A Philosophical Examination of the Nature of Indigenous Knowledge and Implications for Education with Reference to Maasai Community of Kenya
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One of the aims of education in Kenya is to promote respect for and development of Kenya’s varied cultures. Underlying these cultures is indigenous knowledge that has not sufficiently been integrated within the Kenyan education system which remains skewed towards western values and knowledge. In such circumstances, this study argues that formal education seems to alienate people from their own culture instead of facilitating preservation and development of relevant aspects of indigenous cultures as also observed with indigenous people of North America. This is the problem that this study sought to address. Specifically, an examination of the indigenous knowledge with reference to the Maasai community was found to provide useful lessons on how best traditional values can be blended with modern values in order to achieve an inclusive and effective approach to contemporary needs and challenges. The study therefore used cultural synergism as embodied in Hegel’s dialectics as its preferred theoretical framework. This framework admits that all cultures have their unique identities but none is perfect in isolation. Consequently, cultures need to enrich and refine each other. This is especially relevant to the contemporary globalised context where interaction of peoples and cultures is inevitable. The study sought to examine the western conception of knowledge, analyse the indigenous knowledge with reference to the Maasai community, and identify a strategic approach for achieving harmony of indigenous and western knowledge systems. The researcher reviewed literature on the basis of the themes derived from the objectives above. As a philosophical study, the researcher used conceptual rather than empirical methodology. This study therefore relied on secondary data. It employed the analytic and prescriptive methods of philosophy to examine and evaluate various works of the social scientists on indigenous knowledge deriving relevant implications for education. The study found that: knowledge is constructed as a worldview that is continually re-evaluated, improved and systematised; the indigenous knowledge of the Maasai was pragmatically developed enabling the community to adapt and survive in its environment; positive elements of the indigenous knowledge of the Maasai include sustainable use of the environment, emphasis on functional and relevant knowledge and skills; values such as commitment to service, responsibility and self-discipline. Such values can be useful to education in Kenya today. The study recommends further research on indigenous communities including re-evaluation of previous anthropological research findings that were found to be clearly biased.