Hunter Gatherer Research

Hunter-gatherers and education

Towards a recognition of extreme local diversity and common global challenges

Hunter Gatherer Research (2019), 5, (1-2), 13–38.


This article provides an overview of some of the main themes that have emerged in the research on hunter gatherers and education. The term ‘education’ refers both to schooling, and to the traditional pedagogical modes of knowledge transmission that hunter-gatherer communities have developed and maintained over millennia. Formal education plays a crucial, yet complicated role for contemporary hunter-gatherers; it is considered to be a foundational element for economic and social development, yet also continues to be a tool of assimilation. Participation in schooling can also conflict with local livelihood strategies, culture and knowledge. While this is the case for many marginalised groups, hunter-gatherers are one of the most marginalised and most vulnerable groups, and face some of the most challenging problems with formal education. This paper examines these issues from a human rights perspective, and within a global context. We describe the main challenges that hunter-gatherers face regarding participation in formal education, including physical, financial, social, cultural and structural barriers, and highlight issues of both inclusion and assimilation. We also examine traditional knowledge and educational approaches among hunter-gatherer communities, calling for a much greater appreciation of the importance and relevance to current global concerns.

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Author details

Hays, Jennifer

Ninkova, Velina

Dounias, Edmond