“Children are the backbone of our country.” We have heard these words on several occasions in different forums and conversations. However, how can children be the backbone of our nation if we are not able to engage them in the learning and systematic growth of mental and physical well-being? The government’s National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy Bharat scheme is aiming to do just that. And Smile Foundation is actively working on NIPUN Bharat through the Mission Education programme.
Data on foundational learning
Research shows that 90% of brain growth occurs by the age of 5. This means that the quality of early childhood education has a crucial impact on development. The ongoing pandemic has widened the learning gaps for not having digital devices among children especially in the underserved community.
The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2019 revealed that only 16% of children in Class 1 can read the prescribed text. Almost 40% cannot even recognize letters. This report shocked us about the learning progress of children at the primary level. Foundational learning support at the primary level is the key to all future learning for a child. Not being able to achieve these basic foundational skills of reading with basic comprehension, writing, and doing basic mathematics operations leaves the child unprepared for the complexities of the curriculum in the future. This may decrease the interest of the students in the school curriculum and lead to increased drop out rate.
The NIPUN Bharat Scheme
The “National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy” (NIPUN Bharat) is being set up by the education department of Government of India. The purpose is to secure school retention and ensure learning of the children. Additionally, the scheme also seeks universal acquisition of foundational literacy and numeracy skills for every child by the end of grade 3. The target year for achieving this goal is 2026-27.
COVID-enforced school closure for almost two years has greatly affected learning and cognitive development of children. We all need to address this at the earliest. We need to work on this mission on a war footing and leave no stone unturned.
NIPUN Bharat through Mission Education
Smile Foundation is dedicated to the education of children. Thus, we have taken all possible steps to connect with students through various means. Community-based cluster classes, apps-based learning support, visiting homes, and sharing worksheets through offline and online modes are some of the methods we have employed. We have been working with 49,000 children, largely first-generation learners in the underserved communities, through 240 Mission Education centres across 22 States and Union Territories. The children need regular follow-ups, motivation to continue their education, guidance to pursue their dreams, and empathy in communication. Disconnection from education would mean a learning loss for thousands of children.
We have been working and promoting activity-based teaching support in curricular and co-curricular activities. Community-based trained teachers are helping us to implement this. This will help children improve their communication skills and also become well-versed in the subjects taught. These centres are located in the interior places of tribal and rural communities across the country. In these areas children have less exposure and guidance for holistic development. The Mission Education centres also feel proud to support the NIPUN Bharat scheme to achieve universal foundational literacy and numeracy.