Date : 23/06/2006
Information Literacy Education in Asian Developing Countries: Cultural Factors Affecting Curriculum Development and Programme Delivery
G E Gorman and Daniel G Dorner Victoria University of Wellington
Meeting: Simultaneous Interpretation:
82 Division of Regional Activities Yes
WORLD LIBRARY AND INFORMATION CONGRESS: 72ND IFLA GENERAL CONFERENCE AND COUNCIL 20-24 August 2006, Seoul, Korea http://www.ifla.org/IV/ifla72/index.htm
Abstract The prevailing models of information literacy education (ILE) are contextually grounded in Western social and intellectual structures. For the most part these models follow the taxonomy developed in the 1950s by Bloom, which has been adopted as appropriate for developing societies without considering the contexts from which they are derived, and in which they are being applied. For ILE to be meaningfully embedded in the educational fabric of a developing country, it is important to take account of a range of contextual variables that affect how and why individuals learn. Focusing on ILE through the lens of cultural contextuality, this paper addresses three questions in relation to ILE in developing countries: How do we define information literacy in a developing country context? How do we best determine the educational objectives of information literacy education in a developing country context? How can cultural awareness improve information literacy education? Keywords Information literacy; Information literacy education; Developing countries; Cultural context; Geert Hofstede
Introduction Culture, maintains Cutler (2005) is like an onion, multi-layered and increasingly intense as one peels away each layer. The outer skin consists of subjective elements such as visible behaviour, relationship styles, thinking and learning styles, organisation and work styles, communication styles. Beneath this surface layer are value systems and norms, shared values and accepted standards of behaviour; and at the deepest level are core cultural assumptions, what Cutler terms ‘basic “truths” about human identity and purpose, space, time, social organisation, ways of thinking and communicating that, for the most part, groups and their members are wholly unaware of’ (Cutler 2005, vol. 1, p. 76). In our view this way of visualising culture is instructive and informative, and in the context of this paper may in fact be the key to what we are seeking to understand – the way in which information literacy education models and techniques appear to be imported from one culture (i.e., typically ‘developed’ and ‘Western’) to another (i.e., typically ‘developing’ and ‘Southern’). The onion-image of culture can be applied at many levels: groups, organisations, institutions, regions, nations, etc. But each level tends to anchor its sense of culture at a different layer. For example, a teaching team culture (or indeed any ‘team’ of individuals) exists primarily at the level of behaviour (the outer layer of subjective culture) and much less at the level of core cultural assumptions, whereas ‘national culture often resides less in practices and more in taken-for-granted values and assumptions’ – that is, the inner layer of core cultural assumptions (Cutler 2005, p. 77).
Norms and values
Core and values Norms cultural assimptions
Figure 1. Cutler’s Cultural ‘Onion’
In terms of information literacy education in developing countries these two quite different sets of cultural assumptions may well be setting up educational efforts for 2
failure. A Western-influenced information literacy curriculum, based on Western norms and taught according to Western pedagogical practices, may not succeed when it focuses on behavioural changes (as indeed it must, according to how we currently assess educational results in terms of outcomes). This is because, beneath the outer layer of visible behavioural styles, and learning and thinking styles,...
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