Specially-Trained Instructors To Raise Indian Literacy

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New Delhi, Sep 23 (UNI) India's 11th Five Year Plan incorporates the notion of life long education, a symposium in New York was told by an Indian Minister today.

Minister of State for Human Resource Development D Purandeswari said the switch facilitated a significant reassessment of the programme, which once suffered from a ''fragmented approach.'' The focus in the White House symposium, hosted and chaired by United States' First Lady Laura Bush, and attended by 200 dignitaries from the world over, was on 'Advancing Global Literacy; Building a Foundation for Freedom.' ''From the earlier sequential and fragmented approach of basic literacy The National Literacy Mission is developing a series of instruments (or) models to facilitate this process,'' she said.

As noted by Purandeswari, excerpts of whose address were made available in New Delhi, the event was intended to encourage subsidised global and country-level leadership in promotion of literacy.

Universal primary education by 2015-- seven years from now-- is one of Millennium Development Goals set by world leaders who met in New York in 2000.

Citing a United Nations estimate that there are still 774 million illiterate people in the world, Purandeswari said, ''this reminds us that we are way behind the targets of Global Literacy.'' She said, ''we must renew our efforts more vigorously to achieve our accepted goal of universal literacy.'' Literacy, she said, was not just to ''mechanically decode'' the alphabet.

She recalled Swami Vivekananda's words: ''Real education is that by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded and by which one can stand on one's own feet.'' But to achieve this status, literacy should not be confined merely to signing one's name or learning a few letters of alphabet.

It must ''provide learners the space and time to come together to reflect upon, and to understand their positions and, through this process of reflection and articulation, generate organisational energy and catalyse social action.'' ''We should aim at ushering this paradigm shift in the concept of literacy,'' she said.

She told participants' India's $1.5 billion 11th Plan outlay for Adult Education was ''a very significant enhancement'' over the combined outlays of 715 million dollars for the 8th, 9th and 10th Plan periods.

She told experts ''there are areas'' in India-- ''educationally deprived and isolated''-- where volunteers may not be available within the village for teaching, because of ''very low'' education levels.

She said such areas would be provided specially trained instructors from outside.

''The instructors will be especially chosen for their sensitivity to issues of gender and caste equality, and their commitment to constitutional values of democracy and secularism.'' She said ''we are committed to providing a second chance to young adults and adolescents who lost the opportunity for formal schooling.'' Among other things, the new approach was to try to ensure: -- That literacy is combined with skills for enhancement of livelihood, security and purchasing power provided under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act; -- That literacy is synergised with determinants of good health-- nutrition, sanitation, hygiene and safe drinking water; -- That literacy is incorporated with political empowerment, particularly of women elected to local self governments; -- That literacy reinforces and augments India's nation-wide campaign for Right to Information and through that process leads to an informed citizenry, crucial to any democracy; and -- That literacy is intrinsically linked with universalisation of elementary education of equitable quality, so that the fresh flow of illiteracy is arrested.

Purandeswari quoted from United Progressive Alliance chairman Sonia Gandhi's address to the 4th UNESCO Regional Conference in support of Global Literacy held in New Delhi last year.

''Through the instrument of literacy and education for all, let us work together to ensure that societies remain enriched by the best traditions of their own heritage and yet remain open to the light of science and progressive thought and that our societies are freed from poverty, from prejudice; from oppression, discrimination, inequality and violence.'' UNI MJ RP NS2038

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