New Delhi (India), March 28: Travelling from Lucknow to India’s capital New Delhi, a surprise squadron of Kindergarten to Grade 2 students addressed a press conference at the Press Club of India , to help the world solve one its greatest problems in education – that of universal literacy and numeracy.
The jaws dropped as these dozen little 5-7-year-olds read out passages randomly selected by the audience from the day’s newspapers in both English and Hindi. They further demonstrated their one-grade-up mathematical skills. They have learned these foundational skills in just 30 hours over three months followed by practice for fluency. Not just them, most of their classmates are doing equally well, this despite school closures most of the last two years due to COVID.
Dr Sunita Gandhi, the program creator of the groundbreaking pedagogy ‘Global Dream Toolkit’ which incorporates the ‘Accelerating Learning for All’ (ALfA), is a well-known educator whose family runs the world’s largest school.
Speaking on the occasion, Gandhi said: “The classic problem in education has been that of speed. Global Dream Toolkits counters the notion that it takes three plus years to make a child capable of reading and basic numeracy. When children learn rapidly, it expands capacities, and creates new possibilities. The world can now become literate in months, not years, or decades. One more year without rapid gains in learning can be disastrous. Education is a worldwide emergency. Urgent action is required today, not tomorrow.”
These little ambassadors for literacy demanded that the policy-makers treat education as an emergency, ensure foundational literacy and numeracy for all children, and do it within this year using disruptive methods as they have used to learn quickly.
Universal literacy and numeracy is a Sustainable Development Goal. According to UNICEF, education loss is ‘nearly unsurmountable’. In low- and middle-income countries, learning losses due to school closures have left up to 70 per cent of 10-year-olds unable to read or understand a simple text, up from 53 per cent pre-pandemic.In the US, learning losses have been observed in many states. In Texas, for example, two-thirds of children in Grade 3 tested below their grade level in math in 2021, compared to half of children in 2019.
To acquire these skills rapidly, the children have used the Global Dream Toolkit which also includes the Accelerating Learning for All (ALfA) pedagogy. Each study module is a self-teacher. Children learn in pairs. Teachers prompt the children to their tasks, but do not teach. Almost anyone can be a teacher.
Global Dream is available in twenty-five of the world’s languages including Swahili, Arabic, French, Spanish, English,Urdu, Gujarati and others. The goal by the end of 2022 is to replicate them in 100 languages of the world.
Currently, the Val Verde County in California is trying out ALfA literacy, and the Cucamonga School District, also in California, is beginning with numeracy. The program has been endorsed by Literacy Chicago for adult literacy. It is beginning to be adopted through partnerships across Africa, Latin America and other parts of the world. A Global Advisory Committee for Disruptive Literacy consists of members from some fifteen countries, and includes legendary educators Ernesto Schiefelbein of Chile and Aïcha Bah Diallo of Guinea.
Menka Sharma, a teacher using these groundbreaking methods said, “Global Dream is transformative. This will become the way of the future. The learning process is joyful and liberating for the children and the teacher. The children decode and blend by themselves. There is no need to measure learning gaps or personalize learning. Almost all of the children grow above grade level at extraordinary speed. We can never go back to the tedious methods of the past. Besides, the ALfA processes integrate the 21st Century Skills of Character, Citizenship, Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, and Critical Thinking.”
The children were accompanied by their parents. Kanika Jain, the mother of 5-year-old Ridhima said, “ALfA is working like magic. The children are highly motivated. They understand more, and learning is exploding.”
A senior bureaucrat and former Chief Secretary of India’s largest state Uttar Pradesh, Alok Ranjan, said: “When I was coming down from the corridor of these kids’ school, I went to the various classrooms and talked to these children and made them read, and they were reading as fluently as they are reading in front of you, almost all of them. So that is remarkable.”