Book Club: Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich

Book: Illich, I. (1971). Deschooling Society. New York, 56.

Summary: The education practised in schools in modern societies is based on education from the industrial age. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the year this book was wrote makes it irrelevant, the topics are still very relevant today, using learning networks to connect and learn. Illich critiques school as a form of institutionalised education and makes the reader really contemplate the role of school and the teacher. Everyone has some story regarding their experience of school and often we have strong ideas on the form and purpose of  the schooling we believe in.

“School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is.”

Illich proposes 4 Learning Networks (Wikipedia, 2016):

  1. Reference services to educational objects: access to formal learning such as libraries or museums.
  2. Skill exchange: individuals record their skills, conditions they wish to model with others who may want to learn these skills and a contact method.
  3. Peer-matching: a communications network where an individual can engage in finding an appropriate skills partner.
  4. Reference services to educators: access to a network of educators with conditions of their skills and preferences.

Areas of Particular Interest:

  • Background of traditional education in industrialised society and relevance in today’s modern society
  • Link to health and in particular the medicalisation of death, very interesting reminder that in recent history society died in their homes not in a hospital. Disagree with Illich? See this TedTalk by Ken Hillman which confirms society’s change in end of life approach.
  • The potential impact of big business on education.

Questions this resource raises for nursing educators:

  • This review of school education fits into the “traditions” of University and higher education settings, how do we move into using learning networks and away from silo teaching? 
  • How do we as individuals teach undergraduate and postgraduate nursing? Are we a teacher, educator or facilitator? #heutogogy
  • The increasing emphasis on IT as educational resources opens up new traditional and non-traditional sources of knowledge, how do we ensure quality before profits in a consumer driven higher education system?


Illich, I. (1971). Deschooling Society. New York, 56. (also in Audio-book)

Illich, I. (1971). Deschooling Society. Audiobook          

GoodReads (2016) Deschooling Society Quotes by Illich, I.

Wikipedia (2016) Deschooling Society.