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Foundational literacy and numeracy: A challenge and prerequisite for future schooling

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Foundational literacy and numeracy

Altaf Hussain Haji

Foundational literacy and numeracyEducation is one of the sectors that play a crucial role in development processes at all levels in terms of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs for education is ‘quality education’ recommended by all member countries of the United Nations during sustainable development conference. Quality education is a human right and a public good. It evolves with time and is subject to social, economic and environmental conditions.

The new National Education Policy envisions an education system to contribute directly to transforming India sustainably into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society by providing high-quality education to all and thereby making the nation a global knowledge superpower. The vision of the new policy is now clear: to instil among the learners a deep-rooted pride in being Indian, not only in thought, but also in spirit, intellect, and deeds, as well as to develop knowledge, skills, values, and dispositions that support responsible commitment to human rights, sustainable development and living, and global wellbeing, thereby reflecting a truly global citizen. The policy also envisages that the curriculum and pedagogy of our institutions must develop among the students a deep sense of respect towards the Fundamental Duties and Constitutional values, bonding with one’s country, and conscious awareness of one’s roles and responsibilities in a changing world.

The new educational policy envisages the current system modified with new pedagogical and curriculam restructuring from the ministry level to the grassroots level.  This will be a great step towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Thus, the foundation of literacy and numeracy is an urgent need and prerequisite for sustainability and wellbeing.

There are various urgent and necessary prerequisites for learning at this stage, and the data available show that problems in the education system need attention. Such as universal foundational literacy and numeracy in primary school, a large number of vacant posts of teachers at a different level, focus on foundational literacy and numeracy, implementation of technology for high-quality education on foundational literacy and numeracy in primary school, capacity building for teachers for improving quality education and many other prerequisites.

As we know that the ability to read and write and perform basic operations with numbers is a necessary foundation and an indispensable prerequisite for all future schooling and lifelong learning. However, various government and non-government surveys indicate that we are currently in a learning crisis. A large proportion of students currently in elementary school, estimated over five crore in number, have not attained foundational literacy and numeracy — the ability to read and comprehend text and carry out additions and subtractions.

Attaining foundational literacy and numeracy for all children shall, thus, become an urgent national mission. Immediate measures need to be taken on many fronts and with clear goals to be attained in the short term including, that every student will attain foundational literacy and numeracy by Grade 3 as per the new system. The highest priority of the education system will be to achieve universal foundational literacy and numeracy in primary school by 2025. The rest of this policy will become relevant for our students only if this most basic learning requirement i.e., reading, writing, and arithmetic at the foundational level is first achieved.  Accordingly, all State/UT Governments will have to immediately prepare an implementation plan for attaining universal foundational literacy and numeracy in all primary schools, identifying stage-wise targets and goals to be achieved by 2025, and closely tracking and monitoring the progress of the same through a setup of  National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy by the Ministry of Education.

The next step, as per the new policy, is teacher vacancies which will be filled at the earliest, in a time-bound manner especially in disadvantaged areas and areas with large pupil-to-teacher ratios or high rates of illiteracy. This is an acute problem at this time as per the unemployment situation of India to get suitable or by choice teacher among the unemployed youth.  In this situation, the new National Education Policy 2020 especially will be given to employing local teachers or those with familiarity with local languages.  Since the indicator of pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) will be ensured at the level of each school for 30 students of one teacher in a class, and in the case of areas having large numbers of socio-economically disadvantaged students will aim for a pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) for 25 students with one teacher.  Further as per the new policy the teachers will be trained, encouraged, and supported with continuous professional development and to impart foundational literacy and numeracy.

There will be also an increased focus on foundational literacy and numeracy and generally, on reading, writing, speaking, counting, arithmetic, and mathematical thinking throughout the preparatory and middle school curriculum, with a robust system of continuous formative/adaptive assessment to track and thereby individualize and ensure each student’s learning with specific hours daily and regular events over the year on activities involving these subjects will be dedicated to encourage and enthuse students. Redesign the teacher education and the early grade curriculum to have a renewed emphasis on foundational literacy and numeracy.

A national repository of high-quality resources on foundational literacy and numeracy will be made available on the Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing (DIKSHA). Thus, the technological interventions is another step to serve as aids to teachers and to help bridge any language barriers that may exist between teachers and students, will be piloted and implemented.

It was observed that due to the scale of the current learning crisis, all viable methods would be explored to support teachers in the mission of attaining universal foundational literacy and numeracy. Studies around the world show one-on-one peer tutoring to be extremely effective for learning not just for the learner but also for the tutor. Thus, peer tutoring can be taken up as a voluntary and joyful activity for fellow students under the supervision of trained teachers and by taking due care of safety aspects. Additionally, it will also be made far easier for trained volunteers from both the local community and beyond to participate in this large-scale mission. Every literate member of the community could commit to teaching one student/person how to read. It would change the nation’s landscape very quickly. States may consider establishing innovative models to foster such peer-tutoring and volunteer activities, as well as launch other programmes to support learners, in this nationwide mission to promote foundational literacy and numeracy.

