Literacy for life and work: an exploration of an Indigenous bilingual education programme for adults in Mexico

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis explores the role and meaning of literacy within the context of the Bilingual Indigenous Education Model for Life and Work (MIB) programme for adults in Mexico. It documents practices relating to the use of literacy in Indigenous contexts and asks in what ways and for what purposes learners and facilitators engage with the MIB programme. The study demonstrates that understandings of literacies and the ways in which these are produced and enacted are strongly linked to and framed by broader historical and socio-political contexts and discourses.

Using a qualitative and multi-sited ethnographic approach, field research was conducted in three Mexican states and across fifteen distinct Indigenous communities. The study combines participant observations and field notes with twenty-five individual interviews and nine group interviews to present a critically reflexive analysis of the data that cuts across cultural and ethno-linguistic lines. Drawing from the theoretical domain of literacy as a social practice (LSP), the study elicits the varied perspectives of key stakeholders (learners and facilitators) to explore the multivalent meanings, values and uses attached to literacy.

Findings show different ways of how literacy influences and affects the lives and livelihoods of the participants, the most salient of which was a framing of literacy as a ‘defence’ to act as a means for self-determination. In addition, data revealed strong affiliative and affective dimensions of literacies, with participant experiences of ‘shame’ and exclusion articulated against examples of pride, resistance, and resilience. Issues of language and identity, power relations, implications of gender in literacy learning, and an analysis of facilitators as
intercultural brokers and learners as agentic actors are also discussed.

The thesis has implications for the MIB programme and adult education in Mexico, as well as for policymakers and practitioners concerned with educational equality across the global South. Finally, it contributes new knowledge to inform policy, practice and wider scholarship on adult education, international development, and literacy studies more broadly/
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University College London (UCL)
Award date28 Oct 2021
Publication statusSubmitted - 28 Oct 2021


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