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Literacy in SIL

Context of SIL Literacy Work

Information gleaned by a task force led by key SIL International Literacy Consultant and researcher, Steve Walter, provides a statistical snapshot of the context of SIL literacy work. From that information it was possible to estimate that the actual population of people contacted by SIL workers was approximately 350 million at the time of the task force study.

If the adult population was approximately 50 percent of the total, then the adult population of the SIL language projects was 175 million people. Previous research had established that, world-wide, overall literacy rates among minority people was about 22 percent. Therefore, it was possible to estimate that the total illiterate population of the language project population was about 136 million people, or 1 in 7 of all current illiterates.

The average or mean population of member groups of the SIL language project population was 251,000 people (based on the adjusted estimate).

The median size of the language project population (half of the groups were smaller, half were larger) was 18,000 people (adjusted according to the above estimate).

The language project population included 223 groups with a population greater than 1,000,000 people (unadjusted) and 68 groups with a population greater than 5,000,000 people (unadjusted).

According to those calculations, SIL's work had the potential for impact on 1 of every 16 people living at that time, which has increased since then. Such a calculation suggests the magnitude of the context and the value of SIL literacy work.

(See the source article and additional information on SIL's Work in Literacy and Education: Walter, Stephen L. 1996. "Gazing into the literacy crystal ball: SIL's work in literacy and education." Notes on Literacy 22(3): 7-20.)