Acquisition of Technological Knowledge among Illiterate Ethiopian Adults

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Technological knowledge began to accumulate from the beginning of civilization. It was actually the most conspicuous expression of human wisdom, giving prehistoric man a survival advantage over all other creatures. One of the communities that still exhibit the characteristics of a tribal culture that is nurtured by technological knowledge from the immediate environment is the Ethiopian population, including the Jewish community. One hundred thousand members of the Jewish-Ethiopian community underwent a sharp transition to Israel within 24 hours; from a traditional, developing society (Ethiopia), to a modern, knowledge society (Israel). This transition occurred without intermediate stages, and not as a gradual process.

The most common way of acquiring technological knowledge in a modern society is by means of the symbolic channel, based on acquisition of literacy. However, a third of the world's population is illiterate. This raises the question: What is the process by which illiterate populations acquire technological knowledge?

The purpose of this study is to analyze and characterize technological knowledge, and its method of acquisition in an illiterate population.

The study involved: (1) in-depth interviews to examine methods of acquiring technological knowledge in Ethiopia and Israel; (2) assembly of two simple technological systems; and (3) a home-technology profile. Participants included fifty illiterate adult Ethiopians, between the ages of 40-60.

Despite the lack of literacy among the subjects, the results indicated that inability to read and write does not prevent them from acquiring knowledge in an informal framework. Our findings indicate development of learning strategies which bypass the symbolic channel, and acquisition of knowledge through other channels in an informal framework.


Keywords: Illiterate, Technology Knowledge, Knowledge, Culture
Stream: Knowledge and Technology
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Technological Knowledge among Illiterate Ethiopian Adults in Israel


Dr. Yarden Fanta-Vagenshtein

Research, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University
Cambridge, MA, USA


Prof. David Chen

Affiliation not supplied
Tel-Aviv, Israel


Ref: T08P0458