Read about Kenya's new national literacy program, Tusome (translated to 'Let’s Read' in English) and how it has transformed the instructional core of the first years of schooling. The program has seen teachers engage with their students in a new way, with new teaching techniques, new materials, and new expectations for learning outcomes.
Reading fluency helps improve reading comprehension, and after a critical point in the child’s learning process, fluency gets subsumed under comprehension. For efficient readers, the effective speed of reading and the deeper comprehension during reading go hand in hand, almost automatically.
Uttar Pradesh, under its Mission Prerna program is working towards improving the quality of education in its 1.5 lakh primary schools. The state aims to achieve universal Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) by 2022 for its 1.2 crore students. The state has developed a comprehensive academic strategy to prepare the classrooms for a major transformation to achieve this target. A couple of key elements of this strategy include making classrooms resource rich and empowering the teachers with the right ‘tool kit’ to achieve the targeted learning outcomes for students.
What if every teacher could identify the specific learning goals that each of their children can accomplish, in the same way as a lawyer understands the framework of the Constitution? What if we could train all teachers to take a step-by-step approach to teaching reading or subtraction, with the same precision that an engineer follows while building a semiconductor chip? What if an expert literacy coach could demonstrate an effective ‘read-aloud’ in the classroom, much like a senior surgeon demonstrates how to treat a trauma wound to medical residents?
There has been increasing attention on the importance of foundational learning in India recently, and the country will also be participating in PISA 2021. The newly released School Education Quality Index (SEQI) by NITI Aayog aims to shift the focus to learning outcomes. Meanwhile, the new National Education Policy (NEP) drafted by the government – the first update in almost three decades – explicitly calls out the importance of the early years and states that all other initiatives to improve education would be “largely irrelevant” if the fundamental skills of reading, writing and arithmetic are not ﬁrst achieved.
The NEP gets to the heart of India’s education crisis at the very outset. It accords the highest priority to achieve universal foundational literacy and numeracy in primary school and beyond by 2025. Poor foundational learning at the primary-school level, especially between ages three to eight, wreaks almost irreversible damage on students and the entire education system.
How do you make sure that children acquire Foundational Literacy and Numeracy skills by spending time in schools? Having broadly achieved the goal of universal enrolment at the primary level, focus now needs to decisively shift towards turning schooling into an outcome-based learning process, rather than a purely attendance-driven activity.
One of the most debated reforms in NEP 2020 is foundational learning (literacy and numeracy). The policy states that ‘this skill is considered as a necessary foundation and an indispensable prerequisite for all future schooling and lifelong learning’. Hence, the announcement of the National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy is worth welcoming for many reasons.
Teachers should have appropriate resources to teach literacy and numeracy skills to students. A list of pedagogical concepts relevant for each age along with a list of the most common misconceptions that students face would be a powerful assist for a teacher. This combined with diagnostic assessment tools can help teachers know where exactly their students are and test specific skills.
The new school structure by NEP2020 includes the newly added Foundational Stage for the first five years of the school life i.e. ages three to five years. This provision aims to curb the detrimental trend of the downward extension of primary curriculum to pre-primary classes that was resulting in over-load of teaching-learning content causing extreme stress and overwork to the early learners who were expected to master reading, writing, and numbers operations at pre-primary stage.