Thursday March 21, 2019

Literacy Programmes for Mothers can Improve their own Learning Skills, also impact their Children’s Education

Maternal education could lead to fundamental cultural changes in the household which could have long-term effects on the child enrolment in school and/or learning

A mother and her child.

May 29, 2017: -Literacy programs for mothers can not only improve their own learning skills but also impact their children’s education, a recent study has found.

During the one-year study, conducted in 480 villages of Rajasthan and Bihar–states with the lowest female literacy levels in India–mothers with children between ages five and eight were exposed to three kinds of interventions: Home learning, participation programmes in their children’s education, and a combination of both.

The results showed an increase of 11 percentage points in mothers who could recognise one-digit numbers for one of the interventions, and mothers were more likely to be involved in their children’s education. As for the children, their math scores improved marginally as well.

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The study was led by Pratham, an education NGO, Cornell University and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Parental education is correlated with higher participation in formal schooling and better decisions to improve child learning.

Source: The Impact of Maternal Literacy and Participation Programs: Evidence from a Randomized Evaluation in India
Note: ‘No Impact’ refers to no statistically significant impact.

About 30% of Indian adults above the age of 15 years were illiterate, according to Census 2011, the latest available data on nationwide literacy. Illiteracy is higher for females (40.7%), and for those from the scheduled castes (39.6%) and scheduled tribes (48%).

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“Even if kids went to school 100% of the time, we are looking at only a couple of hours (of education a day). Several awake hours of children are spent at home, especially of younger children, often with their mother,” said Marc Shotland, co-author of the study and associate director at J-PAL.

Children from richer households–and with better-educated parents–have a learning advantage even if what they learn at school is not factored in. It is, therefore, necessary to look to the household to reduce inequities in children’s education, Shotland explained.

60% mothers learn basic math, so do 60% children

The study found that 58% of mothers exposed to both kinds of interventions could recognise one-digit numbers. In the control group, where mothers had no such exposure, 47% showed similar math skills.

As for children, 60% of those whose mothers had the benefit of both interventions were able to recognise one-digit numbers, as compared to the control group (56%), the study found.

For improvements in child test scores, the authors cautioned that some of the impact of the programme could also be because some children attended classes along with their mothers and participated in the home activities.

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How the literacy capsules worked

In the study, villages were randomly assigned to one of four groups between September 2011 and February 2012–one was a control group of mothers that received no intervention, the second group was exposed to a maternal literacy programme with daily language and math classes, the third group received home learning to become involved in their child’s education, and the fourth group had the benefit of both.

The maternal literacy classes were taught by local volunteers trained by Pratham. For the home learning and participation programme, trainers were paid Pratham staff.

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The average mother attended 25 and 27 classes in the maternal literacy programme and combined intervention, respectively, with an average attendance between three and five days a month out of the 12.5 classes held.

Households were successfully visited about 16 times, on average, for the home learning and participation programmes, and mothers were present during 81% of these visits, as measured during the second half of the intervention.

Maternal intervention not cost-effective in short term

An intervention targeting mothers might not be as cost effective to improve child learning outcomes in the short term as one directly aimed at the child, the authors wrote. The programme cost Rs 500 per mother. What these programmes do achieve is simultaneous targeting of maternal and child learning levels, they added.

The potential larger and long-term effects of the intervention could not be measured as the study did not have enough funds to continue, Shotland said.

For instance, maternal education could lead to fundamental cultural changes in the household which could have long-term effects on the child enrolment in school and/or learning. Some of these changes could be seen in the changing role of mothers in their children’s education.

Mothers in learning groups feel more responsible for child’s education

Most mothers in the intervention and control group believed they had a role to play in their child’s education. But mothers in the maternal learning, home participation, and combined intervention groups were 4.1, 3, and 4 percentage points, respectively, more likely to report being responsible for their child’s education, the study found.

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Researchers found that the interventions did not have a significant impact on the time mothers spent directly helping children with lessons at home. But they had statistically significant impacts in other respects–on the mother examining notebooks, talking to their children about school, and talking to others about their children’s studies. Home participation and combined intervention showed more mothers helping children with their homework.

