Khoj Methodology – A Sure Way to Education for All in Pakistan 1

The number of out of school children in Pakistan exceeds the total population of the countries like Norway, Ireland and New Zealand. According to the 2012 Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report, the country is home to around 5.1 million such children, which makes it the abode of the second largest number of out of school children in the world. Unfortunately, the story of the dismal performance doesn’t end here. Pakistan is also home to more than 50 million illiterate adults which is the third highest number in the world. And almost half of the rural women have never been to school.

But sadly, the children who are attending school are in no better situation. According to ASER Annual Status of Education Report 2011, around 29 per cent of 1st graders can read nothing and more than 58 per cent of them can not recognize letters in the language primers. And of the grade ten students, 8.1 per cent can read only sentences not the running text while 3.2 per cent can read just words and 2.3 per cent can recognize only letters of alphabet.  The story of the adult learners is no different.

Sheer lack of political will has resulted in the absence of investment on research and experimentation in developing effective and efficient methods of teaching literacy in the national language – literacy that is the stepping stone for educational attainment. Even the most expensive elite schools are unable to equip their students with the basic language skills in Urdu. On the contrary, a culture is created that gives their students a condescending attitude to the acquisition of the language.

We need alternative methods of teaching and learning if we are serious about eradicating illiteracy from the country.

While working with illiterate women and children from low income households, I realized that the conventional method of teaching literacy was simply unable to deliver at the pace that was required. Women who had to fight on so many fronts in order to make both ends meet and who had so many other social and familial obligations to fulfill didn’t have endless time to become literate even if they wanted to become one. On the other hand, teachers didn’t have the required competence to deal with the issues arising in language teaching. The problematic situation led me to working on developing a method of teaching and learning that not only ensured effective learning in a short span of time but which was rooted in the life situations around them. Action research in partnership with illiterate urban and rural women and children gave shape to what is now known as Khoj Methodology. The materials have been rendered in to Sindhi twice and published in India as well.

The salient features of the method used with adult learners are as follows:

  • The process starts with the phonemic awareness; how words are formed and what is the relationship between a word and the speaker of the word.
  • Conceptual analysis and conceptual understanding is the key at every stage of learning.
  • Unless a situation is created and a problem has arisen no new teaching is volunteered. Learners are lead to discovering new challenges and new learning situations which are very learner friendly.
  • The prerequisite is the active participation of every learner at all levels of learning that results in generation and construction of new knowledge  by every one and for every one.
  • Urdu is a phonic friendly language; a relationship between phonemes and graphemes is established without difficulty.
  • In the word based teaching it is ensured that in the first ten to twelve words the ten vowel sounds are covered so that a way is paved for endless manipulation and discovering and learning new words.
  • Manipulation of phonemes and phonics learnt at any stage results in a treasure of vocabulary.
  • Generation of new words help the learners to build sentences only after mastering four to five key words which are instrumental in generating enough words. Progession of word learning is scientific and helps generate such new words which are critical in sentence formation.
  • The emphasis is on real use of language from real situations, not on practice exercises of grammar.
  • Once they have mastered the art of sentence making they are supported in expressing themselves through writing short passages. They are encouraged to express themselves on topics of their choice.
  • After that sky is the limit; they can read any text they choose to and they can write any thing they need to or wish to.

The process can be completed within six months but in order to make the new learning part of their system it is important to make interventions which ensure the continuous use of literacy skills. Fifteen post literacy readers in the form of stories on the most common issues facing the adults have also been developed.

The teachers were not required to master the daunting grammar of alphabetic method. In the villages of Sheikhupura and in the suburbs of Lahore graduates from primary schools were trained and appointed teachers who produced fantastic results. The work has been evaluated very positively nationally and internationally several times. In fact, one international evaluation named it fast track method.

There were thousands of perfect illiterates who have achieved spectacular results in achieving literacy in a very short span of time and many of them have earned secondary and higher secondary certificate and some of them are holding bachelor’s degree.

Khoj methodology has been field tested and improved for years and offers a sure way to eradicate illiteracy in the country.

Any queries and comments are very welcome. Detailed orientation and teacher training can be organized on request.

The method that addresses the literacy needs of the primary school children shall be discussed in the next blog.

6 Responses to Khoj Methodology – A Sure Way to Education for All in Pakistan 1

  1. Dr.Imran says:

    A job well done.
    I wish if I and my daughter could get a teacher like you.

  2. Rana Hussain says:

    I quickly browsed through the great work done by khoj and realized how very promising and practical the relevance of issues and steps taken to address. Please keep up the great work.

  3. It’s my pleasure to share that, Mahita, an NGO working in the Old City of Hyderabad, India had adopted this methodology for facilitating the education for the children in the urban slums of Hyderabad for the age group of 6-12 years and 14+ years. Mahita, has always felt that education is one of the important tools in bringing change in the lives of the vulnerable groups. Eduction is not mere literacy, but awakens the mind and conscientisatizes the individuals and the community.

    Mahita had extensive interactions with academics and pedagogy experts and finally adopted a unique phonetic methodology from Khoj – Society for People’s Education, Lahore developed by Ms Nasira Habib. I must thank Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, New Delhi, who facilitated her visits to India for imparting training on the methodology to the community educators of Mahita in the years 1997-1999.

    What, we have found in this novel method is that education is not an end in itself. It is a means to provoke critical thinking, to analyze the situation of the learners and to seek solutions. It’s really an amazing work and I must congratulate Ms Nasira.

    We have also witnessed that, while using this phonetic methodology, it not only makes learning easier but also helps internalize strong messages on social awareness. It develops analytical powers on issues related to environment, child rights, health conditions and other social issues.
    Mahita experienced that, this approach and methodology enabled children to easily pick up and recognize the the letters of alphabet through their respective sounds and they were also able to generate and identify other words using the same sounds. Another very unique and innovative feature we have found in this methodology is that it helps develop a world view. The information which is imparted through the codes has enabled the girls to broaden their frame of thinking and develop a positive outlook towards their lives and themselves.

    Mahita adopted this methodology in the year 1998 to teach the children for the age group of 6-9 years and 13+ years in the community motivational centres in the Slums. Later seeing the impact, the Andhra Pradesh Open School Society, Government of Andhra Pradesh adopted this methodology for their 7th Class Distance Education Course for Urdu medium children.

    It’s my pleasure to share Mahita experience of adopting this wonderful methodology in our project area.

    Ms. Nasira, after reading your blog on Khoj methodology, I was very happy to recollect my memories and could not resist writing about our wonderful experience of benefitting from your work.

    Thanking you with kind regards
    Ramesh Sekhar Reddy.P
    Program Director
    Andhra Pradesh

  4. Sabrina Aziz says:

    Great work Madam, it is really very importnat to share wonderful experiences with others to learn from. The processes and methodologies you use in education either Adult Literacy or Early Childhood Development is very much practical and fruitful.
    I am lucky enough to work with you and learnt a lot from you

    God bless you and your Organization

    Sabrina Aziz

  5. Fayyez Ahmad says:

    Dear Madam,
    Can you tell me how to convince adult learners for literacy program.What are the benefits for them?
    What should be told to them in this regard.As most of them think that they are grown.

    Best regards,

    Fayyez Ahmad

    • Nasira Habib says:

      Adult education can be a daunting task if the potential learners don’t see any practical use of the program on offer in their personal lives. Before suggesting something concrete I would like to know the profile of the target learners in terms of age, location and socioeconomic status. There could be different strategies for different age groups. I may also post some reference material on the blog or Khoj website at which might be helpful in your work.

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