TARA Akshar is a laptop based functional literacy programme including basic Arithmetic, developed by TARAhaat Information and Marketing Services Ltd. - the ICT arm of Development Alternatives (DA) Group, which trains an illiterate person to read and write and do basic mathematical calculations in just 98 contact hours. This is done through 2 hour classes daily over approximately 49 days.
The software uses a mix of
a. Advanced memory techniques like memory hooks through animated movies.
b. Strong learning reinforcement mechanisms using rapid-fire video gaming concepts.
c. Uses a technique similar to that of ‘Synthetic Phonics’, in which the letter sounds are taught first and then sounds are blended together to achieve pronunciation of whole words.
The other innovative elements that constitute the uniqueness of this approach are:
Cutting edge software and techniques
• Innovative teaching mechanisms using visual imagery and video gaming concepts that result in effective retention and reinforcement.
• TARA Akshar uses cartoon animations.
• TARA Akshar uses the "Laubach Method", whereby students are shown a drawing where the letter is in the shape of an object, the word for which BEGINS with that letter.
• TARA Akshar uses a full combination of aural, visual and kinesthetic memory techniques to aid letter-sound retention.
• TARA Akshar uses rapid-fire computer-generated quizzes to reinforce learning.
• Most importantly, TARA Akshar uses the Laubach method AND animates the Laubach objects into proper cartoon stories featuring those objects.
TARA Akshar program has had an enormous and far-reaching impact on the communities where is has been implemented. Since its inception and operations about three and half years ago, it has addressed the literacy needs of over 57,000 women across 7 of the most severely affected northern Indian states and more than 97% have passed.
In order to carry out the implementation of the programme it got support from DFID, Oxfam, Telecenter.org, Connect for Change, Suzlon Foundation, UNDP and many individual donors. The support of these programmes has helped us reaching out to the remotest location and makes women literate.
At present the programme is running in Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh with the support from Connect for Change, UNDP and in Rajasthan with support from State Resource Center - Jaipur, an autonomous body of Ministry of Human Resources Development, Govt. of India.
Our concept primarily addresses the problem of adult illiteracy among women and girls through ICT based innovative teaching programme titled TARA Akshar.
Many studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between several developmental indicators and level of literacy of the population. Developing nations where more than 50% of women are illiterate, high rate of female foeticide, infant mortality rate, maternal mortality rate and a vast majority below the poverty line. Illiterate women remain the poorest of the poor even when they play an essential role in their economical development of their families and the communities.
Existing conditions - the context in India: Illiteracy is a cause of concern in India. The female literacy rate according to 2001 census is 54%. There has been lot of factors that are responsible for poor female literacy rate. Some are gender based inequality, social discrimination and economic exploitation, lack of awareness and seeing the value and contribution to household well being, domestic responsibilities over literacy, low female enrolment in schools, low retention rate and high dropout rate, lack of time to attend classes, income generation superseding the need to learn to read and write and lack of facilities to practice reading and writing. Despite a national initiative to address the problems above, the results are still far from satisfactory. Most of the existing literacy programmes are ineffective primarily due to the traditional nature of the implementation methodology, ineffective teaching and poor retention ability, additionally long duration of courses causing many to drop out, inaccessibility of literacy centers in remote areas, overlap of teaching hours with the working hours, lack of well-trained and committed instructors, inadequately planned programmes.
The objective and goal of this programme is to reach out and make all the illiterates women in Hindi speaking region of India literate in a fast and effective manner and reach at at least achieving 85% literacy rate in the Northern hindi speaking belt of India.
TARA Akshar is a complete laptop based functional literacy programme that teaches an illiterate to read and write in Hindi and basics of numeracy in 98 contact hours through 2 hour classes daily over approximately 49 days. The usage of ICT in the programme has helped in: 1. Innovative teaching mechanism that helps in Effective retention and reinforcement 2. There is no need of high quality instructor and hence the instructors will be picked from the local community. This provides a familiar atmosphere to the women at the center. 3. The programme finish at fast and effective manner: This helps in low drop out of women as they have less time needed for this. 4. The usage of ICT and mainly laptops helped in reaching to the remotest locations and also to the location without worrying about the availability of electricity.
The primary target group of this group has been marginalized women and girls in the age group of 15 years and above. Since its inception and operations about three and half years ago, it has addressed the literacy needs of over 57,000 women across 7 of the most severely affected northern Indian states. The detailed breakup list of the impact is shown in the table below: Total Number of Literates Made by TARA Akshar State Total No of Literates Made Pass Percentage Bihar 15,466 95% Jharkhand 9,479 98% Uttar Pradesh 14,518 99% Madhya Pradesh 16,367 98% Delhi Region 69 73% Haryana 1,361 94% Rajasthan 144 82% Total 57,404 97%
The first major milestone in the histroy of the programme is the grant recieved from DFID under PACS programme to make more than 40,000 women literate.
The second major milestone/achievement happened when the programme got recognition from the Directorate of Adult Education, Govt. of India as an innovative ICT based tool for the implementation of adult literacy programme in fast and effective manner.