Literacy comes first, transformation next

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Domeniu: Antropologie
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Publicat de: Teofil Oroș
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Human personality develops according to the premises nature sets in the genetic code of the individual. Education and literacy have the purpose to stimulate the evolution of humans, allowing them to develop. The society is the one that dictates how personal development should unfold. Education is a socialisation process, making individuals members of societies and communities. By becoming literate, individuals can rise on the social ladder, can escape chronic poverty and can develop nations. Small levels of literacy may be opportunities for humans to improve their lifestyle and may represent the chance for them to do things they otherwise would not be capable of doing. From safe travelling to keeping the records of their costs, literacy can bring transformation in people’s lives. To guarantee its continuity, society was obliged to pass on its knowledge to the next generations. Education first comes in a family and later in specialized institutions that help individuals become literate. In this essay, I will argue the fact that literacy and education have a major part to play in the process of development. First, I will define what education is and how can we distinguish between formal, informal and non-formal education while trying to understand them from both cultural perspectives. While researching about education and its forms I realised that each type has advantages and disadvantages which I highlight while I elaborate each type of education and its importance. Second, based on the speciality literature I will focus on the importance of literacy and its contribution to the development process. At the same time, I will elaborate how illiteracy can affect individuals and societies as well. For a better understanding I will analyse the examples given by Bryan Madoxx in his paper ‘Marginal returns: re‐thinking mobility and educational benefit in contexts of chronic poverty’ about 3 persons who due to literacy managed to develop themselves. I will also analyse the example of India, focusing on the regions of Bahir and Kerala. These two regions have the lowest and respectively the highest literacy rate in India. The differences between two regions are significant and I will draw the attention to the role literacy played in the development process of these two regions.

What is education?

To define education better we can look at the theory Emile Durkheim launched in the late 19th century. Based on his theory, education is a distinctive social phenomenon resulted from the desire of society to set up certain ideals for individuals. Therefore, education is a relation between humans, and the educational process can be an interaction where an individual or a group of individuals train other persons who voluntarily accept this type of training. This training prepares the next generation with the essential beliefs, ideologies, skills and practices necessary for its very existence.

Durkheim was heavily criticised for this theory mainly because it was ignoring the role of individuals. Education does not necessarily mean the process in which information regarding the culture is transmitted to next generations. Education involves a complex process that allows the individual to gain skills needed in the social contexts. Every individual can be characterized by the level of education he has. The educational sphere holds a complex of influences and actions which allows the individual to develop.

Types of education

Education has three branches: formal education, informal education and non-formal education. Each type of education has its benefits but I found some downsides for them as well. Formal education (from lat. ‘formalis’ - shape, figure, model, formal) (Bontas, 19981) is used to refer to the whole educative and organized activities, organized and conducted in a specialized institution (school, university) (Stan, 2001)2. The purpose of this type of education is to progressively introduce children into the big paradigms of knowledge and to familiarize them with the cultural techniques which, will later on, assure them educative autonomy. The preparation is structured and the information is selected by specialists, facilitating the development of the individual and integrating it into the society. The advantages of this type of education are that it develops a systematic intellectual work of the individual and it creates a formative evaluation. On the other hand, this type of education can lead to monotony and disinterest and it fails to make connections with the experience of life.

Non-formal education (lat. ‘nonformalis’ - without norms, outside of organized activities) (Bontas, 1998, p.23) includes all types of organized educational actions and influences which take place outside of the institution. This type of education first made its mark in Germany, at the beginning of the 20th century when young boys called ‘Wandervogels’ travelled in order to know their country rather than study about it in school. The activities this type of education includes have a great flexibility, focusing on the interests and the possibilities of individuals (Stan, 2001). It also allows the individual to enrich their cultural knowledge, to accumulate more knowledge to fields they show interest and to develop special skills and interests. A disadvantage of this type of learning is that it lacks the systematic evaluation present in the formal education.


1. A. Anderson, M. J. Bowman, Concerning the Role of Education in Development, London, Collier Macmillan, 1963

2. A. Stan, Applied statistics in psychology, 2001

3. Alexandra Brown, Growth and Success in Kerala, The Yale Review Of International Studies, 2013

4. Analysis of the census data, provisional population total, 2011

5. C. McClelland, D. G. Winter, Motivating Economic Achievement, New York, Free Press, 1969

6. Census of India 2011, Provisional Population Totals, Office Of The Director Of Census Operations, Bihar, Patna.

7. Census of India 2011, Provisional Population Totals, Office Of The Director Of Census Operations, Bihar, Patna.

8. Dharma Kumar, Meghnad Desai, The Cambridge Economic History of India, 2008

9. Dr. Navinchandra R. Shah, International Journal of Research in all Subjects in Multi Languages, Vol. 1, Issue:7, October 2013

10. Golam Rasul, Eklabya Sharma, Understanding the poor economic performance of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, India: a macro-perspective, Regional Studies, Regional Science, 2014 Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 221

11. I.Bontas, Pedagogy, 1998

12. Inkeles, D. B. Holsinger, Education and Individual Modernity in Developing Countries, Leiden, Brill, 1974

13. International, Refereed (Reviewed) & Indexed Print Monthly Journal, RET Academy for International Journals of Multidisciplinary Research (RAIJMR)

14. J. R. Goody, I. Watt, The Consequences of Literacy, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1968

15. T. Burchardt, J. Le Grand, D. Piachaud, “Social Exclusion in Britain 1991-1995”, Social Policy and Administration, 1998

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