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Mass-scale Initiatives

Rukmini Banerji

Edited by Malavika Karlekar
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2004, pp. 356, Rs. 375.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 10 October 2005

The edited volume, Paradigms of Learning is a collection of field studies focusing on the experiences of the total literacy campaigns in districts around India. It has been close to twenty years since the first Total Literacy Campaigns were initiated and more than half a dozen years since the National Literacy Mission was launched. In this period there have been numerous studies to evaluate processes and outcomes of these efforts. Despite the existence of past studies, this volume is a valuable addition to literature on mass-scale education initiatives. The book addresses itself to understanding the elements that influenced the design of the campaign, how the campaigns were built, how they unfolded and what impact they had; it also reflects on how to analyse such diverse and varied experiences in a meaningful way.   In the last twenty years in this country, the Total Literacy Campaign has been one of the most widespread nationwide attempts to mobilize volunteers and involve citizens in time-bound, outcome-oriented programmes. Decentralized up to the district level by design, each district could evolve its own strategies based on its particular context, capabilities and needs. Conceptualized and implemented as a mixture of government programme and peoples’ movement, the literacy campaigns are proof of the potential that can be unleashed to achieve national and local goals.   The discussion in the book has significant contemporary relevance especially in the current context of the government led attempts to universalize elementary education. The literacy campaigns under the National Literacy Mission were preceded by centralized government run adult education programmes in the 1990s. Similarly, before the centrally sponsored current Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan which calls itself a mission or movement, was the District Primary Education Program of the 1990s. For a government program to transform itself into a people’s movement is not easy. To a large extent, albeit for a short duration, the literacy initiatives in India successfully made this transition. The duration of this high energy campaigns balanced the strengths of a tripartite partnership between government, non-government organizations and people with the tensions inherent in such joint ventures.   It is often thought that the visible universal demand for elementary education today is a direct consequence of mass-scale peoples’ participation in literacy campaigns in the past. Whether or not literacy campaigns resulted in long-term ability among adults to read, they certainly seem to have generated a sustained desire for educating children across the country. ...

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