From the Viewsroom

Reading is power

Sandhya Rao | Updated on January 18, 2018 Published on January 18, 2018

Therefore, there’s every reason to exercise our basic right

The headline of a recent news report suggests that most 14- to 18 year-olds in rural areas can read only Class 2-level textbooks. This is deduced from the latest Annual State of Education Report (ASER) released by the NGO Pratham, and based on a survey conducted in 26 rural districts across 24 States. It flies in the face of a constitutional right to education, and various government and non-government interventions to improve the system and extend its qualitative reach. The report states that about 25 per cent of those surveyed could not read basic texts in their own language, and more than half struggled with division.

But we know that numbers don’t reveal the whole story. We know, for instance, that supposedly ‘good’ exam results hide the reality that reading literacy remains largely dismal. Recognising the problem and acknowledging the need to deal with it, there’s been a scramble by government and non-government agencies over the last 20 years at least, to produce books in different languages for children at the primary level.

There are economic, social, political, and health and ability-related reasons for the lacunae. One major reason is an education system struggling to cater for a diverse and continuously evolving population. The deficit is evident at all academic levels and in workplaces across sectors.

A majority of those who go abroad to study have a hard time trying to develop requisite levels of comprehension and articulation. Indeed, it could be said that one of the direct consequences of poor reading skills is rote learning, and, therefore, no learning.

There’s no mathematical formula to solve this problem except reading and more reading, with or without help. Nor is it confined only to the rural areas. While it’s true that reading levels depend upon individuals, and all levels should be acceptable, there can be no doubt about its capacity to empower. Indians are a naturally multilingual people; it’s a shame not to use this magnificent tool to help ourselves.

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Published on January 18, 2018
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