We need reading specialists at our schools
Recently I had an opportunity to hear one of the greatest thinkers and linguists G. N Devy. In his talk he explains "word is the world". He says, It is impossible to imagine a world without words.
I could immediately connect the importance of this phrase with the work teachers at Delhi Government schools have been doing for the last 3 months. We named it "Mission Buniyaad". It was a targeted campaign with defined objectives. The goal was to prepare students to read grade appropriate text. The children who cannot read or write still have a world, but reading and writing make their worlds more beautiful.
The campaign ended on 15th of June. Thousands of our teachers prioritized their time for the students when they had an opportunity to enjoy summer vacation.
From this campaign, we can draw some valuable insights
There was an effort to make reading a fun activity mixed with hands-on practices, music and dance. People, active on social media could have seen many such dance videos where teachers are dancing along with the students.
Despite the tremendous effort made by teachers we could still find some students who could not make much progress. Ask the teachers- and a common answer is "they were not regular". Efforts were made to make the students attend the classes on a regular basis. However, a small percentage of students could not make it. The problem doesn't lie with the students or their parents; we have to find it in our larger socio-cultural and economic milieu.
In the government schools most of the students come from economically disadvantaged sections of the society. They have migrated from different parts of the country with their parents. Their parents work in a volatile job market. In many cases, they lose their jobs, leaving them no choice but to send their kids back home.
A family cannot avoid attending rituals, festivals, functions, and traditional practices. A school calendar cannot accommodate all the cultural practices that people practice in a multicultural country like India. Thus, it is inevitable that some of our students will not be able to attend school on a regular basis.
Taking these two factors into account, I wonder can we could have a reading specialist in each of our schools throughout the year? The challenge is recurring, so this can be a sustainable solution. An average school would not be able to ensure that every student attending the school can read and write at any given time. By appointing a reading specialist or promoting a teacher to a reading specialist, we can address the problem. During the campaign, we appointed and trained mission buniyaad in charge. Nevertheless, the job was perceived to be one that required keeping records. I am proposing the one where I assume the teacher is a reading specialist. The teacher, trained as a reading specialist will have access to all the new tools and resources available in this domain. I believe this is going to be one of the effective solutions of the challenge.