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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Historical synopsis of the concept of literacy. Hooley, Agnes


This study analyzes the concepts of literacy that have prevailed at different periods of history. These concepts must be seen in terms of the content and distribution of education that was considered adequate at any given period. The art of writing, consequently the notion of literacy, developed with the appearance of cities. Literacy is essential for the maintenance and continued functioning of the interdependent social and economic relationships that form the basis of city life. An historical survey shows that concepts of literacy change as the socio-economic needs of society change. Over the centuries literacy has been seen principally in terms of its usefulness in furthering the economic system and/or maintaining the social structure of the times. Changes of an economic nature, usually the result of technical or scientific innovation, have been the main factor in bringing about changes in educational needs. Over time, the concept of literacy has been work-oriented in that literacy has been a tool essential to daily commerce. At certain periods, to help maintain, social stability, literacy has been perceived as serving religious or moral purposes. The most significant changes regarding the concept of literacy have occurred during the twentieth century, reflecting the intensity of industrialization and urbanization in a world in which two outstanding characteristics are mass literacy and increasingly higher levels of literacy. The appearance of these phenomena is due to the change from an agricultural to an urban, industrial way of life.

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