SDG
UNLEASH

Solution catalogue

Padhan

A Hindi digital reading tutor for learning to read

250​ ​million​ ​children​ ​in​ ​the​ ​world​ ​cannot​ ​read​ ​for​ ​meaning​ ​in​ ​any​ ​language.​ ​This significantly​ ​harms​ ​their​ ​health​ ​outcome​ ​and​ ​opportunities​ ​for​ ​meaningful employment,​ ​among​ ​many​ ​other​ ​components​ ​of​ ​human​ ​welfare.​ ​Learning​ ​to​ ​read​ ​in home​ ​language​ ​is​ ​proven​ ​to​ ​be​ ​most​ ​effective​ ​for​ ​children​ ​to​ ​achieve​ ​literacy,​ ​yet 40%​ ​of​ ​kids​ ​globally​ ​are​ ​taught​ ​in​ ​a​ ​languages​ ​that​ ​are​ ​not​ ​their​ ​home​ ​language.​ ​A multitude​ ​of​ ​apps​ ​exist​ ​that​ ​teach​ ​kids​ ​to​ ​read​ ​in​ ​English​ ​-​ ​but​ ​almost​ ​no​ ​apps​ ​exist for​ ​reading​ ​in​ ​other​ ​languages.​ ​Our​ ​digital​ ​reading​ ​tutor,​ ​Padhan,​ ​is​ ​the​ ​world’s​ ​first digital​ ​reading​ ​tutor​ ​for​ ​non-European​ ​languages.

Problem

UNESCO​​ ​​reveals​ ​that​ ​one​ ​in​ ​four​ ​young​ ​people​ ​in​ ​poor​ ​countries​ ​are​ ​unable​ ​to​ ​read a​ ​single​ ​sentence.​ ​UNESCO​ ​collated​ ​research​ ​states​ ​that​ ​“children​ ​who​ ​begin​ ​their education​ ​in​ ​their​ ​mother​ ​tongue​ ​make​ ​a​ ​better​ ​start,​ ​and​ ​continue​ ​to​ ​perform​ ​better, than​ ​those​ ​for​ ​whom​ ​school​ ​starts​ ​with​ ​a​ ​new​ ​language.”​

​Hindi​ ​is​ ​the​ ​fourth​ ​most spoken​ ​language​ ​in​ ​the​ ​world​ ​and​ ​India​ ​has​ ​the​ ​largest​ ​illiterate​ ​population.​ ​

There​ ​is an​ ​urgent​ ​need​ ​to​ ​digitize​ ​and​ ​make​ ​available​ ​educational​ ​audio​ ​and​ ​video resources,​ ​which​ ​exist​ ​in​ ​different​ ​languages,​ ​media​ ​standards​ ​and​ ​formats.​ ​India’s National​ ​Policy​ ​on​ ​Education​ ​stresses​ ​the​ ​need​ ​to​ ​employ​ ​educational​ ​technology​ ​to improve​ ​the​ ​quality​ ​of​ ​education.​ ​

The​ ​Indian​ ​government​ ​is​ ​currently​ ​installing infrastructure​ ​to​ ​enable​ ​extensive​ ​internet​ ​access,​ ​as​ ​well​ ​as​ ​the​ ​development​ ​of digital​ ​learning​ ​platforms.​ ​Various​ ​state​ ​governments​ ​in​ ​the​ ​country,​ ​like​ ​Tamil​ ​Nadu and​ ​Uttar​ ​Pradesh,​ ​have​ ​mandated​ ​laptops​ ​for​ ​all​ ​school​ ​children.​ ​

There​ ​is​ ​a​ ​clear need​ ​to​ ​develop​ ​a​ ​digital​ ​reading​ ​tutor​ ​in​ ​Hindi​ ​that​ ​maximises​ ​India’s​ ​ICT​ ​access​ ​to increase​ ​literacy​.