Another change in the system will be a policy named National Book Promotion Policy to ensure the availability, accessibility, quality, and readership of books across geographies, languages, levels, and genres.  In this course of action, the study material for school education for students at all levels will be developed, including through high-quality translation (technology-assisted as needed) in all local and Indian languages and will be made available extensively in both school and local public libraries with the aim enjoyable and inspirational books.  The public and school libraries will be significantly expanded to build a culture of reading across the country. Digital libraries will also be established. School libraries will be set up, particularly in villages to serve the community during non-school hours, and book clubs may meet in public/school libraries to further facilitate and promote widespread reading.

At last, I want to say that children are unable to learn optimally when they are undernourished or unwell. Hence, the nutrition and health (including mental health) of children to be addressed, through healthy meals and the introduction of well-trained social workers, counsellors, and community involvement into the schooling system. Furthermore, research shows that the morning hours after a nutritious breakfast can be particularly productive for the study of cognitively more demanding subjects and hence these hours may be leveraged by providing a simple but energizing breakfast in addition to midday meals. All school children shall undergo regular National Education Policy 2020 and health check-ups, especially for complete immunization in schools, and health cards will be issued to monitor the same.

The foundational literacy and numeracy will help to achieve the successes of the targets and achievements of the Sustainable Development Goals for quality education by 2030 as committed by UN member countries in the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly during September 2016 to September 2017.  Let us hope for the successes of SDG  targets of quality education as per new policy education 2020.

Altaf Hussain Haji, ISS, is Deputy Director General National Statistical Office, Shimla. He can be contacted at altafhh@rediffmail.com

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Education

GNK hosts JAI scholarship distribution function

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GNK hosts JAI scholarship

Scholarships worth Rs 1 cr distributed among 550 meritorious students, sports achievers

 Yamunanagar (Haryana): Guru Nanak Khalsa College Yamunanagar hosted the Jamna Auto Industries Scholarship Distribution Function, a significant event aimed at recognizing and rewarding deserving meritorious students and sports achievers from the GNK Group of Institutions.

The institutions under the GNK Group umbrella include Guru Nanak Khalsa College Yamunanagar, GGS College of Pharmacy, GNK Institute of Technology and Management, and School of Employability.

A total scholarship amount of Rs 1 crore was distributed among 550 students, reaffirming the institution’s commitment to nurturing academic excellence and sporting talent. The event was graced by dignitaries, including Major Rajinder Singh Bhatti, Vice President of the Guru Nanak Khalsa College Committee; Dr Peer GN Suhail, Group COO of GNK Group of Institutions; and Sanyam Maratha, Group CSR Head of Jamna Auto Industries.

The ceremony commenced with a tree plantation ceremony, symbolizing growth and sustainability, followed by the traditional lighting of the lamp. Dr. Harinder Singh Kang, Principal of Guru Nanak Khalsa College Yamunanagar, expressed gratitude for the generous scholarships sponsored by JAI as part of their CSR initiative. Sanyam Maratha, Head of JAI CSR, shared insights into the organization’s commitment to supporting education and empowering deserving students.

Dr Peer GN Suhail presented and released the Annual Report of GNKGI during the event, highlighting the academic achievements and milestones of the institutions. The function culminated with an inspiring address by the Chief Guest, accompanied by a formal vote of thanks delivered by Dr Kumar Gaurave, Principal of GGS College of Pharmacy.

GNK hosts JAI scholarship

The event was graced by the presence and support of eminent personalities including Dr Kumar Gaurave, Dr Amit Joshi (Director GNK Institute of Technology and Management), Dr Kamalpreet Kaur (Vice Principal of Guru Nanak Khalsa College Yamunanagar), and Prof Santosh Kurra (Coordinator Incharge) alongside other esteemed staff members.

Sardar Randeep Singh Jauhar, President of the Governing Body and Managing Committee of Guru Nanak Khalsa Group of Institutions, extended heartfelt congratulations to the scholarship recipients, emphasizing the institution’s unwavering commitment to fostering excellence in education and holistic development.

The JAI Scholarship Distribution Function served as a testament to the collective efforts of institutions and organizations towards empowering deserving students and nurturing a brighter future for the community.

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Education

NIRF-2023 ranking: SKUAST-K 9th best agri institute in country

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SKUAST-K 9th best agri institute

BK News

Srinagar, June 5: Further enhancing its rising graph of accomplishments, Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir has secured ninth best agriculture institute rank in the country assessed under the National Institutional Ranking Framework-2023 of Union Ministry of Education.

The ranking and results of the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF)-2023 were announced by the Minister of State for Education and External Affairs, Dr Rajkumar Ranjan Singh in New Delhi on Monday.

In the category of ‘Agriculture and Allied Sectors, SKUAST-K is the fourth state agricultural university (SAU) which has figured among the top 10 farm institutions of the country along with IARI, NDRI, IVRI, and CIFE with a total score of 59.50. This recognition has further solidified the university’s upward trajectory of success placing it in the league of elite agricultural institutions of the country.

