3. Theoretical approach to the production of materials for neo-literates
1. Contextual framework for developing neo-literate materials
It is not advisable to take up "Learning Materials for Neo-Literates" as an isolated topic. An overview of the non-formal learning situation in rural areas is necessary to find out how and where the neo-literacy materials fit into the general patterns made by the components of the programme-objectives, materials production, contents, methodology of application, implementation and evaluation. These components are closely inter-related.
Like other educational programmes, it should have the following components:
1. Selection of educational objectives
In the field of non-formal education, conditions are much more favorable than in formal education for the introduction of innovative measures and for the inclusion of these components, as it is basically a flexible relevant approach to the needs of the learners in their particular situations.
2. Objectives of the reaming materials
The development of learning materials for neo-literates has the following objectives:
1) Re-inforcement of literacy (two functions)
a) to prevent a lapse into illiteracy for want of reading materials
2) Improvement of economic skills
Neo-literates and illiterates are usually poor and live in rural areas or in very crowded communities, and are either unemployed or underemployed. The improvement of their economic conditions is an important objective in the development of learning materials. This can be achieved if the literacy materials teach them new skills, upgrade their old skills and acquaint them with ways and means of utilizing schemes and projects drawn up for their benefits, informing them of the procedures for getting assistance from rural banks, credit institutions and the cooperatives. The learning materials should also teach them to fill out forms and applications and how to write letters and address them to development agencies.
3) Access to information
Literacy materials should communicate messages/information which can help the target audience to raise their standard of living and improve the quality of life through better health practices, better food, increased income, improved family life and more direct civic and community participation. In short, the literacy materials should bring about an all-around functional improvement in most of the learners' lives. It must try not only to overcome alphabetical illiteracy but also should overcome the lack of knowledge and information which makes people feel hopeless and alien in their own surroundings.
4) Development of critical awareness
Education, whether formal or non-formal, should develop critical thinking and reasoning power. It should aim to nurture into being mature and rational individuals. When adult learners gain insight into their existential situation they become active agents of development and not passive recipients of information. This awareness can help them to understand problems better and to examine different options before deciding on a course of action. To weave this awareness into the general fabric of literacy materials requires skill and acquaintance with the actual living conditions of the learner.
5) Formation of rational and scientific attitudes
Neo-literates have to discard some strongly held convictions and beliefs which probably had some social significance ages ago, but which are totally counter-productive and anti-developmental in the present time. Some superstitious beliefs still exist, especially in far flung rural communities, binding them to the conditions of the past and thus hindering progress. Now they have to adapt themselves to concepts which will be conductive to their development, but the lack of scientific knowledge blunts the message or in the minds of the neo-literates. The neo-literacy materials should, therefore try to develop scientific concepts and inculcate the scientific temperament among neo-literates so they can come to understand that some changes are possible through their own efforts without depending upon divine intervention. This is a very sensitive area, and if the materials are not prepared with insight and imagination, they may stiffen the resistance and harden the attitude of the learners.
6) Orientation toward values, desirable attitude and action
The use of the literacy materials developed should result in desirable behavioural changes, in desirable values development among the users. It should alter the living style through stronger, newer values and attitudes. The materials should be action-oriented with some sort of implementation mechanism.
7) Provision for entertainment
The neo-literates lead a hard and gritty existence with not much joy and diversion. If the learning process becomes too dull and grim then resistance may develop among the learners.
So while the main aim is to instruct and inform, at the same time efforts should be made to make the learning materials attractive and, if possible, entertaining. The best solution is to prepare educational materials which will contain elements of entertainment and entertaining materials which will contain elements of education. Works of fiction, the arts, sports, etc., should also be available to the neo-literates to help them develop a taste for good music, the arts, even good literature, which in turn will enrich their personalities and bring about desirable attitudinal changes.
Materials aimed at development can be divided into two categories:
a) those which can help the neo-literates directly
Cooperatives, etc., when fully and correctly implemented, can lead to great improvement in the standard of living of neo-literates.
3. Approach to material production
Broadly speaking, there are two approaches to materials production:
1) The presumptive and unsystematic approach (undesirable method)
A lot of materials for neo-literates are produced in many countries based on a presumptive approach. It presumes that the writers/ producers of these materials know through their own instincts and intuition what is good for the target neo-literates without really getting to know them and without making an objective study of the socio-economic and cultural factors which operate in their lives. In this approach there seems to be sympathy or concern for the neo-literates, but what is lacking is empathy, the ability to look at the problems they face from their point of view by placing oneself in their position.
2) Planned and organized approach (Method used in this guidebook)
This approach places the target neo-literates squarely in the center of the picture. It proceeds from an abstract to a concrete level, and requires some practical steps:
a) It is necessary to carry out a survey or a context study of the area and of the target neo-literate themselves to identify the problems and constraints in their lives and to examine social, economic and cultural factors. As described in SECTION 11, "Data Needed for Development and Production of Materials for Neo-Literates", materials production begins with surveying the needs of the target neo-literates by actually visiting their villages/ communities. Without knowing the actual situation of the target group by field-visiting, one cannot develop any suitable and beneficial materials for them.
For example, the problem of ill health can be broken down into sub-problems of malnutrition, ignorance of health measures, polluted environment, lack of food caused by poverty, and a host of others.
4. Contents of neo-literate materials
Basically, education is a programme for change, and the change can only be beneficial when the right kind of challenge can arouse the right kind of feeling or emotion to initiate the right kind of action. It follows that the contents of learning materials must incorporate the objectives of the programme and cover the three domains of learning-cognitive, affective and psychomotor. The three domains are distinct but should mutually support each other.
a) cognitive (knowing)—acquisition of literacy and knowledge
There may not be equal treatment of "mix" of these three. Some literacy materials may have more of one domain than the others, but attempts should be made to include all in the contents of the materials to be prepared to achieve the objectives of the programme. Needless to say, the contents should be geared to the objectives of the programme.
5. Methodology of application
In non-formal education there is a wide range of media available for delivering the educational message to its target group. The contents need not be squeezed into one particular medium. There can be the written medium, visual, audio, electronic, and a whole range of others. Each medium has its own advantages and drawbacks. Quite often, different media may be combined to produce optimum effects. The message gains in clarity and results in greater understanding when it is delivered through different but appropriate media. It also breaks the monotony of learning. For example, lessons for the acquisition of basic literacy skills may have to follow a structured sequential framework following sound pedagogical and andragogical principles, but visual aids, games and discussion will enliven the learning process. Communication development materials for better life, new skills, etc., will have to be largely cognitive, through conveyance of knowledge, but visual presentations, dialogues and simulation games, demonstrations, etc., can help the learners gain a clearer understanding and more readily accept the ideas.
To bring about attitudinal change, a direct approach to the "do's" and "don'ts" may not yield the desired results. Dramas and role playing which can make an emotional impact on the audience, particularly when followed by discussion, have better educational potential.
Training of Writers, Illustrators and Producers
Writers and illustrators may be trained through a neo-literate materials producers' workshop under the guidance of experienced experts on material production. The training or workshop should have the following stages:
1. A general introduction of the writers and illustrators to the target group. This can cover:
a) Socio-economic problems of the target group
It is desirable that the writer and the illustrator be taken to the actual places where the neo-literates lives. This brings them close to the real conditions of the target group and aids them in modifying their ideas at the discussion level.
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