Govt. certified 22.7 million literate through Saakshar Bharat

In 1998, the government of India launched the National Literacy Mission (NLM), with the aim of making 75% of India’s population literate by 2007, but fell short of its aims. Still, as many as 127.45 million more Indians became literate by 2009. Of them, 60% were females, 23% belonged to scheduled castes and 12% to scheduled tribes, according to government data.

In 2009, India launched Saakshar Bharat (literate India) to” further promote and strengthen adult education, specially of women, by extending educational options to those adults who having lost the opportunity of access to formal education and crossed the standard age for receiving such education”. The aim was to provide functional literacy to 70 million adults in the age group of 15 years and beyond, primarily focusing on women, and rural areas.

Initially scheduled to end by 2012, the scheme was extended until 2017, covering 410 districts. The goal of the program was to raise the literacy to 80% and reduce the gender gap in literacy to less than 10%, according to a government document.

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Between August 2014 and March 2016, the government certified 22.7 million adults as literate, out of the 30.5 million registered for the programme, according to a year-end review from the ministry of human resource development in December 2016. There are no recent estimates of nationwide literacy, or independent evaluations, which could be used to verify this claim.

For the financial year 2017-18, the central government allocated Rs 320 crore for Saakshar Bharat, according to a budget document–an increase of 31.1% from the revised 2016-17 budget of Rs 244 crore.

Next Story

Atal Bihari Vajpayee: A Peace Visionary and a Man Who Believed in India’s Destiny and was Ready To Fight For It

It was precisely this persona of Vajpayee -- one merged in Hindutva ideology yet seemingly not wholly willing to bow to it -- that won him admirers cutting across the political spectrum.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee,
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, India's peace visionary. Image: Flickr

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a man of moderation in a fraternity of jingoistic nationalists; a peace visionary in a region riven by religious animosity; and a man who believed in India’s destiny and was ready to fight for it.

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (93), who died on Thursday, will go down in history as a person who tried to end years of hostility with Pakistan and put development on the front burner of the country’s political agenda. He was also the first non-Congress Prime Minister to complete a full five-year term.

Even though he lived the last 13 years of his life in virtual isolation, dogged by debilitating illnesses and bedridden, he has left an enduring legacy for the nation and the region where he was much loved and respected across the political spectrum and national boundaries, including in Pakistan.

Vajpayee, former Indian Prime Minister
Vajpayee stunned the world by making India a declared nuclear state. Image: Wikimedia Commons

In the tumultuous period he presided over the destiny of the world’s largest democracy, Vajpayee stunned the world by making India a declared nuclear state and then almost went to war with Pakistan before making peace with it in the most dramatic fashion.
In the process, his popularity came to match that of Indira Gandhi, a woman he admired for her guts even as he hated her politics.

He also became the best-known national leader after Indira Gandhi and her father Jawaharlal Nehru.

After despairing for years that he would never become Prime Minister and was destined to remain an opposition leader all his life, he achieved his goal, but only for 13 days, from May 16-28, 1996, after his deputy, L.K. Advani, chose not to contest elections that year.
His second term came on March 19, 1998, and lasted 13 months, a period during which India stunned the world by undertaking a series of nuclear tests that invited global reproach.

Although his tenure again proved short-lived, his and his government’s enhanced stature following the world-defying blasts enabled him to return as Prime Minister for the third time on October 13, 1999, a tenure that lasted a full five-year term.

When finally he stepped down in May 2004, after an election that he was given to believe he would win, it marked the end of a long and eventful political career spanning six decades.

Vajpayee had gone into these elections riding a personality cult that projected him as a man who had brought glory to the nation in unprecedented ways. The BJP’s election strategy rested on seeking a renewed mandate over three broad pillars of achievement that the government claimed — political stability in spite of the pulls and pressures of running a multi-party coalition; a “shining” economy that saw a dizzying 10.4 percent growth in the last quarter of the previous year; and peace with Pakistan that changed the way the two countries looked at each other for over 50 years.

The results of the elections could not have come as a greater shock to a man who was hailed for his achievements and who was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 influential men of the decade.

Success didn’t come easily to the charismatic politician, who was born on Christmas Day in 1924 in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, into a family of moderate means. His father was a school teacher and Vajpayee would later recall his early brush with poverty.

