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Literacy for or against the poor? Language, literacy and social equity in Indian government schools Presented by Caroline Dyer (University of Leeds, UK)

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Presentation on theme: "Literacy for or against the poor? Language, literacy and social equity in Indian government schools Presented by Caroline Dyer (University of Leeds, UK)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Literacy for or against the poor? Language, literacy and social equity in Indian government schools Presented by Caroline Dyer (University of Leeds, UK) on behalf of the literacy research project, Diganter, Rajasthan

2 Literacy is… A key determinant of well being An important social entitlement A goal of human development To capability theorists - a necessary condition of well being and human development But International evidence suggests that many schools are not delivering either enough, or the right kind of, literacy to enable development

3 Why do schools struggle to provide individuals with the literacy skills they need? What is literacy – uncontested, a set of technical skills; or multiple and competing perspectives? How are literacy, schooling and development connected? Points of departure..

4 Frames of reference.. Literacy trends Language contexts Schooling for the poor Poor schools

5 Indias literacy rates (2001) Literacy rate MaleFemale National SC (16.3% of natl populn) ST (8.2%) of natl populn) All Rajasthan SC (SCs = 17.2% of Raj population) ST (STs = 12. 6% of Raj population) What is literacy? How is it counted? Improvements due to National Literacy Mission of 1990; and/or to improvements in enrolment and retention?

6 Language context ba/maps/india-langs.jpg 1,652 languages in Census listed in Constitution under Schedule VIII Article 350 A: primary education must be in the pupils mother tongue Three language formula (TLF) guides educational provision mother language or regional language; an official language, either Hindi or English; another modern language, Indian or foreign Hindi = Scheduled language, officially subsumes 47 languages. In Rajasthan Hindi widely spoken, is official State language Rajasthani officially – and controversially - considered a minor language of Hindi Rajasthani itself a collective name for a cluster of 18 languages. Project area languages: Hindi, Rajasthani, Marwadi, Dhundhadi

7 Schooling for the poor Expansion of private sector Government still main provider of education - often the only provider for socially marginalised groups Disproportionately high representation of children from ST, SC, and OBC groups – de facto poor. Government schooling synonymous with disadvantage – flight of the powerful – poor schools for poor children

8 Poor state schools? Facilities Statistics Qualitative views Outcomes Mean achievement rates Stds. 4-5 are 40-51%. Unacceptably low Learner retention ( ) Lower primary drop out 34.9% Upper primary drop out 52.8% Processes Teacher absenteeism Textbook as sacred icon Automatic promotion Home – school links?

9 From outcomes to processes – investigating literacy for development In India Research on literacy acquisition dominated by work on English rather than regional languages Research focusing on the pedagogical implications of acquisition of Indian languages very rare Nascent state of social constructivist educational research not yet able to contribute qualitative detail about teaching and learning in the school –How literacy is actually taught and learned –Factors affecting documented achievement levels

10 Literacy as communicative and cultural practice Dominant view Literacy, singular and decontextualised – as individual psychological practice defined in relation to a set of testable proficiencies (Streets (1984) autonomous model) Alternative view Literacy as communicative practice, involves repertoires of socially, culturally, historically situated practices (ideological – illiteracy is a social injustice) Pedagogical implications: Becoming literate always involves 1) code-breaking but needs to go beyond that to: 2) meaning-making 3) using texts 4) analysing texts (Freebody and Luke, 1990, 1999)

11 Research into early years literacy 2 year, ICICI-bank funded, sited in Diganter NGO in Rajasthan Baseline in 51 schools -> ethnographies of 10, Sanganer block, Jaipur 1 Map the socio-linguistic environment in which these schools are situated the literate environment beyond the school aspirations of children + families for their future and role of education in achieving them 2 Observe and document early years language learning and literacy practices in Stds 1, 2 and 5 of select primary schools 3 Work with teachers to understand factors that guide their classroom practices, including their: perceptions of textbooks and supporting materials, own theories of language / literacy teaching/learning, constructions of children of these communities as learners and users of literacy now and in the future What are the links between learners achievements in literacy and the ways in which teachers approach in practice, and understand in theory, early years language and literacy teaching?

12 Project processes and emerging findings…

13 Language, literacy and the early years syllabus The old: Minimum Levels of Learning (MLLs) outcomes-based, behaviourist; intended to refocus teaching away from memorising content and towards considering learning outcomes Competencies – atomised, stress accuracy of recall, repetition and technical competence. e.g – To identify and read alphabets individually or in combined form (with Matra and without Matra) - Code breaking! The new: NCF (2005) advocates constructivist pedagogy, distances itself from MLLs In Rajasthans classrooms syllabus dates from 2000, new State textbooks published both reflect the MLL approach

14 Theory of literacy acquisition reflected in the Rajasthan syllabus Content analysis of textbooks Atomised competencies No conceptual framework focusing on reading competence. Successful reading anchored in encoding and decoding text Participant classroom observation Literacy in the classrooms – rote and memorisation. Sub-text: Literacy = attaining correctness in the standard language How do teachers see these learners? How is language used / valued? Language as a resource, or a barrier?

15 Achievement tests and error analysis Baseline - develop and administer short tests in Hindi of childrens level of attainment of stipulated competencies. Many schools unable to provide a random sample of 10 children per class although this many were on the roll. All questions scored high proportions of no attempt - needs further investigation. Researchers administering the tests needed to use local languages to help children understand the requirement of each question. Influence of local language via vocabulary and pronunciation. Dhundhadi unofficially used as the language of instruction.

16 Work with teachers Bigger picture: a crisis of government teacher education Previous research in state-managed District Institutes of Education and Training: Teachers pre-service training largely geared to improving students grasp of subject content, pedagogy neglected. Language work focuses on improving grasp of H – not pedagogical implications of students speaking L Linguistic diversity of classrooms not addressed Teacher preparation lacks contextual relevance in contexts of socio-economic and linguistic diversity Perpetuation of prevailing inequalities through (demotivated) teacher judgements about these children as learners, and their place as citizens

17 Social mapping PRA methods in villages Literate environment Languages spoken in private and public domains Literacy audit in homes Parental aspirations for children – where does schooling fit in ? (gender sensitive)

18 Work with children Focus on very small sample of children and follow their specifically in classrooms and outside How do home and school lives link? What aspirations do these learners have for themselves? What knowledge and language resources could be available for teaching and learning?

19 Partnership working – academic and NGO Developing research capacity –Action vs reflection>action –Objectivity and outrage –Existing relationships with power structures Training ethnographers –Substantive experience –Depth and detail –Language of observation, reporting and critique Impact, outreach and dissemination

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