International Webinar on Family Literacy and Indigenous and Local Learning was held on 9-10 December 2021

International Webinar on Family Literacy and Indigenous and Local Learning was held on 9-10 December 2021

The UNESCO’s Section of Youth, Literacy and Skills Development, the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, and the University of East Anglia (UK) host a webinar on ‘Family literacy and indigenous and local learning’. On this event, the Bahir Dar University team (Ethiopia) have participated and presented.

The webinar was divided into two days.

The first day was a three-hour international public webinar consisting of a series of sessions exploring global policy and research perspectives on family literacy and intergenerational learning and a showcase of family and intergenerational learning programmes in Uganda, Jordan and the Gambia. Presentations were given by the UEA GRTA Family Literacy teams on the links between indigenous learning and family literacy based on their ethnographic research in Malawi, Nepal, Ethiopia and the Philippines. The closing roundtable discussion brought together a panel of three representatives from academia, an NGO and a Ministry of Education to reflect on whether and how discussions from the day could be brought into their specific contexts. To ensure wider participation, the event had simultaneous translation in French, Spanish and English.


The second day was a closed, invitation-only event that gathered a smaller group of participants to deepen the discussions on the insights arising from Day 1. The event followed a World Café format – a method of small group discussion that aims to engage a diversity of participants to reflect collaboratively on a set of questions. Participants were placed in break-out groups three times during the session and mixed with different participants in each iteration. The questions discussed were:


  1. What ideas around family literacy and indigenous learning can you take from this event into your own context?
  2. How can research findings - such as those that we have heard about today - contribute to improve adult literacy policy and practice?
  3. How can indigenous learning and family literacy be used by other sectors (e.g. health, agriculture) to achieve different SDGs?


Participants also interacted via an online whiteboard called Jamboard. Key ideas during discussions were posted on the Jamboard so one group could also see arising themes from other groups. It was a way to ensure a cross-pollination of ideas. The ‘harvest’ followed - where the themes across the groups (based on the Jamboard) were woven together to analyse similarities and differences.


On Day 2, many participants in the World Café identified the links between family and indigenous learning and other development sectors. For example, family literacy can be promoted as a strategy for community participation, social cohesion and implementation of government programmes such as in public health. Family literacy can support early childhood, health and nutrition and can be used to create awareness for health extension works and agricultural extension works. Indigenous knowledge and family literacy of the communities can be linked to health, agriculture, livelihood, climate change, crisis like hunger etc. During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, while in some communities, organisations educate indigenous people on health, a participant during Day 2 shared that it would also be pivotal to look into how we learn from them. This entails promoting critical skills also to bridge the gap between indigenous knowledge and science particularly in relation to the issue of fake news. For instance, in the field of climate education, we may need to examine the role of critical media literacies and how people make use of these.


Generally, this webinar has explored the potential of family literacy to enhance the learning of youth and adults, placing particular attention on the ways in which children and adults share knowledge and skills in everyday life, and the roles played by parents, caregivers, grandparents, siblings, cousins and community members in intergenerational learning. In this context, the engagement between family literacy programmes with indigenous knowledge and learning has also been discussed. The webinar has been an opportunity to share the latest research, policies and practices related to family literacy, indigenous literacies, knowledges and intergenerational learning practices. It targets policy-makers, practitioners and researchers in the field of adult literacy, early childhood care and education, and other sectors interested in the field of family literacy and intergenerational learning.