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A framework for passing knowledge to future generations, a PhD

Dr Janet Lakareber has developed a framework to help prevent skills, knowledge and language being lost between generations

The vocabulary of languages around the world develops and changes over time to keep pace with society, but some languages don’t just fail to keep pace with change – they actually become extinct and cease to be spoken or written at all.

Dr Janet Lakareber designed Acoli Accented Orthography with Diacritical Marks, a writing system for the Acoli dialect, to help people learn how to read and write in the dialect. Janet was researching computer-assisted language learning when she discovered the global concern of language extinction, and wanted to do something to reverse a trend which is seeing irreplaceable knowledge being lost to future generations.

Developing systems to teach and transmit language

Dr Lakareber set out to research two key areas – one was an Information System (for Computer Assisted Language Learning), while the other was a framework for the preservation and transmitting of local knowledge.

As her research developed, Janet narrowed her efforts on the framework for knowledge preservation and this became the primary focus of her final study. Dr Lakareber’s found that a classroom education provides explicit knowledge, but community education can have a different setting depending on the community in question, and can deliver tacit knowledge. If community learning is lost, then knowledge – including languages – might not be passed on to younger generations.

With that in mind, Dr Lakareber developed a theory called Community Specific Pedagogical  Framework, which future researchers can use to help any community revive and transmit knowledge.

There is a growing problem in society where younger people do not see the value of older people in society, even though older generation holds expert knowledge ... as a result, valuable skills might not be passed on to newer generations, and are more likely to die out

Dr Janet Lakareber

Preserving knowledge for future generations

Janet is rightly proud of the possible implications. “The framework can help to revive knowledge that might not otherwise be passed on to younger generations,” she says. 

“The knowledge flow from the elderly to younger generations is often not identified, which can lead to isolation and even violence towards older generations. As a result, those valuable skills might not be passed on to newer generations, and are more likely to die out.”

During the course of her research, Dr Lakareber worked with other members of staff at LSBU to help her with her research, including the Ethics Committee and  her supervisors, Professor Dilip Patel and Professor Shushma Patel.

She also included an international element to her research, working with two schools in Uganda, Gulu Core Primary Teachers College and Demonstration School Gulu, as she built, developed and tested her framework.

When it comes to the future, Dr Lakareber is excited about further work in her field that might see her framework put to the test. 

“It would be very exciting to see the Community Specific Pedagogical Framework applied to a community to find out how it works,” she says. “And of course, the ultimate aim is more than research theory – it is about preserving and passing on knowledge that would otherwise be lost from generation to generation. I hope my work plays a part in keeping that knowledge and understanding alive for the benefit of future generations.”