Delivering a scalable solution to adult illiteracy through a highly innovative programme using sophisticated learning techniques and memory hooks, through minimally trained, computer-aided instructors. It enables almost anyone to read, write and do simple arithmetic with more than 95% success rate in just seven weeks of 2 hour classes daily.
Describe the critical need your solution addresses.
Despite several decades of programs to introduce literacy among adults, more than 50% of the women and girls in many poor countries, including India, cannot read, write or count, preventing them from participating fully in the social, economic and political processes of the modern State.
Explain your initiative in more depth and its stage of development.
The TARA Akshar+ program is an initiative of the Development Alternatives Group, a social enterprise dedicated to accelerating sustainable development in the global South, particularly India. Eradication of poverty, stabilizing the climate and conserving biodiversity all need active citizen participation, which requires empowered individuals and communities, capable of acquiring the knowledge they need in a rapidly changing world.
In the four years since DA initiated development of TARA Akshar+ it has trained more than 57,000 women to read, write and make simple calculations across 7 of the most illiterate states in India. A remarkable feature of this programme is its extraordinary pass rate: more than 95%. This is due to highly effective and standardized teaching methods using computers and entertaining heuristics, a solid delivery system, extremely short duration of courses, and convenience of location, timings, etc.
TARA Akshar + is able to deliver complete literacy and numeracy in just 98 contact hours over a period of 49 days by using a totally new mix of advanced memory techniques like memory hooks through animated movies and strong learning reinforcement mechanisms. Specifically, it uses:
• "Laubach Method", which associates each letter to the shape of an object, the name of which BEGINS with that letter.
• Innovative visual imagery and video gaming concepts.
• Cartoon animations, flash cards, games and easy to recall story lines.
• A combination of aural, visual and kinesthetic memory techniques to aid letter-sound retention.
• A careful combination of numeric and literary study.
• Only high school graduate instructors, trainers and quality monitors.
• Constant monitoring of quality of delivery and literacy outcomes.
• High numbers of willing learners because of convenient locations and timings.
• Reaching out to people in difficult and remote areas through the use of laptops.
How does your strategy and approach respond creatively and comprehensively to key issues?
Numerous studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between economic, social and political development and the level of literacy of the population. Developing nations with high illiteracy among women also have high rates of female foeticide, infant mortality, maternal mortality, etc. Without basic literacy and numeracy skills they cannot get jobs or income, can get exploited by businesses and moneylenders, and cannot fully appreciate the value of educating their children. A vast majority lives below the poverty line. Illiterate women remain the poorest of the poor even when they play an essential role in their economical development of their families and the communities.
The Census of India counts more than half the women as illiterate.
TARA Akshar+ provides the solution to the above need by enabling women and girls to become functionally literate in a very short period and in a manner that they retain the skills learned permanently. Aimed at the literacy of Hindi speaking adult women and girls in rural India, the programme has met all the challenges in this domain successfully and proved the effectiveness of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools in the development sector. Indeed, it has opened up possibilities for other types of courses delivered in a similar manner.
This strategy or the programme is a breakthrough because of its ability to provide the biggest challenge of eradicating poverty and building communities. Bringing modern technology, such as the laptop, into the village has a huge impact of familiarising remote economies with the opportunities such technologies can bring. The programme can be adopted under state sponsored programmes for a large scale implementation – or indeed be funded by corporations, foundations and even individuals.
TARA Akshar+ is now widely recognized be the most cost-effective method to deliver literacy and numeracy skills to Third World villagers.