Ivan Illich's Proposal for a Four-Layered Non-Institutional Educational Network

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Indra Lal Acharja et al. :

"In 1971, Ivan Illich called for shifting away from the traditional concept of schooling. To replace traditional schooling, he proposed creating a large-scale, non-institutional educational infrastructure. This infrastructure would be empowered by the information and communication technologies (the first microprocessor was invented the same year in Silicon Valley). The educational infrastructure he proposed, the ‘learning’ (Illich 1971: 72) or ‘educational web’ (77), would consist of four interlocking educational networks to enable learners to achieve their own goals.

The first educational network would develop around a directory of educational resources, freely available to learners (Illich 1971). For example, the directory would allow learners and educators to reserve libraries, laboratories, museums or theatres as well as to visit factories, airports or farms as apprentices or in off-hours. The second network would develop around an open directory of people who would list ‘their skills, the conditions under which they are willing to serve as facilitators for others who want to learn these skills, and the address at which they can be reached’ (Illich 1971: 79). The third network would develop around a platform in which people would describe the learning activities they are interested in, with the aim to find other learners who may wish to collaborate. The fourth network would build on a directory of professional educators, who would detail their qualifications, services and the terms on which these are made available (Illich 1971).

After five decades, one may say that Illich’s vision is embodied in initiatives such as the Khan Academy1 or the P2P University2 and even share Hart’s view that ‘Illich predicted the World Wide Web’ (Hart 2001: 72; Jandrić 2014). However, the idea of deschooling proved to be wishful thinking (Cuban and Jandrić 2014). Schools are still around and education remains considerably institutionalized. But this ‘large scale educational infrastructure’, the Internet and the Web, has catalyzed the emergence of postdigital phenomena, which may ‘influence power and offer individuals and communal settings the potential for alternative vernacular practices to emerge in culture’ (Atasay 2013: 58).

With this article we wish to tell a story of an emerging phenomenon that may offer insights towards realizing some of the goals and values underpinning Illich’s vision of deschooling society. Our aim is to cast a radical educator’s eye over ‘cosmolocal production’ or ‘cosmolocalism’ (Schismenos et al. 2020). Cosmolocalism emerges from technology initiatives that are small-scale and oriented towards addressing local problems, but simultaneously engage with globally asynchronous collaborative production through the commons."

From ‘Deschooling Virtuality’ To Deschooling Society?

Vasilis Kostakis et al. :

"Jandrić (2014) addresses how Illich’s vision of deschooling could be embodied on the Internet in the form of ‘deschooling virtuality’. He discusses Wikipedia as a flagship case towards deschooling virtuality, and admits that it is a long way from deschooling virtuality to deschooling society. Such a shift would require profound social changes and, to begin with, altering the structure of employment and labor (Jandrić 2014).

According to Illich (1971: xix), the ‘search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs’. Funnels limit people to a minimal set of educational processes, relations and outcomes. Cosmolocalism may help educators’ and learners’ search for new educational webs, which could act as prisms and generate a rainbow of possible choices. Unlike large-scale industrial manufacturing, cosmolocal production is small-scale, decentralized, and locally controlled with the potential to empower conviviality in the physical world (Priavolou 2021)."


  • Kostakis, V., Vragoteris, V., Lal Acharja, I. (2021). Can peer production democratize technology and society? A critical review of the critiques. Futures, 131

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