For years now, we are gauging the quality of our primary education through the Annual Status of Education Reports (ASER). Even according to report in 2014, almost 50% of Class V students were not able to read basic sentences-namely reading levels in local language and learning levels in English. The standard in rural schools must be worse. The real literacy in any society can only come through the ability of reading and comprehending. It is also the first step for a Knowledge Society. Everything must be done expand the reading habits through libraries of all types in every small and big communities and at every institution open to public.
Is it not a shameful for the teachers of all the classes from grade 1 to 12 who teach the two languages-English, Hindi or any local language? Are twelve years of teaching not good enough for a child to read, write and comprehend in the languages taught? It is certainly the teachers at all levels who are responsible for this condition. With high percentage of illiteracy, particularly more so in rural India, the responsibility of teachers become more pronounced.
However, few measures may improve the present dismal condition.
1. Encourage the students at all levels for reading books meant for his class level or above at least 30 minutes everyday. Create a check. The school board may prepare the lists of such books for every grade-at least 50 for each grade. Google search will show you the reading books of English for various grades. The similar lists requires to be prepared for local Indian languages. Let the authors understand the necessity of writing such books for school students of various grade in Hindi and other languages of India. For example, the content and style of a book on the life of Einstein or Ramanujam for a student for a student of grade 3, 5, 8 or 10 will be different.
2. The students must further be encouraged to learn correct pronunciations. An application download from suitable dictionary on mobile phone or tablet will help. With increasing spread of these phones, it is quite possible to happen.
3. A good vocabulary is necessary and a child must gradually increase his mastery over sufficient numbers of words to understand correctly what he reads and to express effectively in the language. The students must be encouraged to increase their vocabulary by underlining all new word while reading books and learning its meanings and use. Teachers can very easily use the list of words for different grades for building vocabulary of the students and can have planned learning over weeks of the year. Next year’s lesson starts with a revision of the words of the previous year. Kids from as low a grade as 1starts learning computer languages by reading the instruction books these days. Such a requirement makes a good vocabulary essential to understand any subject. Teachers can prepare the lists of words grade wise for English that are available on line.
http://readingkeyfree.com/Files/vocab/Grade1/VOC1-new.pdf 340 vocabulary reading words for grade 1.
4. The school teachers must make all the students to read in turn in class, and create mohalla-wise study group, particularly in rural schools, to pursue reading in group, the knowledgeable senior students leading the group. The practice of text books of languages for each class level in India and examining on basis of the written answers of the questions from the lessons leads to rote learning.
5. Every school can have a period of half an hour when the students must be encouraged to speak in the language on any topic.
6. Every school must organise a reading, writing and vocabulary competition frequently, may be once a month.
7. The selected teachers for the primary schools must have the aptitude to make reading and learning at school attractive and interesting rather than having a big degree with great scores.
I am fortunate that all my sons and grandchildren have immense interest in reading. Zach in grade 1, Emma in 3, Svanik in 6, all keep on reading books. None are text books. While in Austin, Svanik, presently in grade 6, had shown me a book ‘Divergent’ written by Veronica Roth that he had read. He had expressed his desire to get the other three books of the series- Insurgent, Allegiant, and Four. All these books are of grade 8 standard. I sent the set from Cary thr’ Amazon. I did talk with the school going children of Rajesh’s friends, they all have reading in the same way. The Turner Creek Elementary School of Emma and Zach has an impressive library. Shannon keeps on buying books for Zach and Emma. The states run the schools in US. The schools admit also kids of poor. Their kids are lent the books from library. According to Shannon, the poorer communities have also local libraries to help readings. It is unfortunate that the library movement that was quite visible in our childhood days have gone out of fashion. If the parents don’t show interests in books, it is difficult for kids to do that. Can we help building the reading habits in our locality?
Yesterday, I appealed to my friends in US. Can they request their sons or daughters here in US to whom they are visiting to collect all the reading books of their school going kids and send it through them for the schools where they studied when they were kids?