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A campaign to promote literacy in India

By A Correspondent
April 05, 2007 03:14 IST
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Pratham USA, the United States arm of Pratham, an international social service network that promotes literacy in India, will launch in April an eight-month campaign to raise awareness among the Indian-American community and the community at large about the problems of child illiteracy in India, and raise funds to educate them.

The campaign supports the Read India movement of Pratham and follows the announcement in New Delhi of the findings of a survey commissioned by the organisation, the Annual Status of Education Report for 2006, which found more than 70 million children in India are not learning well, showing that elementary education in the country is not up to international standards.

Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission of India, released the report, which involved more than 20,000 volunteers and covered 318,761 households and 758,028 children in the age groups 3 to 16. The survey is a citizens' initiative to understand the status of elementary education in India, and the launching of the Read India campaign is the result of its findings.

This is the second year Pratham has sponsored such a survey. The 2006 ASER showed while the enrollment of children in schools is 91 percent to 95 percent (depending on age group), nearly 47 percent of children in standard (grade) 5 cannot read even standard 2 text correctly and 55 percent of them cannot do basic math like a simple division.

Pratham USA has been funding Pratham programs since 1998. Last year, it has contributed about $2.3 million for Pratham's direct programs. By the April-December 2007 campaign, it plans to promote a special Read India sponsorship program with a goal to raise at least $10 million in two years. It estimates the campaign will cost $15 million over the two-year period.

Pratham USA will launch its RI promotion in New York City in late April. 'Our media strategy is to take advantage of the numerous national morning television shows, news network headquarters and national and international media headquartered in the New York area,' a spokesperson said.

'Specifically, we would target the top ten media in terms of viewership, circulation and influence, along with the Indian media.' It proposes to create a web site -- -- for the campaign.

'We also plan to engage corporate foundations in a conversation about the RI launch, which will result in 70 million children in India reading, writing and performing basic math skills within two years. This is certainly the world's most ambitious literacy program,' the spokesperson said.

'ASER 2006 had one silver lining. Madhya Pradesh, India's largest state by geographical area, showed a quantum improvement of 50 percent in learning levels. For a state, which featured in the bottom five in ASER 2005, it has jumped ahead to the top five amongst the 26 states of India. This improvement was possible due to the Learning to Read campaign led by Pratham in 2006,' the organisation said, adding that it wants to take its proven solution nationwide.

Pratham's goal now is to ensure that every child in India can read and do math at a basic level by March 2009. The Read India Campaign will address the issue by involving state governments in phased programs that will focus on four major components: Introducing 'learning to read' activities in all schools, creating and supplying reading and learning materials to teachers, involving mothers in children's learning and evaluating this project consistently.

'Twelve years ago, when Pratham was founded, the goal of having every child in school in learning well seemed like an impossible dream,' said Vijay Goradia, chairman, Pratham USA. 'While the latest ASER study shows that major problems continue in the Indian educational system, successes like that of Madhya Pradesh show a partnership with Pratham can make a huge difference.'

Pratham USA, headquartered in Houston, has chapters in Houston, Dallas, the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut tri-state area, Los Angeles, Bay Area, Raleigh, Chicago and Boston.

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