The NIRF ranking is the third successive national-level achievement of the SKUAST-K after being declared the country’s 6th best state agricultural university by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and categorised as the ‘Band Excellent’ under Atal Innovation Ranking last year.

SKUAST-K 9th best agri instituteVice Chancellor, SKUAST-K, Prof Nazir Ahmad Ganai, complimented the faculty, students, and non-teaching staff of the university for the tireless efforts they are making in achieving the highest standards in research, innovation and education, the reason for getting the top rank. Calling it the result of teamwork, he said, “This is the beginning of the new era and we aim to be among the top five agri-institutions of the country.”

SKUAST-K has taken a lead role in evolving a working model of NEP-2020 as well as projecting itself as a potential destination for higher education.  The improved ranking is a result of the improvement of academic standards and achievements of faculty and students at national and international levels.

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Classrooms brim with learning anew

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Classrooms brim with learning

CRY-RILM project unites kids with books

BK News

Inayat Parvaiz was a decent student in school, till the pandemic struck. His father, the only earning member in the five-member family, lost his job and was struggling to make ends meet. The young boy was forced to join his brother at a sand digging/extraction site near his village, Baniyaree Sharkie, in the Bandipora district of Jammu and Kashmir.

Inayat is among the millions of children across the country going through a huge learning lag, all because of the prolonged closure of schools during the pandemic. CRY and Rotary India Literacy Mission (RILM) carried out a study based on responses of 4000 children, in the age group of 7-14,  from 4 states in the country – Jharkhand, West Bengal, Manipur and Jammu & Kashmir – to assess the quantum of loss, and also started a slew of remedial centres to assist the children make up for the lag. There are 39 such centres across the four states.

The CRY-RILM-Jammu Kashmir Association of Social Workers (JKASW) team identified Inayat as “out of school” and visited his father. They realized that the boy was willing to pursue his studies but could not do so, because of compulsions in his family. Although reluctant at first, his parents decided to let him attend the local Asha Kiran Centre in a flexible manner. He started attending classes and also started participating in various other activities. After his initial assessment, he was enrolled in Level 2 at the Asha Kiran Centre.  But regular attendance and diligent efforts meant that the boy made an appreciable improvement. After his final assessment, he was mainstreamed into Class 6 at Govt. Middle school, Gund Prang. He attends school regularly and makes it a point to attend remedial classes at the Asha Kiran Centre to compensate for his deficiencies.

Classrooms brim with learning Classrooms brim with learning anew, the CRY-RILM project unites kids with books!

There are nine Asha Kiran Centres in three panchayat blocks of Bandipora district. Of the 565 children who joined these centres, around 16.81 per cent had dropped out of school because of the pandemic and related reasons and 64.8 per cent were found to be officially enrolled in school, but without age-appropriate learning levels. Around 44.1 per cent of the kids were found to be “poor” (learning levels at least two years behind their age-appropriate class) in basic reading skills and 45.1 per cent in basic calculations.

The stark ground reality in J&K mirrors the findings across the three other states in the country. Around 3.9 per cent of the 4000 children had been found to have dropped out because of the pandemic-induced school closure and more than 75 per cent of the children were found to be “poor” in basic reading skills and calculations.

CRY (North) Regional Director Soha Moitra is hopeful that change will happen, step by step. “The learning loss has been unparalleled, the exact ramifications of which will take longer to fathom and make up. In this post-COVID world, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to addressing the educational needs of children from underserved communities. Every community, every child and every context is unique. It is important to adopt and embrace contextually relevant and inclusive approaches that take into consideration the diverse needs and aspirations of children,” Moitra said.

Over the past eight months, the teachers at the Asha Kiran Centres in J&K have managed to bring back the children into some sort of a study environment, with regular classes, innovative Teaching-Learning Methods, extra-curricular activities and more. Students like Inayat, Tawfeeq Ahmed and several others have benefitted enormously from these classes and are showing appreciable improvement in the periodical assessments.

“The post-COVID learning assessment of 4,000 children across 4 states in the country, by CRY and Rotary India Literacy Mission, presents evidence on the severity of the learning losses incurred during school closures, and also charts out a path of recovery, phase by phase. It’s a journey full of lessons and experiences and a sustained campaign that has impacted not only the kids, but also the teachers, volunteers, parents and extended community.  Kudos to the ‘change-makers’ who are making it happen,” said Kamal Sanghvi, Chairman, Rotary India Literacy Mission.

Classrooms brim with learning

Apart from the classes, the project team has held community meetings with teachers of local schools, local panchayat members and parents, all to create a comfortable space that will help the children overcome their learning gaps and get back into mainstream education.

Tawfeeq’s father Javed Ahmed was initially reluctant to send his son to the Asha Kiran Centre. But he is happy that he had finally paid heed to the advice of the project team members who had visited him.  A few months on, the proud father says:  “Asha Kiran Centre me mera beta bahot kuch sikh raha hai. Use yahan aana achha lagta hai (My son is learning a lot at the Asha Kiran Centre. He loves to come here).

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