Solution

Emphasis​ ​on​ ​home​ ​language​ ​as​ ​the​ ​initial​ ​point​ ​of​ ​entry​ ​to​ ​reading​ ​is​ ​the​ ​key​ ​to improving​ ​literacy.​ ​

Our​ ​digital​ ​learning​ ​tutor,​ ​Padhan,​ ​teaches​ ​basic​ ​reading​ ​skills and​ ​then​ ​learners​ ​progress​ ​to​ ​understanding​ ​the​ ​meaning​ ​of​ ​words​ ​and​ ​language. Merely​ ​translating​ ​English​ ​Apps​ ​does​ ​not​ ​account​ ​for​ ​the​ ​nuances​ ​of​ ​language structure​ ​in​ ​teaching​ ​reading.​ ​Padhan​ ​will​ ​be​ ​developed​ ​with​ ​linguistic​ ​specialists​ ​to ensure​ ​relevance.​

​Our​ ​research​ ​on​ ​existing​ ​English​ ​reading​ ​apps​ ​reveals​ ​the following​ ​standards​ ​for​ ​creating​ ​a​ ​good​ ​app:

  • ​Multisensory,​ ​interactive​ ​format ​ ​
  • Strong​ ​narrative
  • ​Comprehensive​ ​content
  • Specific​ ​feedback
  • ​Connection​ ​with​ ​supportive​ ​parents/teachers

India​ ​already​ ​has​ ​a​ ​digital​ ​content​ ​development​ ​and​ ​publishing​ ​platform​ ​called EkStep.​

​Padhan​ ​will​ ​leverage​ ​EkStep​ ​as​ ​well​ ​as​ ​existing​ ​research​ ​on​ ​successful reading​ ​app​ ​development​ ​and​ ​proven​ ​reading​ ​strategies.

Padhan​ ​allows​ ​multiple​ ​stakeholders​ ​(parents,​ ​teachers,​ ​school​ ​management​ ​& government)​ ​to​ ​access​ ​the​ ​data​ ​produced​ ​on​ ​student’s​ ​progress.​ ​A​ ​holistic​ ​approach to​ ​reading​ ​is​ ​more​ ​effective​ ​than​ ​a​ ​singular​ ​solution.​ ​Padhan​ ​is​ ​program​ ​where​ ​all learners​ ​are​ ​supported​ ​through​ ​interactive​ ​content.​ ​Teacher​ ​training​ ​and​ ​parent workshops​ ​will​ ​ensure​ ​successful​ ​adoption​ ​of​ ​Padhan’s​ ​features.

Innovation

There​ ​is​ ​a​ ​need​ ​for​ ​a​ ​comprehensive,​ ​structured​ ​reading​ ​tutor,​ ​as​ ​well​ ​as teacher​ ​and​ ​parent​ ​training​ ​on​ ​digital​ ​education​ ​platforms.​ ​

Ekstep​ ​and​ ​Genie​ ​are​ ​new platforms​ ​that​ ​are​ ​launching​ ​on​ ​a​ ​broader​ ​scale​ ​in​ ​September.​ ​Ekstep​ ​and​ ​Genie have​ ​done​ ​extensive​ ​work​ ​on​ ​the​ ​platform​ ​development​ ​as​ ​well​ ​as​ ​setting​ ​up relationships​ ​with​ ​key​ ​government​ ​stakeholders​ ​such​ ​as​ ​the​ ​Ministry​ ​of​ ​Human Resource​ ​Development,​ ​National​ ​Council​ ​for​ ​Education​ ​Research​ ​and​ ​Training.​ ​As an​ ​open​ ​platform​ ​EkStep​ ​and​ ​Genie​ ​rely​ ​on​ ​users​ ​to​ ​contribute​ ​content.​ ​They​ ​have invested​ ​extensively​ ​in​ ​developing​ ​APIs​ ​that​ ​can​ ​be​ ​used​ ​to​ ​generate​ ​further​ ​digital solutions.​ ​

