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Local knowledge, global knowledge: The role of local language literacy for lifelong learning in rural African contexts

  • Joel TrudellEmail author
  • Ian Cheffy
Original Paper
  • 4 Downloads

Abstract

Lifelong learning is an established concept in international education, with the discourse surrounding it implying that it is globally relevant. Nevertheless, lifelong learning takes place in specific local contexts in which features such as language, location and content are distinctive. This raises the question: How is an understanding of the global concept of lifelong learning enriched by a study of such learning in the Global South? This article examines the circumstances surrounding local language literacy in Africa, and suggests that the associated literacy practices help us to refine the concept of lifelong learning. The data for this article are taken from interviews the authors conducted in Ethiopia, Kenya, Cameroon, Ghana and Burkina Faso with 95 adults who had completed local-language literacy instruction within the previous 20 years and who were asked to identify the changes in their lives that had come about after learning to read, write and calculate in their own language. The study provides compelling evidence that lifelong learning has a local reality separate from the global discourse. It contributes to understandings of lifelong learning, demonstrating that once people learn to read in their own language, their literacy skills continue to serve them for engaging in new, literacy-based learning throughout the rest of their lives. Important knowledge from outside of the local community also becomes accessible to them, contributing further to lifelong learning. Thus Northern institutions committed to expanding the lifelong learning options of adults in the Global South must recognise that lifelong learning is significantly enhanced by local-language literacy programming and publication.

Keywords

Lifelong learning Local language literacy Literacy programmes African literacy Adult literacy 

Résumé

Savoir local, savoir mondial: influence de l’alphabétisation en langues locales sur l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie dans les contextes ruraux d’Afrique – L'apprentissage tout au long de la vie est un concept bien établi dans l’enseignement international, et le discours sur le sujet sous-entend qu’il est applicable à l’échelle mondiale. Il a cependant lieu dans des contextes locaux spécifiques aux caractéristiques distinctes telles que langue, site et contenu. Ce fait soulève la question suivante : Dans quelle mesure une interprétation du concept mondial d’apprentissage tout au long de la vie peut être enrichi par une étude menée sur ce concept dans l’hémisphère Sud ? Les auteurs de cet article examinent les circonstances de l’alphabétisation en langues locales en Afrique et avancent que les pratiques de l’écrit associées nous aident à affiner le concept d’apprentissage tout au long de la vie. Les données collectées pour cet article proviennent d’interviews menées par les auteurs dans plusieurs pays (Éthiopie, Kenya, Cameroun, Ghana et Burkina Faso) avec 95 adultes ayant achevé au cours des 20 dernières années un programme d’alphabétisation en langue locale. Ils ont été priés de définir les changements intervenus dans leur vie après leur apprentissage de la lecture, de l’écriture et du calcul dans leur langue. L’étude fournit des preuves convaincantes que l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie connaît une réalité locale distincte du discours mondial. Elle contribue à élaborer des interprétations de l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie en démontrant que lorsque les individus apprennent à lire dans leur langue, leurs compétences lettrées continuent à leur être utiles leur vie durant pour entamer de nouveaux apprentissages à partir de ces bases. Ils accèdent en outre à des informations importantes provenant de l’extérieur de la communauté locale, ce qui contribue également à l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie. Les institutions de l’hémisphère Nord consacrées à multiplier les opportunités d’apprentissage tout au long de la vie pour adultes dans l’hémisphère Sud doivent par conséquent reconnaître que cette forme d’apprentissage est considérablement valorisée par une programmation de l’alphabétisation en langues locales ainsi que par un travail de publication afférent.

Notes

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Copyright information

© UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning and Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SIL InternationalCape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.SIL InternationalHigh WycombeUK

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