Literacy as a Commodity: Public Good or Private Benefit? - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1545 Words
Date:  2023-02-27


Literacy is the ability of an individual to read and write. Literacy is one of the most fundamental commodities of all the goods offered by a country. Talking about education or literacy as a commodity, the primary question to be asking is "what is education for, and who benefits from it?" Referring to literacy as a commodity entails weighing up the public and private benefits accrued from it. You can argue out literacy as a public good whereby its benefits are spread across the society in the form of economic prosperity, employment, social cohesion and health. It can also be argued as a commodity whereby it fits into a user-pays system.

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Factors Influencing Access or Denial of Literacy

Literacy rates are significantly impacted by formal education, and there is a positive association between literacy and the rates of school enrollment and average schooling years of adults (Literacy Foundation par. 2). Another essential aspect affecting literacy is health. There is a positive correlation between life expectancy and literacy levels, whereby an increased life expectancy at birth leads to improved literacy. Socioeconomic status, more specifically, the income also affects the levels of literacy. However, the effect of income on literacy is somewhat nonlinear, whereby the association between income and literacy is negative until a threshold of about $2200 per year (Verner 19). After that, the association between income and literacy changes to positive. The quality of institutions and education do not have any statistical significance when determining literacy.

Access to literacy is where the students get knowledge and the ability to communicate to the world. Literacy is a through pass to other sets of skills, and it allows young people to pursue higher education and have access to jobs hence becoming full participants in a state's democracy. Denial of literacy is characterized by a lack of knowledge and a situation where the citizens do not fully participate in their democratic obligations (Literacy Foundation par. 2). Politics plays a crucial role in access and denial of literacy through the policies formulated towards literacy access. Government policies can either make it easy or hard for the citizens to have access to literacy and education, and one of such policies include free education. Standardized testing also plays a crucial role in access and denial of literacy. People have different mental or intellectual capacities, and when standardized testing is used in the learning institutions, some might be locked out. This is not because they are illiterate, but because this kind of test is biased to them.

I have had personal experience with access and denial. When I joined the high school as a freshman, there were signs of decay everywhere with rotten ceilings, and buckets all over the hallway to catch leaking water. The school was neglected, and there were no textbooks for students to take home. Together with my classmates, we went long stretches and sometimes months, with substitute teachers whose significant roles were to supervise the students. The state had violated our constitutional right to learn to read by providing inadequate resources.

Negative Aspects of Being Denied Access to Literacy

When individuals are denied access to literacy, there are many and harmful consequences that may be experienced. Illiterate people face several challenges in their daily lives, and their future is jeopardized; hence, society is affected both economically and socially. Individuals who are denied access to literacy have limited ability to obtain and understand important information. Denied access to literacy leads to unemployment, and according to Literacy Foundation, unemployment rates among those with little schooling is 2-4 times that of those holding Bachelor's degrees (Literacy Foundation par. 2). Denied access to literacy leads to little value being given to reading and education within families which usually amounts to intergenerational illiteracy transmission. There is also low self-esteem for that denied access to literacy which in most cases, results in isolation.

The society at large may also suffer from the denied access to literacy. Literacy is an essential tool both for states and individuals in being competitive in the global knowledge economy (Literacy Foundation par. 2). Many positions remain vacant due to lack of persons with adequate training to hold them, and this negatively affects economic performance. Denied access to literacy also makes it difficult for individuals to understand the issues affecting their society, and this lowers the level of involvement within the community and civic participation.

To alleviate some of the negatives of denied access to literacy, the following can be done. According to Morrell, there should be consideration of teaching in the mother tongue to increase the levels of comprehension (631). Secondly, it should not be just about handing out books but fostering a love of reading the books. Literacy should also be embedded in other programs to make it a part of the everyday activity of the people.

Positive Aspects of Having Access to Literacy

Literacy has many positive aspects of the economy, the health of the people, empowerment, and resilience. Literate people are people who know their spending habits, and this is healthy for the economy. The achievement of this is through more developed skills, more opportunities, higher salaries, and better employment (Robinson-Pant 779). Better education leads to better jobs and employment has been proven to be the only best way through poverty reduction can be achieved. Literacy also helps in the improvement of the health of the people. Poverty in the healthcare arena is fought through poverty since literate people have a better understanding of the healthcare concerns, and they better educate themselves when it comes to issues to do with health. Thirdly, literacy empowers through equality which leads to generational growth. Women form two-thirds of the world's illiterate group, and this does not come as a shocker owing to the destructive social dynamics mostly in the underdeveloped countries (Robinson-Pant 783). Literacy also leads to resilience among the population whereby people can fight poverty by the use of the power of "possible." Many people are submitted to the prison of doubt pure because they lack literacy. Reading and writing increases an individual's confidence and helps in making informed decisions.

The best way to ensure that everyone has access to literacy is through government funding literacy in the country (Robinson-Pant 783). Most people are denied access to literacy, mostly due to their socioeconomic status. This means that they are unable to afford the costs of education, rendering them illiterate. Through the government-sponsored education, most if not all, citizens will be able to have access to literacy.

Denial of Literacy and Sense of Personal Freedom

Literacy was the pathway from slavery to freedom. When denied access to literacy, a person is denied a sense of freedom. From the books we get knowledge, and knowledge is power. Without education, you do not know what your rights are and how to fight for them. It is through literacy that one can receive the knowledge being brought to them by other people, and this is how literacy represents freedom. You get the freedom to travel wherever you want in the world and to get employment opportunities from any corner of the world. The global economy is cost over $1 trillion every year due to illiteracy, and at least 20% of people in the world are struggling with illiteracy (Robinson-Pant 783). Literacy means freedom, and being illiterate closes doors that only literacy could open. For example, there are certain types of jobs and opportunities that can only be grabbed by the literate. Therefore, being illiterate impedes a person's sense of freedom.

Helping Someone Else Understand the Significance of Access and Denial In Terms Of Their Own Identity

Making someone else understand the significance of access and denial requires critical skills and elaborate explanation of all the facts surrounding literacy. Before anything, one needs to know what literacy means. From there, you then need to give some points and statistical data of how illiteracy has impacted the world, and the benefits accrued by the literate on at their expense. This is necessary for inciting their urge to know more about literacy and develop an interest in being literate. Besides, it is also essential explaining to them that literacy is not only critical, but it is as well a human right as it creates equality among the people.

Works Cited

Literacy Foundation. Causes of Illiteracy foundation Alphabetization, 2019. Retrieved from [Date accessed 20 October 2019].

Morrell, Ernest. Critical literacy and urban youth: Pedagogies of access, dissent, and liberation. Routledge, 2015. Retrieved from [Date accessed 20 October 2019].

Robinson-Pant, Anna. "'Why literacy matters': Exploring a policy perspective on literacies, identities and social change." The Journal of Development Studies 44.6 (2008): 779-796. Retrieved from [Date accessed 20 October 2019].

Verner, Dorte. What factors influence world literacy? is Africa different?. The World Bank, 2005. Retrieved from [Date accessed 20 October 2019].

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Literacy as a Commodity: Public Good or Private Benefit? - Essay Sample. (2023, Feb 27). Retrieved from

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