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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

Education

SKUAST-K to hold 2-day international conference on impact of viral infections

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Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir is going to hold a two-daConference on impact of viral infections

BK News 

Srinagar, Nov 1: Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir is going to hold a two-day international conference on the impact of viral infections at the Shalimar campus on November 5&6 (Saturday and Sunday), 2022.

The international conference ‘Emerging and Re-emerging Viral Infections Impacting Humans, Animals, Plants, Fish and Environment’ will be part of  XXX Annual Convention of the Indian Virological Society to be held at SKUAST-K this year.

Renowned virologists and scientists including, Dr RK Ratho, PGI Chandigarh; Prof Parvaiz A Koul, SKIMS, Soura; Dr Pragya Yadav, NIV, Pune; Prof NN Barman; AAU, Assam; Dr Anirban Roy, IARI, New Delhi; Dr Amit Pandey, Bhimtal; and Dr Manoj Kumar, Hester Biosciences Limited will be keynote speakers at the conference.

The conference on viral infections is being held against the backdrop of the emergence and re-emergence of viral outbreaks like Covid-19, severe liver inflammation in kids, monkeypox, polio, and “tomato flu” etc.

The recent outbreak of the LSD virus has killed over 1 lakh cattle and is still unabated. Each viral disease appears to be the result of unusual manifestations and proliferation of viruses previously known.

The conference on viral infections will bring scientists from different disciplines at National and International levels to discuss preemptive measures for anticipating such outbreaks, control measures to be taken, and readily available diagnostic and therapeutic measures. The keynote speakers will talk about research going on emerging and re-emerging viral diseases and the policies surrounding them.

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Education

Dr Rayees bags young scientist award

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Dr Rayees bags young scientist award

BK NEWS

Srinagar: SKUAST-K faculty, Dr Mohammad Rayees Dar, has been awarded the young scientist award for outstanding contribution in the field of veterinary physiology at an event held at Gandhi Bhawan, University of Kashmir.

The award was presented at the valedictory function of a three-day international conference titled “Advances in Agricultural, Veterinary, and Allied Sciences for Improving Livelihood and Environment Security” (AAVASILES-2022), at Gandhi Bhawan, University of Kashmir.

The conference was co-hosted by the National Agriculture Development Cooperative Ltd (NADC) Baramulla, J&K, and the ICAR-Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute, Regional Research Station, Srinagar, J&K, and ICAR-NAHEP, BAU, Ranchi, Jharkhand.

dr-rayees-bags-young-scientist-awardDr Rayees, a contractual faculty at SKUAST-K’s Division of Veterinary Physiology, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, Shuhama, has PhD in Veterinary Physiology from ICAR-National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal.

He has qualified for prestigious national-level scholarship tests in India conducted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi, India. Previously, he was also selected for an advanced research workshop for “Frontiers in Stem Cells & Regeneration” at Marine Biological Laboratory, USA, where he was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, USA. He has also received honours and awards including the JN. Pandey Memorial Award by Society of Animal Physiologists, India (2014), Best Paper Award by Indian Farmer (2015); Best Poster Presentation Award by NAARRI, India (2016), Bharat Jyoti Award (2018), Best Citizens of India Award (2018), Outstanding/Best PhD Thesis Award by RARI, Jaipur, India (2019) and Best Paper (Oral Presentation) Award by NADCL, Srinagar, India (2019).

At the conference, prizes for oral and poster presentations as well as awards for distinguished and young scientists, best PG/PhD thesis, and best farmers in a variety of specific sectors like mushroom farming, horticulture, organic farming, seed production, and fodder development were given to the scientists and research scholars.

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AgriBiz

DDG ICAR on SKUAST-K visit to reviews World Bank-funded NAHEP

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DDG ICAR on SKUAST-K visit

BK Media

Srinagar, June 9: Deputy Director General (DDG) of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi, Dr Rakesh Chandra Agrawal reviewed the institutional development plan (IDP) of Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural University of Sciences and Technology of Kashmir under the World Bank-ICAR funded National Agricultural Higher Education Project (NAHEP) and presided over a series of functions here at Shalimar campus on Thursday.

Dr Agrawal, who is also the National Director of NAHEP, is on a three-day visit to SKUAST-K to assess the progress of the prestigious Rs 30-crore project awarded to the farm university in July 2019.

The DDG, while addressing the review meeting on early Thursday morning, complimented SKUAST-K for being one of the top performers under the NAHEP. He said among 64 farm universities and institutes, SKUAST-K is doing remarkably well under the project, and both ICAR and World Bank monitoring and evaluation teams have given excellent reviews and have rated the SKUAST-K performance as outstanding.

While talking about the implementation of NEP-2020 in agricultural universities, Dr Agrawal said now the focus should be on own revenue generation so that these institutions can become self-reliant by 2035 as required by the policy. He said SKUAST-K has a lot of opportunities to create its revenue model from various entrepreneurial ventures and services it can provide.

While appreciating SKUAST-K’s proactive role in sending its faculty and students for overseas trainings and exposure trips, Dr Agrawal said, to become a global university, SKUAST-K must now work on bringing international students to the university and organise international programmes. During the meeting, he also interacted with the SKUAST-K students, who are on a visit to Kansas State University, USA. He said this kind of exposure helps making students future leaders and provides them with the confidence to overcome various challenges while building their careers.

The DDG stressed providing an eco-system to students so that after leaving the university they won’t be dependent on government jobs rather open their own entrepreneurial ventures.

Vice Chancellor, SKUAST-K, Prof Nazir Ahmad Ganai, while briefing the DDG about the progress of SKUAST-K under NAHEP said that the place the university has made for itself among the top farm institutions of the country is only because of the ICAR support and NAHEP. The changes that have happened in the university and the milestones achieved are because of the NAHEP. He said the university is conducting every day an event, training or workshop under the NAHEP.

Prof Ganai said earlier that students in the university would attend classes, complete the degree and go home to wait for a job but due to exposure and skills they got because of the project have changed their mindset. Now they are thinking of themselves as the solution providers. He said that SKUAST-K has to become the agent of change to work for making the J&K farm led bio-economy of the country. He said the project has also inspired us to set the goal of becoming the first innovation-led farm university in the country.

Director Education, Prof MN Khan presented a vote of thanks. OSD to Vice Chancellor, Prof Azmat Alam Khan gave a detailed overview of the NAHEP activities carried out in the university and the impact of these activities in terms of output and outcomes. He said that the university has already four private limited companies and a number of startups are in the process of registration. All the deans, directors HODs, faculty members and students attended the meeting.

DDG ICAR on SKUAST-K visit

On the occasion, the IDP newsletter ‘Agrucation’ and some other publications of the university were also released by the DDG ICAR.

After the review meeting, Dr Agrawal visited the startup exhibition and interacted with the startup founders about their ventures. The startup founders, innovators and faculty members, who went for overseas fellowships under NAHEP, presented their ideas and outcomes. outcomes and ideas

Later, Dr Agrawal inaugurated Vice Chancellor’s Sports Festival. A cultural programme by the students under Dean Students Welfare was also presented.

For the next two days, Dr Agrawal will be visiting the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences and Faculty of Forestry, where he will visit NAHEP created facilities, attend various functions and interact with students.

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