A class apart

Activist Madhav Chavan has been using innovative methods to spread literacy and recently won the WISE Prize for his efforts

How to teach students to read and write properly, when they have already been taught that for three to five years? Ask Dr Madhav Chavan. He has a solution.

And Dr Chavan has been putting his methods to good use, reaching millions of children.

The work his NGO Pratham does in providing basic education to children in slums across Mumbai and other areas of Maharashtra recently won Dr Chavan the WISE Prize, known as the "Nobel for education".

"We observed through our research that more than 30 per cent students between class 3 and class 5 cannot even read basic sentences," says Dr Chavan.

"Most of our education system is geared for those who stay for five-six years in schools. But it can be observed that students find it most difficult to learn reading, writing and understanding words and letters even in class 5, he says.

"Through research, we realised that memorising is crucial to learning basic alphabets and words. Reading, coding, decoding and such other patterns help children make linkages. At present, too much importance is given to knowledge but in the initial stages of education, until class 5, stress should be on reading and writing," he says.

He feels children, in view of the skewed teacher-student ratio in primary schools in the city and other parts of the state do not receive the optimum attention to ensure they are learning words and letters well enough to be able to write and understand lessons properly,

Dr Chavan believes his methods can help children, who find it difficult to understand what is written on the blackboard, learn to read and write and clear the backlog of previous years.

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