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Accelerated Reading Programme(ARP)

The Accelerated Reading Programme aims to improve a child’s reading ability over a 45 story-card period. Pre-supposing an exposure to letters and words, the ARP helps children connect their mind with the letter/word (as understood by them previously) to enable reading. Worked out in gradual progression of difficulty levels, ARP first assesses reading levels and then introduces 45 story-cards of varying difficulty over a staggered period.

Getting Started: Pilots & Learning


a) Experimenting with the technique
The first on-ground experiment was implemented in February –March 2003 for school going, drop-out and non-school going slum children in the age bracket – 7 to 12 years. The 'Odona Banni' or Reading City programme intended to ensure basic literacy among these children in a short time period of 45 days. Over 700 children across Bangalore city participated in this pilot. 35 centers operated at community venues: temples, community halls, and residences of teachers/volunteers & Kannada, Urdu schools in the vicinity. Though the accelerated reading technique was found extremely effective, considering that it was experimented upon sporadically on a small number, the programme’s success could not be conclusively gauged.

b) Striding ahead:'Odona Banni' or Reading City Campaign
The second pilot was a citywide reading campaign during the summer vacation period from April – June 2003 reaching out to 6493 children.

Reading City proved that the accelerated reading technique was replicable and produced quick results. However, since Reading City was conducted in the summer months, its outreach was limited to a selected bunch of students in the community. But the accelerated reading technique followed in Reading City was found effective. Its potential to revolutionize classroom learning was realized by Akshara, and soon efforts commenced to integrate this technique as part of the regular school curriculum. This was important, considering that a large number of children in government and city corporation schools were unable to read simple words even after 4-5 years of schooling.

Moreover, school teachers were not involved in the use of the technique thus far and it was the Akshara volunteers who had been executing this technique. Hence Akshara undertook a school based pilot programme at two government schools - GKMPS1 , Link Road, Sheshadripuram and GKHPS2 Govindrajnagar.

Moreover, schools teachers were not involved in the use of the technique thus far and it was the Akshara volunteers who had been experimenting with the technique. Hence Akshara undertook a school based pilot program at two government schools - GKMPS1 , Link Road, Sheshadripuram and GKHPS2 Govindrajnagar.

c) Reading schools - Pilot School-based Reading programme
A first time for both Akshara & government primary school teachers – but the experience was overwhelming. Baseline data was established. All children in the school from Std 2 – 7 were tested and their reading abilities were assessed.

 

 

Baseline Assessment,Govindrajnagar, ARP – school-based pilot

 

 

 

 

Final Assessment, Govindrajnagar, ARP school-based pilot

 

 

Resource personnel from Pratham Mumbai trained Akshara volunteers and about 5 teachers from each school on the accelerated reading technique; together they implemented the 45 story-card programme. Teachers & Akshara volunteers assessed students jointly - it was clear that the programme was a roaring success. Children with Zero reading ability had improved; children were more confident about themselves, a visible sense of achievement was radiant. Some critical learning through the course of the programme included:

Teachers were initially apprehensive about the nature of the programme: but once children started reacting to the content, they were reassured and delighted.

  • Peer group learning was effective and instrumental in binding children in a learning web that encouraged social interaction. Noise and chirp of a reading class was the key for peer group learning to succeed.
  • Important for the teacher to play passive and not correct the child; this enabled the child to learn from peer interactions. However, the teachers would intervene only when all the other children fail to help their peers.
  • Involving teachers was the key; all stakeholders – teachers, school administration, education department, parents, took this programme seriously.
  • Implementing the programme jointly helped maximize chances of success – there was a noticeable cohesion between teachers & Akshara volunteers. This healthy rapport developed helped maximize chances of success.
  • Doubts were raised on sustaining the learning generated by the programme – this required immediate strategizing
  • Scalability of the programme was questioned. Peer teachers from other schools questioned the need for the 'already burdened' teachers to undertake an additional responsibility. A growing sense of apprehension and negativity towards practical implementation issues was palpable. This generated ample discussion - Who is to implement it – Akshara volunteers or teachers? Akshara was certain about not playing the ‘change-maker’ role. The organization envisioned itself as a mere facilitator (agent for change) & not the direct implementer (change-maker).
  • Timing had helped (conducted from July – September 2004). Regular school textbooks had not arrived; hence implementing the programme got the full time attention and cooperation of the school authorities. The teachers, however, did state that assigning the desired time in the midst of the busy academic schedule exclusively for the programme might have proven difficult.

Learning from In-School Pilot

  • Involving teachers was the key
  • Peer group learning was effective
  • Important for the teacher to play passive
  • Implementing the programme jointly (Teachers & Akshara Volunteers) helped maximize success
  • Doubts were raised on sustaining the learning
  • Scalability of the programme was questioned

Timing had helped (conducted from July – September 2004) The spark in every child’s eye, the thirst to learn, the boosted self-confidence in children - a general sense of bohemia prevailed. The Block Education Officers (BEOs) were thrilled that an external initiative had resulted in unprecedented success. As Ms.Yashodha Bopanna, BEO South II commented “Children are extremely happy and the teachers feel energized as they find the methodology attractive. So we want to reach out to more children and have decided to extend the programme to all the 77 schools in our education block”. BEO North II reacted similarly.

Thus began a new chapter: 133 schools in S2 & N2 education blocks across Bangalore city were identified; of these 117 schools came forward to implement the programme.

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