One​ ​of​ ​the​ ​challenges​ ​EkStep​ ​and​ ​Genie​ ​are​ ​facing​ ​is​ ​the​ ​perception​ ​that cellphones​ ​are​ ​entertainment​ ​devices,​ ​as​ ​well​ ​as​ ​teachers’​ ​reluctance​ ​to​ ​purchase data​ ​plans​ ​for​ ​schoolwork.​ ​Existing​ ​apps​ ​have​ ​overcome​ ​data​ ​constraints​ ​through side​ ​loader​ ​solutions​ ​based​ ​on​ ​shipping​ ​SD​ ​cards.​ ​

Some​ ​of​ ​the​ ​strategies​ ​Ekstep and​ ​Genie​ ​have​ ​used​ ​reframe​ ​the​ ​role​ ​of​ ​the​ ​phone​ ​are​ ​aligning​ ​digital​ ​content​ ​with curriculum​ ​standards,​ ​face​ ​to​ ​face​ ​parent​ ​and​ ​teacher​ ​workshops,​ ​as​ ​well​ ​as introducing​ ​the​ ​technology​ ​to​ ​all​ ​stakeholders​ ​rather​ ​than​ ​handing​ ​devices​ ​directly​ ​to students.​ ​Given​ ​the​ ​volume​ ​of​ ​learners​ ​and​ ​teachers​ ​in​ ​India​ ​there​ ​is​ ​a​ ​need​ ​for greater​ ​support​ ​in​ ​stakeholder​ ​training​ ​and​ ​content​ ​development,​ ​hence​ ​Ekstep​ ​and Genie’s​ ​emphasis​ ​on​ ​partnerships.​ ​

Padhan’s​ ​impact​ ​will​ ​be​ ​through​ ​building​ ​on existing​ ​strategies​ ​and​ ​platforms.

Impact

More​ ​than​ ​200​ ​million​ ​children​ ​under​ ​5​ ​years​ ​fail​ ​to​ ​reach​ ​their​ ​potential​ ​in​ ​cognitive development​ ​because​ ​of​ ​poverty,​ ​poor​ ​health​ ​and​ ​nutrition,​ ​and​ ​lack​ ​of​ ​early stimulation​ ​(UNESCO).​ ​

According​ ​to​ ​Oxfam,​ ​India​ ​is​ ​home​ ​to​ ​largest​ ​population​ ​of illiterate​ ​adults​ ​in​ ​world​ ​–​ ​287​ ​million​ ​to​ ​be​ ​exact,​ ​amounting​ ​to​ ​37%​ ​of​ ​the​ ​global total.​ ​

Nearly​ ​half​ ​of​ ​the​ ​out-of-school​ ​children​ ​in​ ​India​ ​are​ ​girls​ ​and​ ​in​ ​the​ ​next​ ​census they​ ​will​ ​be​ ​calculated​ ​as​ ​illiterate​ ​women,​ ​which​ ​would​ ​then​ ​have​ ​a​ ​ripple​ ​effect​ ​on the​ ​education​ ​of​ ​their​ ​children.​ ​

Literacy​ ​is​ ​central​ ​to​ ​education​ ​and​ ​education​ ​is central​ ​to​ ​meeting​ ​all​ ​the​ ​SDG​ ​goals​ ​-​ ​e.g.​ ​no​ ​poverty,​ ​no​ ​hunger,​ ​good​ ​health​ ​and well-being,​ ​gender​ ​inequality,​ ​decent​ ​work​ ​and​ ​economic​ ​growth,​ ​innovation, reduced​ ​inequalities​ ​and​ ​peace,​ ​justice​ ​and​ ​strong​ ​institutions.

Our​ ​main​ ​focus​ ​is​ ​on​ ​SDG​ ​4.6​ ​to​ ​enable​ ​literacy​ ​and​ ​numeracy​ ​in​ ​primary​ ​school children​ ​as​ ​a​ ​form​ ​of​ ​early​ ​intervention​ ​to​ ​achieve​ ​the​ ​goal​ ​by​ ​2030.

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