Thursday, 18 November 2021

NEP Tallk Series: Circular Development for Foundational Literacy: What the Science of Reading Tells Us by Dr Nidhi Vinayak

The Department of Sociology and Social Work Student Association, in conjunction with Socius, Applied Sociology Students Collective, invited Dr Nidhi Vinayak for a talk on “Curricular Development for Foundational Literacy: What the Science of Reading Tells Us”.

Dr Nidhi commenced the lecture series by throwing an open question to the audience, asking what ‘foundation literacy’ meant to them, to which she got a lot of interesting answers. Foundation Literacy means reading and writing introductory text by grade 3 and understanding the background knowledge and the attached meaning.

Since these were lecture series, we learned a lot about our education system and its inside. Along with that, Dr Nidhi also taught new terminologies.

The first thing she taught was about these reading wars that take place in between curriculum in charge policymakers and textbook makers since they advocate contradicting approaches as follows:

  • Whole Language School of Thought: For the child, reading happens only when the focus is on meaning. Tell them stories, discuss them, and give exposure to them. Gradually, the child will speak once they start associating bigger words with meaning and break them into alphabets.
  • Phonetics Approach: The conventional learning where the child is taught alphabets, and then they combine them to make small words, then big words, then sentences, and then associate meaning to things.

Dr Nidhi stated that some scientific research that justified these reading wars is redundant and baseless. She, later on, explains how reading should take place. This simple reading view occurs when letters and sounds combine and make meaning out of it, i.e. comprehension of language and spoken words. Dr Nidhi talks about the harsh reality of government schools where kids do know how to read and write and make sounds, but they do not associate any meaning to those words, making the education baseless and unworthy.

Furthermore, our speaker explained that if we want every child to have an education, then we have to work on developing particular skills, which are :

  • Oral language development - Ability to speak the language.
  • Orthographic - ability to read, write and understand.
  • Exposing children to reading material.

All these skills should be intertwined for the smooth functioning of each child's education within the country.

While talking about languages, Dr Nidhi mentioned a myth that the English language is complex to learn. In reality, it's Hindi which is more challenging since it's an akshara language. She explained how research shows that these languages take 2-3 years, whereas children are expected to learn them in 3 months. After all the hurdles that are still present in our curriculum and system Dr, Nidhi discussed all the possible ways and plans for greater kids to engage and participate in.

She suggested that our curriculum should focus more on discussing than rote learning. She explained two types of learning, i.e., teachers feel that the child should write the words correctly, and Independent - where young kids draw and paint using colours freely. She also mentioned the importance of age-appropriate text since she once visited a grade 1 library in a government school and found that none of the books were the ones those kids could read since either they were of no good quality or not for them.

Dr Nidhi is an ardent advocate of the 4th Sustainable Development Goal, which talks about quality education. She wants to make a curriculum where all the foundational literacy goals are achieved. Education is being provided to every child.

Ms Angita Lama of 3MSOC concluded the session with a vote of thanks.

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