Literacy v/s Education

Literacy is defined as acquiring the ability to read, write and understand. It is entirely concerned with the art of reading and writing. It provides information that can be used as mean to attain knowledge. Where information is the theoretical know-how of a subject and knowledge is the awareness about the use of that information. It is the primary form of information transmission for this time and era.

“Literacy provides a person with the ability to acquire information to develop the know-how called education.”

While an educated person can be a literate, every literate person cannot be called educated. Education is a broader concept which takes into consideration the all round development of a human personality. Whereas literacy is a narrower concept that tends to maintain the status quo. Education aims to make a person rational i.e. to think comprehensively and reason scientifically. It includes developing skills and learning to maneuver them in the right direction.

Pakistan is among one of the major countries that is recognized as a knowledge and education hub. It has got a talent pool in different pools including medicine, management, technology and others. Here is an established misconception in our society that education is synonymous to literacy. A large sector believes it to be one and the same, while some believe that literacy is a step-stone to education. Although, there lies truth in the former but it would be categorically wrong to imbibe literacy as the sole form of education. Then what is the difference between literacy and education? Let us analysis the fight literacy v/s education:

• Literacy and education are termed as same thing but the literacy has got indirect relation with education. Literacy is about acquiring the skills and learning, while education is about applying these skills and learning for benefit of other people. Society or country.

• Literacy mainly revolves around acquiring the ability to read and write whereas education is about overall development of a person making it a complete human who not only read or write but also has the ability to think in broader terms and analysis the things rationally.

• Every literate person cannot be called an educated person. Education is a much broader concept than literacy.

• Literacy cannot make a person wise but education makes a person wiser and provides with the understanding of distinguishing between right and wrong. 

• The learning received while becoming a literate can be forgotten but education lives when even the learning is forgotten.

• Literacy might make people feel superior to others, but only educated people are superior who know how to respect elders and pay due importance to their colleagues work.

• The people who can read and write, but use abusive and foul language are literate but definitely not educated.

• Literate people working at higher positions and misusing their positions and degrading others are the biggest example of uneducated people.

Also, education brings revolution in the way of thinking. It encourages a person to think out of the box (creatively). It inspires a person to be curious, innovative and develop a rational behavior. The relative behavior is dependent upon people, where the form of education varies. A person’s education is dependent upon her/his field of work and may not necessarily liberate her/him from mental slavery. 

The following situations can convene the real issue between literacy and education:

  • A person may be literate and also educated;
  • A person may be literate but not educated;
  • A person may be illiterate but still be educated;
  • And a person may be illiterate and uneducated.

Another misconception nurtured by our society is that a person with an educational degree or a diploma is educated. If that was the case than the founding fathers of our Constitution would not have been called learned. A literate person may need an educational degree to prove his education, but a learned person doesn’t need a degree to prove it. For example “the educational institutions in India are brimming with literates but are failing to produce educated beings”. A student cannot be considered educated with a mere ability to read and write. The student has to be changed in whole, which includes teaching him to be socio-legally responsible towards the society.


Further, literacy is not the sole form of education. An illiterate person can still be learned just like emperor Akbar and poet Kabira were. For example, a politician being illiterate may still be highly skilled in the art of being a politician; a painter in the skill of painting, a musician in the art of making music etc. Another prime example would be of Late Matangini Hazra (late freedom fighter from Bengal, India). She was primarily illiterate but at the age of 71 led a procession of six thousand supporters to take over the Tamluk police stations. Despite being illiterate she was learned and educated in the art of politics and being a rebel.

Reading book after book the whole world died,
and none ever became learned ! 
                                                                    — Kabir Granthavali


Education is about knowing your skills, abilities and the learning, and then using them in the right direction at the right time. Educational institutions can make all the students literate but cannot make all of them educated. Education changes a person as a whole. Educated people understand their responsibility towards the society and country. It is more of using the ethical practices to bring a real change in the society. The main purpose of education is to direct a person’s behavior, while literacy is one of the tools towards that direction. Education is a combination of experience and practice which not necessarily includes literacy. An illiterate sailor with a lifetime worth of practice and experience in the sea might still be learned and educated. Historically many saints and philosophers, though illiterate guided the coming generations with their experienced teachings. Which in short means ‘knowing the knowable is education‘. As said, the sky is the limit for educated, but educated in what’ is to be determined. 

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