This study is an exploratory mixed-methods design that compares Integrated Functional Adult Literacy Education (IFALE) in Tigray and Amhara regions of Ethiopia. Its general purpose is to explore the implementation and contributions of the IFALE policy to rural adult learners’ empowerment and sustainable development. The research questions are: How successful is IFALE in terms of the implementation of the strategies of a relevant curriculum and an efficient institutional system? What are the contributions of IFALE to adult participants’ empowerment in the political, economic, socio-cultural and psychological domains? How does IFALE support sustainable development in the country? The study uses interviews, observations, document analysis and survey as methods of data collection.
In terms of the strategies of a relevant curriculum and an efficient institutional system the implementation of IFALE was unsuccessful in Tigray but partly successful in Amhara. In the two regions, IFALE contributes to participants’ significant gains in limited areas of the political, economic, socio-cultural and psychological empowerment domains that operate at personal, family and societal levels. IFALE has resulted in more political empowerment gains in Tigray than in Amhara, but more socio-cultural empowerment gains in Amhara than in Tigray. IFALE also embraces most of the major features of education for sustainable development in Amhara, but only half of the features in Tigray. Overall, IFALE thus appears to moderately support to a sustainable economy, environment, society and culture in Amhara while the support appears to be limited in Tigray.
The findings of the study are important for policy makers and for the academic community in education and other social science disciplines. The results suggest that policy makers must show political will to make adult education and lifelong learning a main component of their education policy and support its implementation. For academia, evidence-based policy can be an alternative way for researchers to examine policy issues. Furthermore, the integration of literacy, numeracy and life skills—rather than only literacy and numeracy skills—can better explore the contributions of literacy programs, while a tracer study of neo-literates helps examine IFALE’s immediate and long term contributions.