Over the past decade, research conducted across government schools confirms that India has a major reading and comprehension skill problem. This issue is across languages i.e. the first language (often mother tongue) and second/ third languages as per school curriculum.
According to ASER 2016, only 45.2% of children from grade 8 could read simple sentences in English. This is a matter of great concern since English has become the lingua-franca of the knowledge economy. It is socially-empowering and can open up new opportunities for children in higher education and across vocations.
ASER 2016 states that only 22.8% of the children in government schools in West Bengal can read a basic sentence in English. This is less than the national reading average and there are various initiatives underway in the state to address the issue.
Given the scale of the reading challenge, immediate action is the need of the hour. With the latest developments in technology-aided reading, the opportunity to leverage technology to enhance English literacy cannot be ignored.
RightToRead: Technology-Enabled Reading and Comprehension Program
RightToRead is a reading and comprehension program that uses technology to enhance the English literacy of the students of government schools in India. The program aims to play a key role in solving the education crisis in India.
In 2015, EnglishHelper and USAID joined hands to take RightToRead to West Bengal. The project, across more than 1000 schools, was implemented in partnership with Schoolnet. This large-scale project aimed to improve the reading ability of students in primary schools in West Bengal. The program reached 1.7 lakh students spread across 12 districts in the state
Measuring the Impact
An independent third-party assessment was conducted in 2017 to examine the impact of the RightToRead program in West Bengal. A randomized control design was chosen for the assessment. The baseline and endline tests were conducted across grades 5 and 6 covering around 5000 students.
The assessment highlighted the impact of RightToRead. The results reflected an overall improvement in the performance of the students. Students of grade 5 showed an improvement of 24% over baseline scores, and grade 6 showed an improvement of over 26%. Improvements were observed across all aspects of English reading and comprehension. The assessments validated the positive impact of ReadToMe® classes on the students covered by the program.
English Literacy for All: West Bengal, The Road Ahead
The positive impact of ReadToMe® enabled classes in the state has provided confidence to expand the program in West Bengal. In 2019, the Government of West Bengal requested the partners to implement RightToRead in 2650 schools in West Bengal.
Teachers are trained in the use of the AI-enabled multisensory reading and comprehension software, ReadToMe®. To date, trainings have been conducted across 23 districts in the state. The partners conduct interactive and experiential workshops for teachers. These workshops provide them with strategies to include ReadToMe® in the curriculum without adding more layers of work. Over the next few weeks, more than 7000 teachers will be trained across the state and will commence using ReadToMe® in class!
The partners will continue to assess the impact of the program on the expanded footprint. Over 2.5 million students will be exposed to this technology-enabled reading method. RCT model with baseline and endline tests will be leveraged to track outcomes.
West Bengal has around 83 thousand government schools with 14 million school-going children. RightToRead demonstrates that technology can reach each school and benefit every child within a short period of time. West Bengal is poised to make a difference in its education system and create a model for replication across the country.
To know how to use ReadToMe® picture dictionary tool please click here.
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