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Is literacy and knowledge the same?

Knowledge and literacy are closely related terms. We often consider them almost similar but there exists a fine line that differentiates them. Literacy is the ability to read and write. Knowledge is the practical understanding of facts, information and the skills regarding a subject. Knowledge is acquired by formal and informal experiences as well as education.

To understand the difference between knowledge and literacy, the following example is very appropriate:

Emperor Jalal Ud Din Muhammad popularly known as Akbar was an illiterate. He used to take the scribe’s help to read the letters addressed to him and write his replies. Despite being illiterate, he was an exceptionally knowledgeable person in various fields including warfare. He conquered most of the Indian subcontinent with the help of his immense knowledge.

A farmer may not have the ability to read and write but he has the knowledge about the processes required to grow and harvest crops.

Knowledge has no boundaries and it can be acquired from parents, friends, people around, and experiences. Knowledge has no growth rate - a child’s knowledge may grow faster than an adult’s knowledge. A literate may not necessarily be knowledgeable.

There exists a vast misbelief that if one can read, write and speak English, he or she is knowledgeable.

A person who has the ability to speak, read and write English is definitely a literate but he may or may not be knowledgeable.

Today, most of the children can speak and write English from the age of three or four. Can they be considered as ‘knowledgeable’?

A shopkeeper can be a very successful entrepreneur and can make huge profits. But, he may not have the ability to read and write. This does not mean that the shopkeeper is not knowledgeable. He has gained his profits due to the knowledge he possesses in his field of interest.

To overcome this misbelief, it is extremely necessary for us to understand the difference between the both.

What do you think about this article? Do you think people understand the difference between literacy and knowledge? Share your views at


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