One of the largest social problems facing the modern society is illiteracy. By wide definition, illiteracy refers to the inability of an individual to read and write. However, as will be seen later, this definition is relatively outdated. In the current modern society, every single human being has the right to acquire the basic knowledge of writing and reading. Those who do not have this knowledge or have been deprived of this knowledge are usually referred to as the illiterates. Despite the enormous modernization of the current society, the problem of illiteracy stills persists and there are millions of people from all corners of the globe who can neither read nor write. The figures of illiterate people are particularly very high in third world countries in continents such as Africa and Asia. The problems of illiteracy are one that has many consequences to the wider society. In fact, illiteracy is credited as the major cause of related social problems such as unemployment, poverty, child labor, popular burst, female foeticide among other social problems. One important thing to note, however, is that illiteracy does not simply entail the lack of ability to read and write. Illiteracy can also refer to the lack of knowledge on how to use modern tools such as technological devices or even a lack of knowledge or reluctance to ascribe to the modern ways of doing things, most of them being technologically based. This paper aims to explore the issue of illiteracy of the 21st Century. The paper will commence by conducting a comprehensive literature review of articles written by experts and researchers who have looked at the issue of illiteracy in the 21st century. The paper will then proceed to discuss the results of the primary research conducted recently that further sought to seek light on the issue of illiteracy including how it can be eliminated once and for all. The paper will end by giving an overall recommendation of plausible measures that can be taken to deal with the problem of illiteracy. The paper aims to show that although the rates of illiteracy on the education front has been increasing, the current population has been unable to keep up with advancing technology leading to an increase in the rates of technology illiteracy. This has consequently affected the social life of people when those who are illiterate feel isolated in the society.
Research agrees that illiteracy is a problem that prevents the society from escaping from some of the social problems that have been plaguing it for a long time. It has been suggested that eliminating illiteracy will translate to progression of the society through the elimination of some of the most stubborn social problems. For example, according to Iversen and Palmer (2008), education and literacy are two aspects that are widely promoted in empirical and theoretical grounds as means of escaping poverty. The two authors also contend that at a macro level, primary education, which is a form of human capital significantly, contributes to economic growth (Iversen and Palmer, 2008).
Contrell in her article “Adult illiteracy - an urgent problem” (1975), holds the opinion that one major reason there are high rates of illiteracy is because some time back, literacy was not seen as an issue of concern. At the time of writing her article in 1975, the number of illiterate individuals in the society was 783 million. According to her, the acquisition of adequate learning skills is essential for both economic and social development. In the modern context, illiterate individuals are finding it harder to find credible employment. Contrell looks at one aspect of literacy and this is technology illiteracy and this is where she suggests one method of curbing the illiteracy and this is through adult education. The call for technological literacy is the reason adult illiteracy is a problem that calls for quick attention and solution. High technological advance has necessitated the importance of adult literacy and this is an issue that requires immediate addressing (Contrell, 1975).
Iversen and Palmer (2008), explore the issue of illiteracy from a gender based perspective. What are the implications of illiteracy in the two genders, male and female? The researchers conducted research on Indian and Bangladeshi sample populations where they sought to establish whether any relationship existed between household literacy and illiterate household member’s labor market outcomes. Basing their research on Household Income and expenditure date from Bangladeshi, the authors wanted to establish what could be attributed to the observation that women are more effective and efficient recipients of literate externalities than their male counterparts are. Simply, the researchers wanted to establish whether it is true that women who are educated and literate bring about more benefit to the society than an equal number of males. To explore more on this issue, the authors conducted more research using Bangladeshi and Indian population samples. They wanted to determine whether the perceived benefits of gender literacy showcased by other researchers were cast in stone or whether they showed any deviance. The results were very interesting. The researchers found that it could not be said women have more literacy externalities than their male counterparts do. For instance, it has already been proven that female literacy has a higher impact on child raising and child well-being than male literacy (Iversen and Palmer, 2008). However, there are other household outcomes where male literacy shows more impact than male literacy.
The basic contention of the authors, therefore, was that, for a full package of benefits to be realized from literacy, there is a need to educate members of both genders and not just one. This is because literacy will translate to combined benefits from both the male and females. Contrary to the popular adage that suggests that “educating a woman is educating the society," the society cannot really be educated if both sets of gender are not equally educated.
