[lowcostcomputing] Fw: [bytesforall_readers] Literacy software... available on afree-for-non-commercial-use basis

  • From: Sankarshan Mukhopadhyay <sankarshanmukhopadhyay@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: Low Cost Computing <lowcostcomputing@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 18 Dec 2003 04:11:10 +0530

----- Original Message -----
From: "Frederick Noronha (FN)" <fred@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <bytesforall_readers@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2003 1:02 sandhya
Subject: [bytesforall_readers] Literacy software... available on a
free-for-non-commercial-use basis

> This reply was sent out to one specific query. Guess it applies for
> interested too. FN
> It is always good to be sharing information with like minded
> and organisations.
> As you may have learned from my friend, Fred Noronha, and perhaps a
> of the website, www.tataliteracy.com, Tata Consultancy Services has
> working in this field since May 2000.  As of now our computer based
> functional literacy programme has offerings in Hindi, Marathi,
> Tamil and Telugu.
> More than 30,000 persons have become functionally literate in
Andhra, Tamil
> Nadu and other smaller locations in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
> requires the use of a sound enabled computer, Pentium 1 will
suffice and we
> encourage the use of primers of the State Resource Centres of NLM
which are
> inexpensive to procure.
> We provide the software on free-for-non-commercial-use basis on a
CD Rom.
> I am sending a few items of interest.
> In case you would like to have a CD, do let us know something of
> initiatives for literacy by radio, and send your postal address and
> telephone number.
> Best wishes,
> Anthony Lobo
> Tata Consultancy Services
> Air India Building  10th Flr  # 71
> Nariman Point   Mumbai 400 021
> Tel 56689378 (d)  56689999 (bd)
> AnthonyL@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> corp soc responsibility : adult literacy prog
> * * *
> >From Frederick Noronha
> WHAT DO you do with a population of close to 300 million
iliterates, who
> can
> speak their native languages, but cannot read or write in them? Do
we see
> them merely as empty stomachs, and a burden on the nation? Or, is
this an
> untapped potential, which can be converted into 600 million useful
> If a project by premier Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) can find
the right
> partners, and hit critical mass, then this large section could be
> into productive individuals who can read signboards. Maybe even the
> text of a newspaper in under 40 hours of learning-time.
> Retired Major General B G Shively's recent mission to the Goa port
town of
> Vasco da Gama saw him take on an unusual enemy -- illiteracy. It
also took
> to India's smallest state an innovative campaign that brings
> near
> the dream of making India literate.
> Says Pune-based Shively: "Every adult has inborn qualities (and
> intelligence). You only have to activate it."
> This military-man now consulting advisor to the Tata Consultancy
> literacy plan suggests that the computer can turn into a magic wand
> sorts, to spread reading skills without the need for a huge army of
> teachers.
> Quite some work has already been done by TCS in Andhra Pradesh,
> Telugu.
> Hindi, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil and Bengali are the other languages
> on.
> Gujarati is shaping up.
> What's more, there's an added bonus: India could become
> literate in just three to four years time, if -- and this is a big
if --
> this method is vigorously implemented.
> How does it work? Simple. The software giant TCS is using low-end
> to take out the monotony from teaching, piggy-backing on the
> already undertaken by the National Literacy Mission, and treating
> very differently from children when it comes to teaching them.
> Some rules: don't make an adult sit for tests. Don't get caught up
> writing, as the difficulties involved acts as a major disincentive.
> skills are most important. Adults can't be made to study alphabets
the same
> way children unquestioningly take to it.
> "One-third of our population -- old, young and adults -- are
> Some 150-200 million are adult illiterates between 15-50 years.
> is a major social concern," says Shively.
> Growing at 1.3% per annum roughly, literacy is creeping in just too
> to make a difference for India's efficiency. That's where, says
> computers come in.
> Software generated by TCS, which is given to volunteer groups
> tries to teach adults to learn to read a language by words, rather
than the
> traditional method of learning by alphabets.
> In the Goa Shipyard Limited, one of India's military-run building
> the concept recently drew interest. Sixty workers signed-up to
learn the
> most important of the 3 Rs. Andhra is however the state where this
> has made the most progress.
> "There's almost nothing the teacher has to speak. Everything is in
> software. So teachers can run 5-6 classes (one-hour) classes in a
> without getting tired. You don't need a trained teacher (because of
> software)," says Shively.
> In 40-hours flat, an illiterate could be turned into a 'functional
> literate', claims the major-general. This would enable one to read
> newspaper headlines, check out bus directions, read signboards and
> like.
> Hopefully, such skills could be deepened over time.
> Their ideas are put out on the site www.tataliteracy.com, and the
TCS is
> claiming a good response even from a few industrial groups wanting
to gift
> their workers with literacy.
> To avoid reinventing the wheel, the TCS -- which sees this venture
as part
> of its philanthropic endeavours -- is working in tandem with the
> government-run National Literacy Mission primers.
> So what happens if literacy comes in 40 hours, instead of 200?
> rates are low. It wouldn't take India another 20-25 years to touch
> literacy (three to four years are enough, says TCS), and the
> factors' are knocked off. Trained teachers are no longer the
> This project has been talked about for some time now. This writer
> first reading about it sometime in mid-2000. Perhaps it has not
been able
> to
> spread far and wide, because of a lack of effective linkages with
> individuals who could take it ahead. Particularly non-profit
> and corporates who share this vision. Also, having the software
under the
> GPL (General Public License) could perhaps make it easily sharable,
> improvable, and yet make clear the major contribution put in by the
