More than one-third of India’s population is illiterate. We are also home to the largest number of adult illiterates in the world; and that too after 66+ years of Independence. Clearly, our illiteracy eradication programs need to be infused with lots of fresh ideas, and a sense of intense urgency. The leisurely approach of motivation and persuasion followed by the national, and other public and private literacy missions, will just not do.
These are impatient times. People want fast-tracking of policies, decisions, actions and results in every sphere. The modes and methodology of literacy programs have to be novel, out-of-the-box, and tuned to deliver superfast results in a very short target time. A decade is distant. We must act now to make India 100% literate in 5 years or less! It can be done. And it can be done through the very ordinary TV set that every Indian views at any time of the day. What is required is just adopting and adapting the brand marketing concepts and approach of the ad world: keep repeating an advertisement at frequent intervals, and get the music and visuals embedded in the viewer’s mind effortlessly.
The How of it
The visual and the auditory senses are enough to register and embed alphabets, words and their sounds in the mind. The idea is to project alphabets with corresponding sounds, and (progressively) single, double and multi-syllable words of daily use interestingly on the screen for 10 to 15 seconds every 2-3 hours of regular programming. Imaginatively conceived alphabet and word animations, synchronized with catchy tunes will hold anyone’s attention, and be retained for a long, long time after the projection. Spare a slot in-between ads or programs for a beautifully composed musical graphic of alphabets and words. It will not just be a wonderful audio-visual experience for the young and old, scholar or illiterate, but also an involuntary learning experience as the alphabets, words and tunes get registered effortlessly in their minds. Imagine a simple clip. Say a colorful bag throwing up jumbled, agitated alphabets in myriad of colors, which then get shuffled around to music, then get placed in proper order with their specific sounds called out, and finally get collected and rushed back into the bag, which shrinks and disappears. That’s all! Then the regular program continues…. till the same or another equally imaginatively composed alphabet-word clip takes over for 10 seconds or less. Say this happens 10 different times across the day. Instinctively, the viewers’ minds will register and retain the alphabet-tune combination for a long time. And with single, double or multi-syllable words progressively getting introduced (in addition to the initial simple alphabet-graphics-music projections off and on to maintain continuity), there will be many who will involuntarily have started recognizing and reading the alphabets and words projected without conscious effort! It has been noted that most viewers retain interesting visuals and catchy tunes in their minds if exposed to them often. With an imaginatively conceived and sustained projection of alphabet-graphics-music combine, almost every illiterate person in the village or city in India will be able to read his mother tongue or State/national language (whichever is projected) within a year or so of the start of such programs.
Abundance of Talent, Versatility
India has such an abundance of talent by way of language teachers, artists, lyricists, music composers and producers that, with their enthusiastic participation, the remaining generation of illiterates in the country can be made literate within 5 years without much special effort. If the government and corporates can sponsor such literacy clips on a long term basis regularly as a public service, the economics of spreading literacy through TV can be very attractive. Is there any corporate/TV channel willing to give it a try? It will be a true service to the nation.
By Jagannath Sharma