. Accordingly, the NFEP primarily targets non-literate people in socio-economically disadvantaged areas and marginalised population groups, such as women, out-of-school youth and ethnic minorities. In order to effectively highlight the role and impact of the NFEP in this endeavour, the Punjab Literacy and Livelihood Programme will be analysed in greater detail.


Programme Overview

The Punjab Literacy and Livelihood Programme (PLLP) is an integrated non-formal basic literacy and vocational skills training programme which, as noted above, was instituted in 2009 by the provincial government of Punjab (through the Department of Literacy and Non-Formal Basic Education). It was implemented in the divisions of D.G. Khan and Multan, with a particular focus on socio-economically disadvantaged urban slums and rural communities where rates of illiteracy, poverty and youth unemployment are significantly higher than the provincial average.

The PLLP sought to provide basic literacy and vocational skills training services to about 7,500 non-illiterate and semi-literate people (aged 16 to 40) living in socio-economically disadvantaged communities in order to address the issue of illiteracy and to promote development in the province. The programme primarily targeted people between the ages of 16 and 40 years because they constitute a population segment that can be productively empowered and employed to facilitate development in the entire province. As such, the fundamental goal of the PLLP was to create sustainable literacy and livelihood (or income-generating) training opportunities for disadvantaged and marginalised people. Accordingly, the PLLP provided learners with literacy and contextually relevant livelihood and life skills training covering a range of themes, such as:

  • Literacy (basic and advanced literacy);
  • Livelihood (vocational or income generation) skills training in areas such as plumbing, mechanics, or tailoring and embroidery;
  • Life skills; and
  • Environmental management/natural resource conservation.

The integration of the livelihood or vocational skills training component into the curriculum was primarily intended to equip learners with the necessary skills to address their diverse existential needs and, thus, to provide them with an added incentive for participating in the programme. Without the promise of gaining a valuable vocational skill and, ultimately, earning a livelihood after participating in the programme, the learners would not have been motivated to join the programme.



The primary goal of the PLLP was to promote development and social empowerment in the Punjab province by enhancing people’s literacy and livelihood skills. More specifically, the PLLP aimed to:

  • Promote equal and sustainable access to quality basic education for all in order to address illiteracy for socially disadvantaged and marginalised youth and adults in the province;
  • Complement the government’s efforts to promote universal access to education;
  • Nurture a culture of lifelong learning within the province;
  • Equip learners with the literacy skills necessary to solve everyday problems;
  • Enable learners to establish income-generating programmes in order to promote community development and social empowerment, as well as to combat poverty, enhance people’s living standards and cultivate self-reliance among the poor;
  • Combat the socio-economic marginalisation of people living in poorer and disadvantaged communities;
  • Empower people to actively participate in nation-building activities and processes;
  • Reduce the gender, regional (i.e., urban-to-rural) and ethnic disparities with regards to access to education and livelihood opportunities; and
  • Empower adults by promoting intergenerational learning.

Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies

Institutional Arrangements and Partnerships

In order to ensure the efficient and sustainable implementation of the PLLP, the DLNFBE established the Project Management Unit (PMU). The PMU worked in close partnership with the District Education Offices, local communities and NGOs to spearhead the practical implementation of the programme at community level.

Development of Teaching-Learning Materials

As noted above, the PLLP curriculum and teaching and learning materials were designed and developed by the DLNFBE, with the technical and professional assistance of Punjab Vocational Technical Council (PVTC). These materials were distributed free of charge to all learners so as to make the programme more attractive, to facilitate its efficient and sustainable implementation and to enable learners to continue learning after graduating from the programme.

Recruitment and Training of Facilitators

The acute shortage of professional educators is one of the major challenges inhibiting the provision of basic education in Pakistan. In order to address this challenge and ensure the sustainable and efficient implementation of the PLLP, the DLNFBE, with support from its institutional partners, recruited school graduates to act as community-based facilitators or trainers. The facilitators were recruited through an open, merit-based process and provided with formal induction and ongoing in-service professional training in various aspects of non-formal education including:

  • Non-formal education teaching and learning methodologies;
  • Literacy and life skills;
  • Teaching and learning methodologies;
  • Classroom management practices for youth and adult learners;
  • Design, development and use of teaching/learning materials; and
  • Assessment and evaluation of learning outcomes.

Once trained, each facilitator was entrusted to train an average of 30 learners under the supervision of the PMU officials and district educational officers. They were also required to assist the DLNFBE in recruiting learners, evaluating the learning outcomes on an ongoing basis and mobilising local communities to actively participate in the implementation of the programme. Each facilitator was paid a stipend of PKR 3,000 per month for these services.

Recruitment of Learners

Various community-based strategies, such as public awareness and advocacy campaigns through mass media and public meetings, were employed to encourage potential learners to enrol in the programme. Since the primary goal of the PLLP was to create basic learning opportunities for illiterate, semi-illiterate and disadvantaged segments of the population, the actual recruitment of learners placed little emphasis on their prior learning or level of literacy. Socio-economic background, age and interest in learning and in promoting community development were the main parameters for enrolment in the programme.