> It perhaps makes good sense to take on computers as an ally in
> iliiteracy. We have a huge problem: Nearly 350 million Indians
cannot read
> or write.  Of these, about 200 million are adult illiterates...
> Even five-and-half decades after Independence we have not been able
> tackle this problem. Comparing China with India, TCS argues that
> from
> other factors that build the economy, it would appear that the
level of
> literacy affects the economy in many dimensions". Between 1990 and
> India's literacy crept up from 52.5 per cent to just 65.5 per cent.
In this
> time, China's grew from 73 to 92 per cent. Malaysia's literacy
touches 87$,
> Thailand's is 95%, and that of South Korea, 99%.
> In ten years, over the nineties, India's literacy rate showed only
a ten
> per
> cent increase. "At this rate, it will take at least another 30
years to
> reach a literacy level fo 90-95%", argues TCS. To come out with an
> innovative solution, a team lead by F.C.Kohli -- along with Prof P
N Murthy
> and Prof K V Nori -- has been studying the how to make a low-cost,
> technology-based effective solution to India's literacy problems.
> This method's goals are to give a 300-500 word vocabulary to
learners in
> their own languages. (As noted above, five major Indian languages
> currently covered. Many more are waiting to be done.) This skill
> enable them to read a simple newspaper.
> The idea is to help adult learns build an association between
sounds and
> their graphic presentation. Familiar words -- and their written
forms --
> are
> broken down into syllables and the written form, finally ending in
> alphabet and their sounds. The focus is on learning words rather
> alphabets.
> Explains TCS: "This method focuses on reading, the most important
of the 3
> Rs in literacy. Once this is achieved, a person can accelerate
learning to
> the other Rs through the use of the reading skill. In other words,
> reading ability is expected to act as a trigger to develop the full
> of literacy."
> CBFL, or Computer-Based Functional Literacy as the TCS calls it, an
> interesting but not-adequately noticed project from the Tata Group,
> it can make "90% of India functionally literate in three to five
> It uses animated graphics and a voice-over to explain how
> alphabets combine to give structure and meaning to various words.
It is
> designed from education material developed by the National
Literacy. The
> CBFL method employs puppets or lively images as the motif in the
> process.
> Lessons are tailored to fit different languages. They focus on
reading, and
> are based on the theories of cognition, language and communication.
> the emphasis on learning words rather than alphabets, the project
> thought processes with the objective of teaching these words in as
short a
> time span as possible. The settings for the lessons are visually
> stimulating
> and crafted in a manner that learners can easily relate to (the
> idiom)," say the project promoters.
> Voiceovers reinforce the learner's ability to grasp the lessons
easily, and
> repetition adds to the strengthening of what is learned. The method
> implemented by using computers and 'flashcards' (small cards, with
> alphabets written on them). The computer delivers the lessons
('shows') in
> multimedia form to the learners. The flashcards, which have letters
> on them, support the process by fortifying what has been absorbed
and by
> helping beneficiaries memorise what they have learnt.
> Claimed advantages of this approach include:
> * Acceleration in the pace of 'learning to read' (it takes about
> of the time that writing-oriented methods require).
> * Flexibility in adjusting to individual learning speeds.
> * Lower dropout rates in comparison with other adult literacy
> programmes.
> * Does not require trained teachers or large-scale infrastructure.
> * Can be conducted on computers with configurations as low as 486
> (these are the kind of machines that many organisations can afford
to give
> away).
> * Can effectively enhance existing adult-literacy programmes.
> * The multimedia format ensures that the pronounication of the
> words/letters is taught accurately through the system, rather than
> left to individual teachers. This is particularly useful for
languages like
> Tamil, where the same letter can be pronounced differently (based
on the
> context). See http://www.tataliteracy.com/how_it_works.htm
> Other initiatives to battle the huge problem of illiteracy are also
> underway. Some time back, Atanu Dey <atanu@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> was
> with raising funds for a few primary schools run in rural Andhra
> (see www.indiarural.org).
> "For the cost of training one student in IIT (India's prestigious
> of
> engineering higher education) for one year, we can provide basic
> skills and a midday meal for 200 students for a year," says Dey who
was at
> the University of California in Berkeley
> Then, there has also been CALP -- which uses puzzles, games and
> which
> would interest the young mind while in the background teaching the
> language.
> It has been made by Pratham, for CRY
> For a lot more information, check out the National Literacy
Mission's site
> nlm.nic.in which also offers a link to various technical software
on which
> language solutions can be built (tdil.mit.gov.in)
> This ties up with with the initiative of educationists like Brij
> of
> IIM-Ahmedabad. Kothari's emphasis is on strengthening the skills of
> neo-literates, by using same-language subtitling for the lyrics of
> television filmi songs so popular across the country.
> This software runs even on earlier-generation higher-end 486 PCs
with 16 MB
> RAM and free hard-disk space of half a GB or more. Multimedia
support is
> needed for the speakers. Their goal? Accelerating adult literacy in
> through the effective use of IT.
> -------------------------------------------------------------------
> Please use as an enclosed box:
> -------------------------------------------------------------------
> Some links you might find useful:
> Maj Gen B G Shively, AVSM (Retd)
> Consulting Advisor, Tata Consultancy Services, Pune
> bshively@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Anthony Lobo, TCS, Air India Bldg, 10th Floor,
> Nariman Point, Mumbai 400021 Tel 56689378
> anthonyl@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> National Literacy Mission (India) site
> http://nlm.nic.in
> http://www.tataliteracy.com
> Site explaining the TCS idea of promoting functional literacy
>  low-end computers.

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