Illiteracy refers to a situation whereby someone is ignorant of fundamentals of a given art or branch of knowledge or lacking knowledge of a specific field. Thus, illiterate refers to a person who is ignorant of fundamentals (basics) of a given art or branch of knowledge or someone who lacks knowledge of a specific field. These are simple definitions since everyone can define illiterate in a different way since this term is very broad.
Learning is the process of acquiring knowledge through study or training, although knowledge can also be acquired through experience. However, learning is a broad term that is more than reading or writing.
For the 21st century, a reading and writing ability is not sufficient for a person to categorize him/herself or to be categorized by others as literate since the generation of the 21st century have very few people not capable of reading and writing especially young children and elders who are at a very critical stage of life and can even be counted. Very few youths cannot read and write. Therefore, it can be confidently stipulated that more than eighty percent of the people worldwide are able to read and write albeit this is not sufficient for them to be regarded as literates since literacy is more than reading and writing.
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who can not read and write, but those who can not learn, unlearn, and relearn.” This quotation of Alvin Toffler is absolutely right depending on various points of view. The statement basically deals with the application of the knowledge acquired through learning and not only the ability of reading and writing. As described in the introduction part, learning simply refers to the process of acquiring knowledge. Due to this, a person with knowledge is not an illiterate. This means that someone may have ability of writing and reading but still he or she is an illiterate. Learning improves someone’s ability to do a number of things at local, regional or global level. The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who can not read and write but those who can not learn, unlearn and relearn. Due to the prevailing expansion of science and technology, and continuous increasing in society needs and population increase, the illiterates of the 21st century will be judged by looking on various aspects as stipulated below.
How to interact with the science and technology. The expansion of science and technology in the 21st century has made many people who even have ability of reading and writing to be illiterate since they cannot interact with the growing science and technology since most of them have not learnt how to do so. The use of computer and other electronic devices for example, has been proven to be a measure for literate and illiterates since if you able to read and write but not able to interact with various issues of life surrounding you, then the society can absolutely regard you as an illiterate.
How to tackle problems (How to look at problems from a new direction).Reading and writing itself cannot solve various problems in various fields that are arising in the society. Learning makes someone capable of tackling a number of problems in the society. Albeit to a lesser extent, a person who has learned and acquired knowledge on some of the issues in the society can be unable to solve some of the problems, but being capable of solving even few problems can put someone in the category of literate people. So, due to these explanations, a person can be capable of reading and writing but still he or she is illiterate since he or she cannot solve various problems arising in the society using his or her reading and writing ability.
How to judge, evaluate and categorise things in various fields of life. The illiterate of the 21st century are those who cannot judge, evaluate and categorize things in the fields of life. The people with learning ability can judge, evaluate and categorize things using the knowledge acquired from their learning. Also person with learning ability can relearn things that he or she has learnt before but forget them in the course of various issues arising in his/her lifetime. Due to relearning he/she can acquire more knowledge hence become competent in judging, evaluating and categorizing things.
How to acquire, classify and reclassify information. People who cannot learn or relearn are not capable of acquiring, classifying and reclassifying information. Also, people can read and write and they can even get information but they may be completely unable to classify and reclassify the gotten information. People who can learn and relearn are capable of acquiring, classifying and reclassifying information which is a good judgment of literate and illiterate people. For the generation of the 21st century, there is generally information expansion as a result of globalization which favours mostly people who can learn and relearn. Basically, information acquisition, classification and reclassification needs people who can learn different languages or who can transform one language to another. Reading and writing alone cannot satisfy acquisition, classification and reclassification of information. Therefore, people in the society who can learn and relearn are important in acquisition, classification, reclassification and dissemination of information for helping the society in one way or another.
How to apply knowledge in various aspects of life. The illiterate of the 21stcentury are those who cannot apply the acquired knowledge in various aspects of life. Most of the people in both developing and developed countries can read and write, but few of them can learn and relearn. People who can learn and relearn are capable of applying the knowledge acquired in various aspects of life for helping themselves and the society in general. People who cannot learn and relearn and unlearn again have no knowledge to apply in the fields of life. This can lead to them being regarded as illiterates since there is nothing they can apply in the fields of life to help themselves and the society.
How to change and accept challenges (How to move from concrete to abstract). Basically the illiterate of the 21st century are those who cannot learn, relearn and unlearn since most of them are very resistant to change and to accepting challenges. Failure to change so as to correlate with the current environment and accept challenges makes people who can not learn, relearn and unlearn again remain illiterate. The generation of the 21st century cannot be regarded as having many illiterates because of having many people who cannot read and write but rather because of having many people who cannot learn, relearn and unlearn again since these people cannot change with the environment and accept challenges existing in the society at either local, regional or even at global level.
How to move from simple to complex (How to get development). The illiterate of the 21st century are those who cannot learn, relearn and unlearn again since people of this category are basically not able to move from simple to complex (develop themselves in both aspects of life i.e. socially, economically and politically). Many people in developed and developing countries are regarded as illiterate since they cannot acquire development because they cannot learn, relearn or unlearn. It is obvious that people who can not learn, relearn or unlearn again have little knowledge to impart in development at either individual or society level.
How to interact with the society. In actual fact, learning makes people capable of interacting with the society. People who cannot learn, relearn or unlearn again have little interaction ability especially with the literate people. This can be possibly caused by lack of confidence or inferiority complex that they have. For the 21stcentury, people who cannot learn, relearn or unlearn again are the ones regarded as illiterate since they cannot interact very well with people of different categories in their society. Besides interacting with the society, also providing various services in the society is the indication of literacy. Service provision increases interaction ability and thus makes people who have learned be more efficient and competent in interacting than those who cannot learn, relearn or unlearn again thus making those who cannot learn, relearn or unlearn illiterate.
Since literacy is more thanreading and writing, the literates of the 21st century are those who have more than reading and writing ability. The illiterates of the 21stcentury should be those who cannot learn and who have not learned how to learn. They should be the people who cannot impart the knowledge they have to the society. The term illiterate should be viewed as a very broad term.
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