Teaching-Learning Approaches and Methods

PLLP was an integrated basic literacy and livelihood, or vocational skills, programme. As such, learners were expected to participate in both the literacy and vocational skills training classes over a period of six months. Facilitators employed a variety of learner-centred, participatory teaching and learning methods, such as group discussions, question-and-answer sessions, and role-playing games. Upon completion of the training programme, learners were supported in establishing income-generation projects in their area of trade.

Programme Impact and Challenges

Monitoring and Evaluation

The DLNFBE employed internal and external mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the PLLP in order to ensure that the objectives of the programme were achieved within the planned schedule. The Capacity Building Project monitored progress of all project activities and shared it with the Secretary for Literacy and Non-Formal Basic Education. The project activities were monitored regularly by PMU and field staff. External mid-term and final evaluations were conducted by the Punjab Economic Research Institute (PERI)


Various evaluation studies were conducted at the completion of each project. They show that the Non-Formal Literacy Education Programmes (NFLEP) have had some positive and lasting impacts on socio-economic development in Punjab. Around 0.81 million out-of-school children, youth and adults (60% of them female) have benefitted from the programmes since their inception. Apart from raising literacy levels in the province, the programmes have also equipped young people and adult learners with skills that have enabled them to earn a decent livelihood and to contribute towards the economic development of their families, communities and the province at large. In other words, the programme has not only promoted community development and social empowerment by improving the incomes and living standards of previously non-literate and unemployed people, but has also facilitated their integration into the mainstream economy.

Similarly, the PLLP has also contributed to raising levels of literacy and promoting community development, poverty alleviation and social empowerment in the divisions of D.G. Khan and Multan. More specifically, the major impacts of the PLLP have been the following:

  • Socio-Economic Empowerment and Community Development: As of 2011, about 7,500 semi-illiterate and non-literate people (aged 15 to 40) in the divisions of D.G. Khan and Multan had participated in the PLLP. These learners were successfully equipped with literacy and livelihood or vocational skills and were supported in establishing income-generating projects. Accordingly, the programme has played (and continues to play) a critical role in enhancing literacy levels and living standards (poverty alleviation), promoting social empowerment and combating unemployment and dependence, all important dimensions in fostering community development.
  • Engendering Women’s Empowerment: By giving women access to basic education and, thus, to establish viable income-generating projects, the PLLP has proven to be a critical instrument not only in combating high illiteracy rates among women, but also in facilitating their empowerment and emancipation.
  • Promotion of a Culture of Intergenerational and Lifelong Learning: The PLLP has changed public perceptions of and attitudes about the role and importance of education in everyday life. With increased public awareness of the value of education, many adults and out-of-school youth are reportedly more eager to participate in educational programmes and activities. Most importantly, the majority of parents are now actively supporting their children (including girls) in attending school.


Despite its major impact, however, numerous challenges were faced by PLLP. These include:

  • High Demand: As noted above, Punjab had about 4 million out-of-school children between the ages of five and nine, 2.5 million children aged between 10 and 14 and 27.3 million non-literate adults (aged 15 and above) as of 2011. It is very challenging to create adequate opportunities for all of these people.
  • Socio-Economic Challenges: As noted above, the PLLP primarily targeted people living in disadvantaged communities such as urban slums and rural areas. A major challenge arising from this focus is that participants often find it difficult to balance the need to attend classes with the need to carry out daily tasks. It has been observed, for instance, that some parents prevented their out-of-school children from attending classes because they needed them to work in family enterprises or as agricultural labourers. Because of this, class attendance rates fluctuated and that greatly affected learning outcomes.


The long-term sustainability of the PLLP model hinges on several critical factors:

  • Assured long-term commitment or support from the government of Punjab;
  • Cost efficiency;
  • Active involvement of and support from various stakeholders, including local communities and local and international NGOs, in the development and implementation of PLLP-like intervention; and
  • Strong systems and the solid infrastructure necessary for the long-term implementation of such projects.


  • The Government of Punjab, Literacy and Non-Formal Basic Education Department
  • UNESCO, Bangkok, “Making Punjab Literate by 2020 – Making the impossible possible”, Interview with Dr Allah Bakhsh Malik, Secretary of the Department of Literacy and Non-Formal Basic Education (Punjab)
  • Punjab Study, Punjab Literacy Promotion Ceremony


Dr. Pervez Ahmed Khan
Secretary of the Department of Literacy and Non-Formal Basic Education
Address: 5th Floor, Alfalah Building, The Mall Road, Lahore 54000
Telephone/Fax: 0092-42-99205412, 99205411

For citation please use

U. Hanemann (Ed.). Last update: 25 July 2017. Punjab Literacy and Livelihood Programme, Pakistan. UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. (Accessed on: 29 November 2020, 21:14 CET)

PDF in Arabic

Related Documents