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From Adversity to Excellence: Slum Children in Lucknow Conquer Reading and Math Using ALfA Technique

June 17, 2023

Nishant Saxena

In a remarkable achievement that defies all odds, young Anisha, a bright eight-year-old girl from a slum area in Lucknow, has become fluent in reading newspapers. Her accomplishment is even more extraordinary considering the scarcity of literacy in her slum-dwelling community, where education is often viewed as a luxury rather than a necessity.

Anisha is not alone in her outstanding educational journey. Joining her are Zikra, aged 7, and Ansh, aged 8, who can skilfully perform triple-digit multiplication and division using matchsticks, spoons, and bundles of ice popsicle sticks. Meanwhile, eleven-year-old Sameer has shown remarkable proficiency in complex calculations. All these children have acquired Foundational Literacy and Numeracy skills as participants of an accelerated learning program.

Today marked the culmination of the Fast-Track DEVI FLN (Foundational Literacy and Numeracy) Program, an innovative initiative aimed at accelerating learning outcomes. Implemented in collaboration with the government at the Government Basic School in Jawahar Nagar, Lucknow, this ground-breaking program sought to investigate the potential of a two-week targeted instruction for around 80 odd children aged 5 to 12. It employed a disruptive pedagogy that had previously demonstrated impressive FLN results within 45 days.

Children from nearby slums underwent a pre-test, and those struggling with alphabet recognition, accounting for 75% of participants, were divided into three sections for mother tongue literacy and numeracy instruction. Another section focused on English literacy and numeracy for children with some reading proficiency. The program was in line with the NIPUN Bharat Mission’s grade-wise outcomes.

The Fast-Track DEVI FLN Program integrated engaging activities such as music, dance, storytelling, games, arts and crafts, and energizers into its curriculum. These activities provided psychological breaks, fostered creativity, and facilitated holistic development.

On the 11th day, a post-test was conducted to assess the impact of the intervention. The results were astounding, showcasing significant improvements in literacy and numeracy skills, affirming the immense potential of the children and the Accelerating Learning for All (ALfA) program. Overall literacy levels witnessed a substantial increase from the pre-test level, while numeracy skills showed remarkable progress.

The ALfA program has revolutionized education by employing thin booklets, visuals, and hands-on activities in pairs, which foster self-directed learning and promote a sustainable, low carbon footprint approach. Its transformative potential has been acknowledged by the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Dr. Sunita Gandhi, a former Economist at The World Bank and a Cambridge University, UK, PhD holder in Physics, dedicated eight years of research to develop the ALfA program. Since its launch in 2022, the program has been implemented in government schools in low-performing districts of Shamli, Uttar Pradesh, and Sambalpur, Odisha, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, India. These initiatives have produced exceptional results, with children achieving fluency in foundational literacy and numeracy within an astonishing 45 days or less, defying the conventional three-year timeframe. The Fast-Track DEVI FLN Research Program aimed to further expedite this process by exploring the impact of four periods of focused instruction per day over ten days.

The Fast-Track DEVI FLN Program brings us closer to realizing a future where quality education is accessible to all children. The program’s toolkits, available in 30 languages worldwide, have been adopted for implementation on four continents since the introduction of ALfA in 2022.

With initiatives like these, the world takes a step forward in breaking barriers and ensuring equal educational opportunities for every child, irrespective of their background or circumstances. The success of Anisha, Zikra, Ansh, and Sameer reminds us that with the right support and innovative approaches, young minds can achieve remarkable feats, rewriting the narrative of educational equity.

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