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Early years literacy in India: towards effective teaching and learning practices

Project: Non-funded ProjectProjects

19/01/15 → …

  • Professor Uta Papen (Principal Investigator)
  • Caroline Dyer (Principal Investigator)
  • Suman Bhattacharjea (Co-investigator)

Recent learner achievement assessments in many countries, including India, show strong evidence of the need to improve literacy teaching. What is missing from the evidence base to support policy initiatives in this field, however, is robust
research on how to implement effective literacy teaching and learning. This is crucial where children are learning in multilanguage contexts and teaching needs to connect better with the everyday language and literacy practices of local
communities. Gaining secure literacy competences and habits is a critically important aspect of early years' education.
This study will be a mixed methods, multi-site investigation focusing on Grades 1 and 2 in state-run primary schools, which are attended by some of India's most socio-economically disadvantaged children. We will focus on how teaching in
such schools can become more effective and learning outcomes improve. Intended project outputs are: new evidence bases for community language uses and literacy teaching in Grades 1 and 2; a robust conceptual framework outlining
effective practices; a trialled, user-friendly classroom assessment tool; and a 'teaching literacy' module for teacher education and capacity development of government functionaries. The research design draws on experimental and quantitative studies of cognitive linguistic processes, and ethnographic literacy traditions. It innovatively combines these to exploit their potential to develop more effective classroom practices. It builds on cognitive-linguistic research into learning to read and write from the particular perspective of India's local (akshara) languages. It aims to advance socio-cultural studies of literacy that demonstrate the need to build links between school and community literacies and languages with insight from Indian contexts.
Research partners Pratham, India's largest education NGO, and university-based academics have co-designed the project, combining complementary skills and experience to respond to disappointing learning outcomes assessments documented in Pratham's highly influential Annual Status of Education Reports. The project will work intensively with 27 schools, nine from each of three of India's linguistically diverse States - Assam, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh - as samples, focusing on Grades 1 and 2, the key areas of policy concern. We will combine learner assessment testing with in-depth investigation of learners' home language and literacies, practices of literacy teaching in classrooms, and investigation of teachers' understandings of effective early literacy learning in local languages. We will use this evidence to develop and trial a new tool for assessing effective literacy teaching and learning practices, and a literacy teaching module. Project outputs will support follow-up action planning by policy communities now required by India' 12th Plan to carry out learner assessments.

Note

The project is a joint initiative by Carolyne Dyer (PI), Leeds University, Pratham, a major Indian NGO supporting literacy, and myself as co-investigator. We have applied for funding to the ESRC/DfID. If funded the project will start in January 2015 and the planned duration in 34 months.