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Schooling, Language, and Knowledge in Literate and Nonliterate Societies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 June 2009

F. Niyi Akinnaso
Temple University


The relationships among schooling, language, and knowledge—especially through the systematic comparison of the organization, form, function, and acquisition of institutionalized knowledge—in literate and nonliterate societies has hardly been examined. This essay attempts such an analysis, focusing on knowledge acquired through the use of language, because language is the major medium for imparting knowledge in schools and for social reproduction in the larger society, because knowledge acquired through the use of language is readily identifiable and testable, and because language is one of the major terms of the present analysis. The proposed elastic concept of schooling views schooling as a cover term for institutionalized learning in any society, literate or nonliterate. It thus questions the analytical adequacy of the received, Euro-American, concept of schooling as a unitary phenomenon based on the dual assumption that the school specializes in the transmission of literate knowledge and that literacy education is coterminous with formal education.

The Limits of Literacy
Copyright © Society for the Comparative Study of Society and History 1992

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