Subsystem model of literacy

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H.S. Bhola, professor of education at Indiana University and consultant to UNESCO , has proposed that a complete literacy program includes a series of subsystems or components. According to him, any program which fails to develop the appropriate subsystems is apt to be less effective or less complete than it should be.


The subsystem model of literacy proposes that a complete literacy program includes a series of subsystems or components which must be considered and developed as appropriate.


Bhola suggests that literacy programs consist of at least the following components or subsystems:

  • An ideological subsystem that specifies the theme, the rationale, the values, the driving purpose, and the “soul” of the literacy program, that is, the raison d'être for the program.
  • A policy and planning subsystem that specifies the underlying principles and policies upon which the program is to be built. It also sets forth the basic framework which is to guide the program planning process.
  • An institutional and organizational subsystem that consists of the organizational structures and system put into place to carry out the program. This may include a specially created organization. An organizational chart would reflect in a concise way the organizational structure of the program.
  • A mobilizational subsystem that specifies what steps, activities, and programs will be in place to enlist support for and participation in the program.
  • A professional-support subsystem that specifies the consultants, trainers, curriculum specialists, and administrative staff required to handle the technical components of the program.
  • A programming and curriculum development subsystem that specifies the content of the program; what is to be taught, in what language, when, and how.
  • A media and materials subsystem that specifies the materials to the used in the program for instructional purposes and support materials needed for developing fluency. The matter of how these materials are to be reproduced and disseminated is also specified by this subsystem.
  • A training subsystem that specifies everything having to do with training.
  • A teaching-learning subsystem that specifies details of the instructional event itself including instruction, monitoring student progress, handling problems, doing assessment, and dealing with instructional problems.
  • A post-literacy subsystem that specifies what is planned after basic literacy. It focuses on appropriate materials and their use for informational purposes after literacy has been obtained. It specifies how such materials will be written, reproduced, and distributed.
  • An evaluation subsystem that specifies how the program will be evaluated. It attempts to answer questions like the following:

    • Were the program's goals and objectives achieved?
    • If not, why not?
    • What can be, or could have been, improved in the program?
    • What went wrong and why?
    • What went right and why?
    • What lessons were learned for the future?

Here is a diagram of Bhola's subsystem model of literacy:


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