Time to stress on adult literacy

Time to stress on  adult literacy

I often feel that the expression 'total literacy' does not convey our real mission and goal; rather 'true education'' would be a better substitute ,...

I often feel that the expression "total literacy" does not convey our real mission and goal; rather "true education'' would be a better substitute , for it will surely 'revolutionize and reform' our social , economic ,political and cultural citadels. The common man without education is a miserable, timid, helpless pawn but once he is educated, he welcomes a new dawn. It dispels fetters of ignorance, fear and hesitation, brings an awakening within, builds courage and self-confidence and enables individuals to not be just puppets driven by external factors but emboldened individuals with character, ability to understand their roles and responsibilities, ability to participate in and contribute to a higher social cause at some level, draws them into the mainstream, gives scope for a dialogue to design their future consciously. Undoubtedly, the success of many historic revolutions rests on the conscious and voluntary participation of the 'common man' .If he knows what he wants and gets the right education in that field or aspect , he will undergo a metamorphosis indeed! Our freedom movement is a wonderful example from our recent history. But after independence, have we tried enough to include the uneducated and, therefore, 'oppressed' millions of adults in our forward march? This makes me ponder over the immense but relatively neglected task of adult education and how it has to be dealt with from a different perspective for making our 'oppressed' break their shackles, both literally and metaphorically. Way back in 1946, I was the only boy studying Intermediate from my village. I had the opportunity to witness the kind of awakening education can bring to those who lack it and need it the most, the oppressed communities in a feudal culture in our area. Against the conventional method of teaching to read and write plus basic arithmetic, Putchapalli Sundarayya, who visited our village, advised me to read out Maxim Gorky's novel 'Mother" at the only adult education center we had. The honor fell on my shoulders and I studiously did so for six months while all the farmhands were all ears to the way the protagonist, Pelagea Nilovna, the mother of Pavel Mikhailovich, the novel's hero, grows from a timid and illiterate woman, victim of atrocities, to an active 'comrade' who knows what is happening in her world, who learns to read and support the revolution, participate in meetings and stands for their rights. Very soon I realized that for the illiterate, oppressed farmhands, it was not a mere story to be read and forgotten, a story of some incidents from a distant land and time. It was a seed sown in their minds about social justice and the collective strength to face injustice. A By the time I had completed reading out the novel, they garnered strength to state their lawful demands and face their landlords fearlessly and even agitate unitedly when denied their rights. In a way, it was my first and firsthand experience of the subversive element in education�and later, when I read Paulo Freire's iconic book on education philosophy,"Pedagogy of the Oppressed", my regard for the writer grew multifold, for what I did in 1946 is the true education of the oppressed. I was a contributor to a cycle of experiential learning at its best. The seemingly illiterate farmhands observed and reflected on what was read or what they heard, generalized it, developed concepts and then tested it in their real life situations which once again became concrete experiences to begin a new cycle of learning. Who are the 'oppressed'? There is not just one form of 'oppression' , for it is a social dynamic, a certain way of being disadvantaged or marginalized , based on race, caste, class, community, faith, gender, ability ,and other "isms". Any individual who does not have access to knowledge resources which would enable him or her to lead a better life is oppressed, though we may not acknowledge this fact in all cases, be they laborers in fields , workers in factories, housewives , retired employees or senior citizens. Anti-oppressive education must aim to challenge and overcome the multiple forms of oppression with which our democracy is infested. There just cannot be one 'cure-all' type of 'anti-oppressive' education. A Mrs. Sudha Murthy's autobiographical fiction "How I taught My Grandmother to Read" and even the recent film" English Vinglish", are a proof of this: the needs of the oppressed are different and the prescriptions too have to differ, though all come under the spectrum of education as a cure. Let us acknowledge that our efforts towards adult literacy have started slowly and very late, and our educators' single-minded focus on expanding primary education affected the other half of the needy, no doubt.
Against the conventional method of teaching to read and write plus basic arithmetic, Putchapalli Sundarayya, who visited our village, advised me to read out Maxim Gorky's novel 'Mother" at the only adult education center we had
Unfortunately, even now, we are more happy with mere literacy, and do not acknowledge that the adults need a different kind of pedagogy. They cannot be treated like the inexperienced children in primary schools; they cannot be treated as mere 'piggy banks' to be filled with 'knowledge' by the teacher, as Paulo Fierie puts it. Andragogy is different from pedagogy. Adult learning or methods used for education in life through experience are subtly varied according to experts. It is a process model of learning as against the content model in pedagogy and I whole-heartedly agree with this approach. We must treat the adult learner as a co-creator of knowledge and opt for a more world-mediated, mutual approach to education. Adult learners are not a homogenous lot; some may be self-motivated while some others may not even know the need to know and the risks of 'not-knowing'. A It, therefore, becomes the responsibility of the facilitators to enlighten indirectly on the need to know. Once they realize the relevance of the knowledge they acquire and are motivated, get the right orientation and are ready to unlearn and learn; they draw an intrinsic self-satisfaction. Adult learning has to be problem-centered, diverse and linked to their experiences in real life or experiential, seeking educational solutions to where they are as compared to where they want to be in life, result-oriented, self-directed, timely and appropriate for their current lives and needs. In many advanced countries, adult learners are the fastest growing numbers, and both governments and non-government organizations are designing several campus as well as outreach programs, short course adult continuing programmes to meet several requirements. If we were told that the population of adult illiterates in our country is more than the total population of the United States and that we have yet to design effective outreach programmes for them, what should be our response? We may repeatedly harp on many of the hurdles in achieving equity in education: poverty; gender issues; cultural issues; over population; lack of adequate education resources; negligence from indifferent bureaucrats, inability to mobilize the society and adult illiterates' preference for wage earning against learning, etc. Don't we, at least the educated, know that an investment in knowledge 'pays the best interest' as Benjamin Franklin says, and that true education alone, ironically, can clear all the aforesaid hurdles? Let us mobilize all our resources and reach out to all our adults who need to be educated and let the power of knowledge strengthen our democracy. OPINION
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