Welcome to the BAICE e-forum, again! Today’s discussions are facilitated by Ms. Malini Ghose, Founder member of Nirantar, India.
Malini Ghose has worked in the fields of literacy, education and women’s rights for over 20 years, in various capacities – as a grassroots practitioner, trainer, curriculum developer, researcher and advocate. She has provided technical assistance to government and NGO interventions and engaged with policy development on gender and education related issues, nationally and internationally. Malini is a founder-member of Nirantar, a resource centre for gender and education in New Delhi, India. She has an M.A. in Political Science from the New School for Social Research, New York. She is presently a PhD scholar in Social Sciences at the Centre for Modern Indian Studies at the University of Göttingen, Germany.
Issues for Discussion
Recently there has been a growing interest in the use of ICTs in literacy programmes, in policy and practitioner circles.
ICTs are offered as the solution to several challenges facing adult literacy programmes – low quality, poor results, lack of learner motivation, and paucity of resources. ICT-based literacy packages claim to make people literate within very short timeframes and with minimal investments in teacher/facilitator training.
Then there are the sceptics who argue that a simple “technological fix” cannot address the complexities confronting adult literacy programmes or larger issues: of the digital divide, for instance.
What does the field reality look like? I would like to initiate the discussion by briefly sharing some observations from a meeting I attended with women learners in rural North India, organised by an NGO exploring the possibility of introducing a mobile based literacy programme (a donor had expressed interest).
As the facilitator waved and circulated her mobile phone the excitement in the group was palpable as few in the group had regular access to phones. Many were not ‘allowed’ to use phones of male family members or felt scared to (in case something went wrong). When I asked one of the women how she managed to navigate her way, as she couldn’t read, she said giggling, “I put a picture along with the names. My husband is a sheep.” “It’s a phone, I use it to speak. Why do I need to read?” complained another woman. Another countered her and said she had learnt the English numbers after getting her phone. (Excerpted from field report)
- Is the optimism around ICTs overstated? Can ICTs offer a transformative learning experience or will they only serve to reinforce existing iniquitous social and economic relations?
- The above field situation points to several complexities, including the exercise of power relations, as well as the possibilities. Do any of these observations resonate with your experiences or do you have different ones that you would like to share?
- Being a relatively new area of enquiry, not much research is available. What kind of a research agenda do you think would be useful to strengthen literacy programmes or unravel some of the complexities being discussed?
- The use of ICTs have changed people’s literacy, numeracy and communication practices yet these have not found their way into literacy classes, training or curricula. What kinds of collaborative research or other projects could support such efforts?
- The focus of ICT interventions seems to be limited to improving teaching and learning or improving learners’ access to information. Shouldn’t greater efforts be made to ensure that the voices of adult learners are heard on social media or digital platforms?