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MHRD launches position paper on ‘Early Language and Literacy’

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New Delhi : CARE India in partnership with USAID has released a position paper on ‘Early Language and Literacy’, articulating the principles for developing successful reading and writing skills for children between 3-8 years of age.

Developed by a Technical Core Group, the paper articulates the connectedness of the pre-primary age group of 3-6 years with the early years of schooling (6-8 years) in the area of language and literacy, and recommends a principles-based approach to early literacy.

Speaking at the launch of the position paper here, Secretary in Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) Dr. Subhash Chandra Khuntia said although the elementary education has been universalized, the learning outcomes of children are still not satisfactory.

“Rightly, this paper focuses on 3-8 years of age which includes the pre-primary years (3-6) and the primary education years (6-8) and points out the need to adopt approaches which make the learning process not forced, but contextually relevant for children,” he said.

He said the ministry congratulates CARE India, USAID and other stakeholders who are trying to make children functionally literate and not just nominally literate through this initiative.

“We offer CARE India our help in translating this meaningful document in all regional languages of India so that it can be widely disseminated across all States and Union Territories. We also suggest a simpler version of this paper which can be developed for education officers and other support staff at block and district levels to deepen its reach and understanding. We shall also be looking at incorporating some of the ideas from this paper into MHRD’s ‘Padhe Bharat Badhe Bharat Abhiyan’ that focuses on early literacy and numeracy,” he added.

Mindful that the parameters of literacy are not addressed sequentially but simultaneously, the paper advocates for oral language to be linked to literacy instruction inside classrooms.

The paper also focuses on the need for rich literature in the classroom which would allow for enriching discussions and critical thinking. Other key recommendations in the paper include: smaller classrooms, with a dedicated teacher for each grade; availability of graded literature including ‘read aloud’ books, and other print materials such as charts, cards, etc. which should be contextually developed in vernacular languages and in English; and a strong teacher education component related to early language and literacy needs of young children from diverse backgrounds.

CEO and MD of CARE India Rajan Bahadur said CARE India has been working in the area of elementary education for the past two decades.

“We strongly feel that literacy is not just about code-breaking or meaning-making. Students should also be empowered to act as text users and as text critics. CARE India and USAID came together to support Start Early: Read in Time project that focuses on improving reading skills of children in early years,” he said.

“This position paper is the outcome of this fruitful partnership. I am sure this collaborative work will provide direction to pre-primary and primary education, as this paper provides an opportunity to understand the challenges faced by teachers, children and others,” he added.

USAID Mission Director to India Jonathan Addleton said bringing quality developments to early grade reading will require innovation – in how students are taught, teachers are trained, in the materials used by the schools, and in the approaches used for early grade education.

” USAID supports testing and scaling of innovations that support these improvements. We are proud to have contributed towards this important paper that provides specific guidance on providing high quality early language and literacy,” he added.

The release of the position paper was followed by a panel discussion on issues and challenges related to early language and literacy. The other dignitaries present at the event included Emeritus Professor A.K. Jalaluddin, Chairperson, Technical Core Group, Dr Sunita Singh, Ambedkar University and Dr Shailaja Menon of Azim Premji University. (ANI)

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