©2001 NewFoundations

The Educational Theory of Wole Soyinka
Analyst: Christian Nnajiofor

edited 8/18/11

1. Theory of Value:

What knowledge and skills is worthwhile leaming? What are the goals of educators?

Society attaches great sense of value to members' freedom from oppressive leadership. Society values cultural identity as an instrument of self-determination. Members are valued for their individual commitment and contribution to the general welfare of the society. (D-p.500)

There should be a reinstatement of the cultural. values authentic to a society, modified only by the demands of a contemporary world. (B-p.538)

Members of the society must be totally free from government restrictions on individual's ability to think and act free from external oppression. (E-p.429)

Society will value effort directed at the reconciliation of tradition with modernism and progress. (C-p.127)

Educators should not teach socialism as a finalized formulation on which to close the doctrinaire door of orthodoxy. It is rather a growing science and thus, leaders of society have the obligation to modernize traditional structure of the society so as to make it meet the socialist aspirations for egalitarian objectives. (A-p.505)

2. Theory of Knowledge:

What is knowledge? How is it different from belief? What is a mistake? What is a lie?

Knowledge is power. Every kind of knowledge reveals a certain authority. (F-p. 1-2)

Soyinka believes that "self discipline" comes from "self knowledge" which is the greatest guarantee of human will and freedom. (B-p.542)

Knowledge is primarily acquired when one understands his/her culture that essentially defines theperson. (D-p.499)

He believes that in teaching literature, we must consider it not as an objective existence in itself, but as a reflection or speculation of the "human phenomenon". (B-p-531)

Knowledge of the peculiarities of historical realities is necessary in making valid contributions in the refinement of the notion of class struggle, (A-p.505)

3. Theory of Human Nature:

What is a human being? How does it differ from other species? What are limits of human potentials?

All individuals are blessed with natural ability to think, and adapt to natural environment. (E-p.429)

A denial of freedom therefore hinders a man's potential to innovatively explore his environment inways beneficial to him. Every human being should exercise his inquiring mind, the exploration of new ways, experimentation and challenges as a means of removing the strap of lead that our own social and intellectual limitations impose on us as an ideological horizon. Human beings have unique social responsibilities of "intellectual honesty" to their society. Socially responsible people (the intellectuals of establishment) demonstrate integrity in their work and in their personal lives. (D-p.497-498)

4. Theory of Learning:

What is leaming? How are skills and knowledge acquired?

Learning should be centered on culturaf values as a tradition. Students should be encouraged to explore African culture. (D-p.427).

People do not learn in an environment deprived of freedom and basic human rights. These needs must be met first before learning can occur. (B-p.535)

People will learn from the examples of traditional values manifested by members committed to the welfare of the community. Knowledge about social responsibility is inbuilt. Thus the artist labors from this inbuilt intuitive responsibility not only to himself but also to his roots. (D-p.499)

5. Theory of Transmission:

Who is to teach? By what method? What will curriculum be?

Curriculum should be culture-based, emphasizing civic responsibility of all members of the community. Educators should consider the "qualities possessed by literature of social vision" as a "creative concern which conceptualizes or extends actuality beyond the purely narrative, making it reveal realities beyond the immediately attainable, a concern which upsets orthodox acceptances in an effort to free society of historical or other superstitions". (B-p.531)

Knowledge is transmitted within and across cultures by linguistic convention and not by direct experience. He describes this process as the semiotic fact of language. (F-p.4)

Society's leaders should teach egalitarianism as objective and dialectical materialism as method. Such constitute the general guiding principles of socialism. (A-p.505)

6. Theory of Society:

What is society ? What institutions are involved in educational process?

A society is fundamentally a community founded on human labor. (C-p.63)

The family unit is the stronghold or foundation of a society. (E-p429)

He rejects Marxism's deterministic view of history which he says allows society members to see their material situations as the inevitable consequence of their socio-historical condition. (B-p532)

The goal for society is "the maximum freedom socially possible" (Spear 20) (B-p.536)

He believes that "bad" will not become "better" by our refusal or reluctance to examine it. (E-p429)

His views are based on the conviction that "Sooner or later, society will recognize itself in the projection and, with or without the benefit of 'scientific' explications, move to act in its own overall self-interest". (B-p.533)

7. Theory of Opportunity

Who is to be educated? Who is to be schooled?

Education should be free for all members of the society, and not just for the privileged minority. (A-p.506)

Society should be educated about the goals broad umbrella of socialist ideology as the logical principle of communal organization and true human equality. Thus people should be made aware of their right to freely express themselves without fear of oppression. "The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny". (B-p.542)

8. Theory of Consensus

Why do people disagree? How is consensus achieved? Whose opinion takes precedence?

The more insensitive an exploitative regime becomes, the sooner the exploited people will gain political awareness and discover their strength to end oppression. (A-p513)

People disagree on their interpretation or idea about social responsibilities or role in the society. This disagreement is usually as a result of deviation from traditional customary practices. Members of a society will generally reach consensus by playing their role as dictated by the customs. (B-p.543)

Society will achieve a consensus by developing a language that not only acknowledges differences, but also retains equal respect for all humanity. (C-p. 129)


(A) Odun, Balogun F. (1988) Wole Soyinka and the Literary Aesthetic of African Socialism. Black American Literature Forum, Vol. 22, Number 3 (Fall 1988).

(B) Stratton, Florence (1988) Wole Soyinka: A writer's Social Vision. Black American Literature Forum,Vol.22, Number 3 (Fall 1988).

(C) Soyinka, Wole (1988,1993) Art, Dialogue, and Outrage: Essays on Literature, and Culture. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data.

(D)Katrak, Ketu H. (1988) Theory and Social Responsibility: Soyinka's Essays. Black American Literature Forum, Vol. 22, Number 3.

(E) Soyinka, Wole Contemporary Authors; New Revision Series. Vol. 82

(F) Tidjani, Noureini S. (1996) The postcolonial condition: The archeology of African knowledge from the feat of Ogun and Sango to the postcolonial creativity of Obatala. Research in AfricanLiterature.