Researchers in India have used a new method to teach some 40,000 adults to read a newspaper in their own language. The training package runs on obsolete computers which have been adapted to run local language software. If they go wrong they’re thrown away. It takes on average 10 weeks before learners can read a paper.
Conventional literacy programmes work from the letters of the alphabet upwards. The key to the new method is that humans are good at recognizing pictures and images, so each word is taught as a picture. Once learners have reached this level they start spontaneously to identify and use individual letters.
[Via: BBC News]
I spent ten years teaching reading to teenagers and another ten working in the area of adult literacy in New Zealand. I have no experience with any Indian language. In our part of the world it’s recognised that newspapers will generally be targeted to those reading with the skill of a ten year old. It’s also known that people learn best when they have a high motivation. For example, you might introduce a non-reading skateboarder to skateboarding magazines, rather than romance novels.
It would be interesting to know more about this new teaching method and whether it might be of use in a country such as New Zealand.