Literacy and Third world development

What role does literacy play in third world development?

In this contemporary world, literacy plays such a pivotal role in creating and maintaining the development of a society. The importance of literacy and its connection with education has also become stronger than what it was thought of and perceived in the eighteenth century (Olson & Torrence, 2001, p. 3). This is due to the fact that literacy is an essential part of a community where it is often linked to authority and social status as well as the psychological and social life of a modern society (Dyer, 2008, p. 868; Olson & Torrence, 2001, p. 3). This means that literacy and its practices can also give the citizens the ability to access new learning experiences and new skills that will allow people to enhance their live. Therefore, the idea of “great divide” seems to strongly emphasize that being literate is considerably important. This is because through this idea, people can distinguish a conventional and modern ways of living (Basu, Maddox & Robinson-Pant, 2008, p. 770), where in modern life writing is seen as a “technology of the intellect” and a powerful tool that can extend someone’s ability to do things (Goody, 1999; 1986; 1968, cited in Basu, Maddox & Robinson-Pant, 2008, p. 771).

However, there is a social phenomenon where in some particular countries in the world, literacy is not well practised and developed. Taking the third world as an example, the society found it hard to practice the very basic literacy skills such as reading and writing. This may be due to the fact that there are no teachers who are committed to perform the duty and the fact that there are no adequate learning facilities such as books. These might also relate to the political and social circumstances in the nations where corruption is evident. This also has a very strong connection with education where without educational institution exist in the third world countries’ society, literacy practices will be difficult to pursue. It is undeniable that literacy is an important aspect of reducing poverty and wellbeing (Basu, Maddox & Robinson-Pant, 2008, p. 769).

There are also a lot of discussions to the extent of functions that literacy has in the third world. Therefore, it is the contention of this paper to discuss and examine the roles of literacy practices in under developed countries. This essay will firstly define what the terms “literacy” and “development” mean. Secondly, this paper will look at some important roles that literacy serves to the poor nations. These roles include the notion of helping those people to get out from poverty. This idea will cover the importance of having basic reading and writing as well as numeracy skills that will allow people to do their daily basis activities such as engaging in agricultural activities. The further importance of literacy in the development of under developed countries is that through basic literacy skills such as reading, writing and numeracy skills, the people will have the chance to further study at higher educational institution such as university. Those people will continue to learn to and have the access to technology and wider knowledge that will allow them to be well-educated. This will give them the chance to further consolidate their learning and training process.

First of all, it is necessary for this essay to provide practical background knowledge of what the terms “literacy” and “development” mean. The term literacy is simply described as having the ability to read and write. Barton & Hamilton (1998, p. 3) described the concept of literacy as  activities that people engage in everyday lives, in which it is situated amongst people in their daily interaction with others. According to the authors, the notion of literacy is linked to the way different types of social group use reading and writing skills to do their daily-basis-activities (Barton & Hamilton, 1998, p. 3). According to Trudell (2009, p. 73), the term “development” is defined as a continuous process of improving “human well-being as well as continuing national economic growth”. This development definitely relies on some important factors including literacy skills, as it is said that to a “successful and sustainable development, language issues is crucial” (Djite, 2008, cited in Trudell, 2009, p. 74). He further argues that in order to have a sense of “real development” the contribution of local literacy and all human capital needs to be considered. This means that the link between language and the educational outcome and the development of technology and science in African continental is crucial (Chumbow, 2005, cited in Trudell, 2009, p. 75). Therefore, since the notion of literacy and development has a very strong correlation to the enhancement of live in under developed countries, the following arguments will provide how literacy works and how it links to the enhancement of lives in poor nations.

In the first place, literacy is crucial in helping those poor people to get out from poverty. It is evident that poverty is a real social phenomenon that results in children having “failure in academic, grade retention, increase in drop-out rate, and need for special education” (Piramal & Law, 2001, p. 222). In this case, educational institution is very crucial where the community can gain access to learn to read and write. Literacy is a significant factor in education as a human right (Global Monitoring Report (GMR), 2006, cited in Dyer, 2008, p. 863). Within the past few decades, the world has been engaging in providing assistance and helping the poor countries in Africa to get out from poverty (Engelbrecht, 2007, p. 166). According to Tahir (1991; Kratli, 2001; Carr-Hill, 2006; McCaffery et al., 2006 cited in Dyer, 2008, p. 864), in some countries like Nigeria, Kenya  and Ethiopia, educational institutions and their policies start to gain serious attention . Bangladesh is another case where the rural society is now having access to learn to read and write through education (Maddox, 2001, p. 137). This is because the government start to realise that through educational programs, literacy practices can be pursue, and it will then promote the idea of people being educated and the life expectancy rate will also increase. In so doing, the main aim of improving the community’s education is to promote, and by the time being, enhance the literacy level of the community itself.

One important factor that determines the successfulness of this notion is by providing and implementing human resources that have the spirit of commitment and strong social responsibilities. According to Patel (2005; Poetner, 1994, cited in Engelbrecht, 2007, p. 167), humanitarians should be able to commit their time in providing information and learning opportunity for the member of the community. This is very important because performing the job and role especially in teaching people in rural areas or poor countries to read and write with limited access to technology and teaching materials is not an easy job. There are not so many people who have the skills and patience to help those people in under developed countries. Engelbrecht (2007, p. 167) argues that social workers should have a sense of “transformative power and action oriented” that will then transform the social life and enhance the quality of life. Therefore, one important idea to pursue this goal is by providing “assistance” (Trudell, 2009, p. 74). She believed that social workers are now performing their duty to address the educational, economic and health-related concerns in the African continent. More importantly, the real concern is to provide social guidance and strategic development programs that will promote the idea of economic reform and eventually produce human capital and reduce the poverty rate (Engelbrecht, 2007, p. 167). In addition to this, providing access to materials such as books is extremely important to develop literacy skills for the poor. Therefore, the existence of library is fundamental, as Olden (2005, p. 421) argued, that “for poor nations, a library service is vital”. Olden argue that in countries like Tanzania and mainland of Zanzibar, the library serves fundamental role in providing the community with access to books and materials that will help them to practice literacy and be able to start basic skills in reading.

