Improved literacy can contribute to economic growth; reduce poverty; reduce crime; promote democracy; increase civic engagement; prevent HIV/AIDS and other diseases through information provision; enhance cultural diversity through literacy programmes in minority languages; lead to lower birth rates as a result of increased education; and confer personal benefits such as increased self-esteem, confidence and empowerment. However, the benefits of literacy ensue only when broader rights and development frameworks are in place and operating effectively. Individual benefits, for example, accrue only when written material is available to the newly literate person.

Literacy Combats Poverty, Improves Health and Promotes Social Development

The spread of literacy has emerged as a major factor in economic and social development. In fact, the linkages between education, health and nutrition are mutual and complementary. The strong linkages between education, health, nutrition and reduced fertility result in synergies, which can transform vicious cycles of poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition and disease into virtuous cycles of learning and health, equity and sustainable development.

Kowsar P. Chowdhury

World Bank, Literacy and Primary Education

Specifically, Literacy Confers Human, Political, Cultural, Social and Economic Benefits:


The empowering potential of literacy can translate into increased political participation and contribute to the quality of public policies and democracy.

Political participation: the relationship between education and political participation is well established. Educated people are to some extent more likely to vote and voice more tolerant attitudes and democratic values Hannum and Buchmann, 2003.

Ethnic equality: although no research into the impact of literacy on ethnic equality appears to exist, literacy certainly has the potential to benefit disadvantaged ethnic groups but will not necessarily do so. It is not safe to assume that expanding access to education will allow disadvantaged minorities to “catch up” with initially advanced ethnic groups, at least in the short run. Hannum and Buchmann, 2003.

Democracy: the precise nature of the relationship between education and democracy remains unclear but studies suggest that the more learners know about democratic institutions, the more likely they are to plan on voting as adults.

Post-conflict situations: literacy programmes can have an impact on peace and reconciliation in post-conflict contexts. Mobilising people’s capacity for resilience by having them write down their experiences and share them with others helps those affected by conflict to come to terms with their trauma and move towards constructive action.


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