The issue of gender in literacy can perhaps be solved using some points laid down by Karen Evans in her article “Literacies in comparative perspective," (2009). In this article, the author looks at some of the cultural, economic and social context in which policy, planning and difficult literacy practices occur. Some of the aspects explored under this concept include why efforts laid out intentionally to eliminate literacy have failed on a wider scale. A suggestion is made that perhaps the reason this is so is due to failure by policy enforcers to appreciate “mutually sustaining’ processes that emanate from cultural practices, social attitude and poverty (Evans, 497). In essence, people may be contented with their illiteracy or may have found substitutes that help them to get by. This is indeed comparable to Iverson findings that showed that some illiterate women exhibited so more productivity gains because of intra-household literacy sharing. In a situation like this, it would inadvertently be hard to convince such women to seek for literacy enhancement since they may feel contented with their current status to literacy or lack of it in this case.
Claire J. Anderson, the author of “Corporate Social Responsibility and Worker Skills: An examination of Corporate Responses to work Place Illiteracy” (1993) explores the concept of illiteracy from a workplace perspective. Like the other researchers discussed previously, she tries to demystify some of the associated assumptions illiteracy and explores some of its effect in this case on the work place. The author begins by making a very broad statement about the increasing amounts of illiteracy at the work place. This has consequently led to some negative trends such as lagging productivity. The author mentions the inability of fresh school graduates to meet the demands of the workplace that is in modern times characterized by advancing technology and global competition. One major issue that the author looks is the relationship between literacy and corporate social responsibility. Anderson shows that employers who had a habit of employing illiterate workers in terms of basic skills did not in a real sense exhibit any economic or legal view of social responsibility towards these workers. In essence, top ranking officials in organizations are against hiring of basic skill deficient workers and, in fact, for riddance in the organization since they hold the belief that this is the duty of schools and the government (Anderson, 1993, p. 288). Firms led by such individuals hold no form of social obligation to rid the society of illiteracy and consequently offer very few proactive solutions to the problem of illiteracy. Concisely, the aim of this article is to show the existence of impediments towards illiteracy elimination in the society such as corporate officials in this case. It is a social obligation or responsibility for all organizations and indeed all individuals to propose and take measures that help to reduce the levels of illiteracy in the society, whether education illiteracy, basic workplace skills illiteracy or even technology illiteracy.
Response and Findings
One area that has, however, not been exclusively touched on is the implications of literacy and literacy on rapid technology advancement. Although Contrell has briefly touched on the issue, and shown that adult literacy is required to deal with the massive advancement she has not really addressed the contemporary implications.
This is the area where this new research falls. The research was conducted using participants from nations from Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Palestine. These are countries in the Middle Eats where rates of illiteracy are believed to be high. This research sought to seek the relay implications of illiteracy in light if the recent technological advancement and, therefore, supplement past research that has been conducted on the issue.
The objectives were to determine the rate of illiteracy in the middle-eastern countries, and the importance of literacy, especially, the importance of technology literacy in the 21st century.
The results of the research revealed that the rate of technology advancement is very much higher than the rate of literacy in the society and consequently, the majority has been left behind, especially the older individuals who are unable to keep up with the recent technological trends.
The other major finding was that technology significantly affects an individual’s social life. Technology has become part of life and anyone who does not ascribe to the new trends may feel left out. This may, for instance, be exemplified in aspects such as trendy phones, laptops and computers, social networking where one who is not familiar with these is bound to feel left out socially or even isolated. In addition, technology illiteracy may affect individual at the workplace. If one is unable to adjust to the news and the tools for doing things, then it will be very difficult for people.
Although there were some who contended that technology to them was not of real importance, the majority responded by stating that technology is inseparable part of life which the society cannot live without. This majority also understood that technology has, however, proven to be a challenge to many because of technology illiteracy issues.
In conclusion, this research has helped to shed more light on the issue of illiteracy especially when it comes to technology. It has shown that although illiteracy rates have been decreasing with the new generations, technological innovations and inventions have brought about a relatively new form of illiteracy (technology illiteracy) which is of major concern. With the current technology changes, having knowledge on it is critical. Technology is now applied everywhere in life, like work places and in the social life. Future research should concentrate on how the current society can be educated sufficiently to be able to adjust accordingly to technological advancement so that some members are not left behind socially or economically or even isolated.
Cotterell, A. (1975). Adult illiteracy - an urgent problem.Education Training, 17, 7-8.
Evans, K. (2009). Literacies in comparative perspective. Compare: A journal of comparative and international education, 39(4), 497-499.
Anderson, C. (1993). Corporate social responsibility and worker skills: An examination of corporate responses to workplace illiteracy. Journal of Business Ethics, 12(4), 281-291. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25072400
Iversen, v., & Palmer, R. (2008). Literacy Sharing, Assortative Mating, or What? Labour Market Advantages and Proximate Illitracy Revisted. Journal of Development Studies,, 797-838.