solarray

From void into vision, from vision to mind, from mind into speech, from speech to the tribe, from the tribe into din.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Project for a New Year: Free Secular Literacy for All

"Asked about the biggest threat to their groups' survival, a militant says that 'free secular education for all' leading to an 'increase in the literacy rate' is the gravest threat to the survival of the jihadi groups in Pakistan."

_Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill_ by Jessica Stern (NY: HarperCollins, 2003), page 230

"Free secular education for all."

Why not an ad hoc, all media, open source push to make literacy possible for everybody in the world? When Google can announce that it will digitize the NY Public Library, why not free secular education for all, teaching literacy in local languages available through cell phone, Web/Net, radio, video, hard copy, and word of mouth?

Why not universal availability of learning materials by every means possible, taking into account the varieties of learning intelligences and the concept of literacy beyond the written word, rune, and ideogram, beyond numeracy? What about providing universal global access to the world's libraries to balance those who teach only the the One Holy Book, be it Koran, Bible, or little red book, only by rote, and always subject to higher or Higher Authority?

We are already a couple of years into the UNESCO Literacy Decade scheduled to run from 2003-2012 (http://portal.unesco.org/education/en/ev.php-URL_ID=5000&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html). The goals include achieving "50 per cent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women... ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to and complete, free and compulsory primary education of good quality... eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005 and achieving gender equality in education by 2015."

With some 800 million or more illiterate adults in the world, about two-thirds of whom are women, and 100 million children children with no access to school, total literacy is going to be a difficult process. Making the best methods and resources universally and freely available through as many different media as possible would be a great help.

Here is an example of what is already beginning to happen from Meskel Square, a blog about Ethiopia (http://www.meskelsquare.com):

"The shock of the new (http://www.meskelsquare.com/archives/2005/01/the_shock_of_th.html))


"Just returned from a three-day trip to Ethiopia's very beautiful Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR).

"The scenery was stunning and the rural development sites we visited (with the UN's World Food Programme) were fascinating. But, for me, they were topped by a visit to a remote high school, a day-and-a-half's trip on rocky, unmade roads south of Addis Ababa.


"Just returned from a three-day trip to Ethiopia's very beautiful Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR).

"The scenery was stunning and the rural development sites we visited (with the UN's World Food Programme) were fascinating. But, for me, they were topped by a visit to a remote high school, a day-and-a-half's trip on rocky, unmade roads south of Addis Ababa.

"As we walked up to one of the outdoor classrooms, we heard the voice of a Maths teacher going into great detail about the angles of a parallelogram. When we went in, we found the 60 or so students were all taking their lesson from a professor speaking through a state-of-the-art Samsung plasma video screen that would be way beyond the budget of many schools in the UK. The lesson was being beamed in from Addis via a huge satellite dish outside through a rack of Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) receivers.

"Headteacher Mohamed Nur Osman said there had been an initial adjustment period when the screen was first installed six months ago. Students had found it hard to keep up with the English used by the Addis-based teachers. But they soon got used to it and grades had improved by up to 45 per cent over the period.

"These days students at Mudula Senior Secondary School receive Maths, English, Civics, Chemistry, Biology and Physics lessons by satellite. They have a computer room stocked with 35 Acer PCs. And they also have a handful of Dells which they plan to use in two months time to access the internet, also by satellite.

"Apparently, every high school in Ethiopia has similar equipment (including the plasma screen), paid for by the Ministry of Education.

"The technology and its application were interesting enough. I also liked the sheer excess of it all. If someone is going to provide you with lots of gear, why settle for a boring old TV monitor. If in doubt, go for plasma."


Resources to begin the Project for a New Year: Free Secular Literacy for All

I've been playing with a list of 100 Basic Words I found someplace on the Net a few years ago. I think there's a poem in there someplace:

yes no hello goodbye good morning good night

please thank you you're welcome excuse me/I'm sorry

who what/what kind which where when why how how much/many (some languages have one word for both)

and but also maybe only too (as in "in excess")

a little

something someone anything anyone nothing no one

man woman child boy girl

mother father sister brother son daughter husband wife family friend

food water breakfast lunch dinner

day night/evening morning afternoon dawn sunset

chair table pen paper book newspaper magazine

money store restaurant car city town

language student teacher

east west north south right left

help

see hear think speak know (most languages have 2 verbs for to know; to know a fact and to know a person/place) understand

do, make (often the same)

ask

eat drink

want need

study/learn (often the same)

sit stand walk run

come go live (most languages differentiate between to live as in 'to be alive' and to live as in 'to inhabit' )

like/love (often the same)

buy sell work pay

look for, visit

good/well bad

beautiful/pretty ugly interesting

big small

sick well nice

hot cold

new old (many languages distinguish between an old person and an old thing)

near far

Some categories of useful words:
Food
Parts of the body
Clothing
Family
Occupations
Nationalities and language names
Days of the week and the months
Times of day
Your own occupation
Your own nationality
Your native language and others you speak


from http://www.kk.org/cooltools/archives/000515.php

Open Here: The Art of Instructional Design

"I thought I was the only one in the world stealing the safety instruction cards from airline seats because of their terrific folk graphics. For radically clear thinking nothing can beat a really good set of wordless diagrams; hundreds of examples from around the world are paraded here. Designers of the world, please heed."
                       
-- Kevin Kelly

Open Here: The Art of Instructional Design
Paul Mijksenaar and Piet Westendorp
1999, 144 pages
$6
Joost Elffers Books

The Literacy Site (http://www.theliteracysite.com/) will donate books to children around the world if you visit the site and click.

"Literacy in SIL (http://www.sil.org/literacy/) distinctively focuses on developing programs in lesser-known and endangered languages and emphasizes using the mother tongue as the gateway to basic literacy. SIL's vision for language programs is to see literacy become a sustainable community value with the ownership of literacy goals and activities in the hands of the people."

You should be aware that the World Literacy Crusade seems to be a Church of Scientology project.

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