The need for literacy
If you’re reading this, you are obviously literate – probably in more than one language. Sometimes we take literacy for granted, but can you imagine what it would be like to not be able to read and write? To struggle to find your way in a new place because you can’t use the road signs? To not be able to send a text message on your mobile? To need to ask someone else to fill in a form for you?
In 2014, DEVI launched an innovative toolkit to promote literacy: the Global Dream program. Since then, the materials have been experimented with and continuously improved, to make this one of the most effective literacy programs in India. This section explores why there is a need for the Global Dream toolkit, presents the data on the efficacy of the Global Dream materials, explains the principles underpinning the program, and shares a few stories of the differences it’s made in the lives of people we’re working with.
There is a tremendous need for literacy.India has the world’s largest population of illiterates: according to UNESCO, 287 million adults in India are illiterate – 5 times more than the next most, China. While literacy rates are growing (from 64% to 74% between the 2001 and 2011 Censuses), the rate of improvement is disappointingly slow. This lack of literacy has major negative consequences economically, politically and socially; at all scales, from individual to national.
Having established the extent and seriousness of the problem, we explain the principles that underpin the Global Dream program. Sadly, the dominant model for education in India is teacher-centred, rote-learning based, and reliant on fear and punishment. In contrast, Global Dream is built on the idea of a friendly, safe environment, in which the learner is asked questions and given plenty of time to think.
We acknowledge that pedagogy theory is important but data is necessary to back it up. We evidence: that most people are able to learn survival literacy in 2-3 months of daily 20-30 minute lessons using the Global Dream program. This is far quicker than alternative literacy programs.
Along with the statistics, we share a few stories of people who’ve learnt to read using the Global Dream materials, and the difference it has made in their lives.
If you share our conviction about the need to spread literacy, but are curious to learn more, take a look at the projects we’re involved in or check out some free sample materials. If you’re already convinced and want to get involved, please get in touch with us as we’d love to work with you!
Principles of Global Dream
Enrolment rates are now at around 95% across India, and still rising. However, schools are often failing to make their students literate. The Annual Status of Education Report (2016) indicates that 50% of Grade 5 students can’t read a Grade 2 Hindi text. The fact that so many students are failing to learn the basics in school shows that there are deep issues in our education system, for instance:
Class sizes are often large, making it difficult for teachers to give targeted attention to students who are struggling.
The primary pedagogy is ‘chalk and talk’: teacher- and textbook- focused, rote learning based. This often bores students, and prevents them from learning effectively.
Teachers are often reliant on physical discipline and severe scolding to control the classroom, leading to an atmosphere of fear rather than inquiry.
The Global Dream program is more than just a set of books, it is a way of teaching which strives to model a better, learner-centred education. The principles of Global Dream can be summarised as ‘sawal, samay & sambandh’:
Ask the learner questions (sawal), because this will be more interesting & engaging for them.
Give them plenty of time (samay), so that they can think for themselves and go at their own pace.
Keep a friendly relationship with them (sambandh).
Global Dream emphasises moving from the known to the unknown. We start with the picture, and ask what its first sound is, before going on to the unknown – the shape of the letter. This enables learners to incorporate this new knowledge effectively.