Furthermore, by becoming literate, the community will have the opportunity and greater access to better and higher education as well as having a sense of academic freedom (Egbo, 2000, Paran & Williams, 2007, cited in Trudell, 2009, p. 76). For instance, people from Africa, India, Pakistan and some other under-developed areas around the world are now having the chance to study overseas and gain experience and knowledge that will give them opportunity to enhance their live. This is because education is linked to the idea of exchanging, innovating and transferring knowledge on behalf of economic development (Blewit, 2010, p. 477). The author believes that education and training provides the opportunity to pursue human resources that will then create a potential labour force and job opportunities. University for example is one of the most essential educational institutions that “drives regional economic development” (Presmus et al., 2003; Woollard et al., 2007; Drucker and Goldstein, 2007, cited in Blewit, 2010, p. 477). One practical example of this is that through the existence of one campus of Monash University in South Africa, the community is now able to gain better access to education and university life experience. Some students from South Africa may possibly engage in students exchange to study in Monash University Australia. They can also learn other culture and engage in wider social interaction with people from different countries and social background. In so doing, through literacy and knowledge that they gain at university, the younger generation will be more critical in their thinking process and reflective towards other peoples’ opinion. It is certainly undeniable that if the literacy level increases, the chance of employment and productivity opportunities will also increase (Prusty, 2009, p. 62). The author concluded that In India particularly, literacy level is one factor that determines the poverty reduction, and is said to have a long term impact on per capita personal income.

Furthermore, the role of literacy is important for the poor to be able to do their day-to-day lives such as in the area of agricultural production (Kell, 2008, p. 892). According to the author, the role of literacy in this aspect includes the idea of knowing how to plant and take care of their agricultural production and irrigation, as well as knowing the instruction on how to use fertilizer or pesticides (Dyer, 2008, p. 865). This will certainly lead to the idea of being literate in   “economic activity” (Maddox, 2001, p. 139) such as marketing their agricultural production. This includes selling and buying goods as well as calculating profits and loss.  This idea is promoted by helping them to read and write as well as having numeracy skills that will allow them to engage in those activities.  This, however, does not entirely cover the concept of managing personal financial resources, but through being literate in economic engagement, individuals are expected to be able to make better daily economic decision (South Africa President’s Council Committee for Economic Affairs, 1993, cited in Engelbrecht, 2007, p. 168). This means knowing how to make better decision in managing assets, conducting transaction and being able to bargain for a better financial deal. These activities require proficiency in literacy, therefore literacy skills in economic engagement is absolutely important.

In conclusion, literacy and its practices serve fundamental roles in peoples’ lives. As what this essay has examined, literacy also plays important roles in under-developed community. The very basic notion of being able to read and write will give the poor citizens the ability to engage in their daily basis activities such as knowing how to farm and market their agricultural production. The greater benefits of being able to read and write is that they can have the opportunity to attend schools and universities and at the same time providing the poor community with the learning experience and knowledge. This will equip them to gain success and better life, as well as providing the younger generation to build up the family and the community as a whole to become better community with better quality of life. This however, can only be achieved if there are a serious contribution and stronger commitment from authorities or government and the world organisations to assist the poor nations. This can be achieved through providing necessary materials such as books, and more importantly, people who commit to and ready for the job of building up the poor community. The job is hard, but the spiritual reward of helping others to get out from the poverty is even greater. If this is achievable, we can see and enjoy the sense of better life in the third world countries. It is one people, one world.

Reference List

Barton, D. & Hamilton, M. (1998). Local literacies: Reading and writing in one community. London: Routledge. (Chapter 1).

Basu, K., Maddox, B., & Robison-Pant, A. (2008). Literacies, identities and social change: Interdisciplinary approaches to literacy and development, in Journal of development studies, 44(6), pp. 769-778.

Blewitt, J. (2010). Higher education for a sustainable world, in Education+training, 52(6), pp. 477-488.

Dyer, C. (2008). Literacies and discourses of development among the rabaris of kutch, India, in Journal of development studies, 44(6), pp. 863-879.

Engelbrecht, L. (2008). Economic literacy and the war on poverty: A social work challenge? in International journal of social welfare, 17, pp. 166-173.

Kell, C. (2008). ‘Making things happen’: Literacy and agency in housing struggles in south africa, in Journal of development studies, 44(6), pp. 892-912.

Law, J. & Piramal, R. (2001). Evaluating a programme to enhance vocabulary development in pre-schoolers, in International journal of language & communication disorders / Royal college of speech & language therapists, 36(2), pp. 222-227.

Maddox, B. (2001). Litracy and the market: The economic use of literacy among peasantry in north-west bangladesh, in Brian Street (ed). Literacy and deelopment: Ethnographic perspectives, pp. 137-151.

Olden, A. (2005). “For poor nations, a library service is vital”: Establishing a national public library service in tanzania in the 1960s, in The library quarterly, 75(4), pp. 421-445.

Olson, D. R. & Torrance N. (2001). Conceptualising literacy as a personal skill and as a social practice, in David R. Olson & Nancy Torrance (eds). The making of literate societies. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 3-18.

Prusty, S. (2009). Analysis of poverty, openness and literacy in india, in Paradigm, 13(2), pp. 57-63.

Trudell, B. (2009). Local-language literacy and sustainable development in africa, in International journal of educational development, 29, pp. 73-79.

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