He did his Masters in Political Science, studying at the Victoria College in Gwalior and at the DAV College in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, where he first contested, and lost, elections. He began his professional career as a journalist, working with Rashtradharma, a Hindi monthly, Panchjanya, a Hindi weekly, and two Hindi dailies, Swadesh and Veer Arjun. By then he had firmly embraced the ideals of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).
But even as he struggled to win electoral battles, his command over Hindi, the lingua franca of the North Indian masses, his conciliatory politics and his riveting oratory brought him into public limelight.

Also read: For Modi, Road To 2019 Will Be Steeper

His first entry into Parliament was in 1962 through the Rajya Sabha, the upper house. It was only in 1971 that he won a Lok Sabha election. He was elected to the lower house seven times and to the Rajya Sabha twice.

Vajpayee spent months in prison when Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency rule in June 1975. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Vajpayee spent months in prison when Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency rule in June 1975 and put her political opponents in jail. When the Janata Party took office in 1977, dethroning the Congress for the first time, he became the foreign minister.

The lowest point in his career came when he lost the 1984 Lok Sabha polls, that too from his birthplace Gwalior, after Rajiv Gandhi won an overwhelming majority following his mother Indira Gandhi’s assassination. And the BJP he led ended up with just two seats in
the 545-member Lok Sabha, in what looked like the end of the road for the right-wing party.

In no time, Vajpayee was replaced and “eclipsed” by his long-time friend L.K. Advani.
Although they were the best of friends publicly, Vajpayee never fully agreed with Advani’s and the assorted Hindu nationalist groups’ strident advocacy of Hindutva, an ideology ranged against the idea of secular India.

Often described as the right man in the wrong party, there were also those who belittled him as a moderate “mask” to a hardline Hindu nationalist ideology. Often he found his convictions and value systems at odds with the party, but the bachelor-politician never went against it.

It was precisely this persona of Vajpayee — one merged in Hindutva ideology yet seemingly not wholly willing to bow to it — that won him admirers cutting across the political spectrum. It was this trait that made him the Prime Minister when the BJP’s allies concluded they needed a moderate to steer a hardliner, pro-Hindu party.

He brought into governance measures that created for India a distinct international status on the diplomatic and economic fronts. In his third prime ministerial stint, Vajpayee launched a widely acclaimed diplomatic initiative by starting a bus service between New Delhi and Pakistan’s Lahore city.

Its inaugural run in February 1999 carried Vajpayee and was welcomed on the border by his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif. It was suspended only after the 2001 terror attack on the Indian Parliament that nearly led to a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

The freeze between the two countries, including an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation on the border for nearly a year, was finally cracked in the spring of 2003 when Vajpayee, while in Kashmir, extended a “hand of friendship” to Pakistan. That led to the historic summit in January 2004 with then President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad — a remarkable U-turn after the failed summit in Agra of 2001. Despite the two men being so far apart in every way, Musharraf developed a strong liking for the Indian leader.

His unfinished task, one that he would probably rue, would be the peace process with Pakistan that he had vowed to pursue to its logical conclusion and a resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

He was not known as “Atal-Ji”, a name that translates into firmness, for nothing. He could go against the grain of his party if he saw it deviate from its path. When Hindu hardliners celebrated the destruction of the 16th century Babri Mosque at Ayodhya, he was full of personal remorse for the apocalyptic action and called it — in a landmark interview to IANS — the “worst miscalculation” and a “misadventure”. He even despaired that “moderates have no place — who is going to listen to the voice of sanity?”

In his full five-year term, he successively carried forward India’s economic reforms programme with initiatives to improve infrastructure, including flagging off a massive national highway project that has become associated with his vision, went for massive privatisation of unviable state undertakings despite opposition from even within his own party.

While his personal image remained unsullied despite his long innings in the murky politics of this country, his judgment was found wanting when his government was rocked by an arms bribery scandal that sought to expose alleged payoffs to some senior members of his cabinet. His failure to speak up when members of his party and its sister organisations, who are accused of killing more than 1,000 Muslims in Gujarat, was questioned by the liberal fraternity who wondered aloud about his secular proclamations. He wanted then Chief Minister — now Prime Minister, Narendra Modi — to take responsibility for the riots and quit but was prevailed upon by others not to press his decision.

A day before his party lost power, Vajpayee was quoted as sayin