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The ability to read and write, and perform basic operations with numbers, is a necessary foundation and an indispensable pre-requisite for all future schooling and lifelong learning. However, various governmental, as well as non-governmental surveys, indicate that we are currently in a learning crisis: a large proportion of students currently in elementary school – estimated to be over five crores in number – have not attained foundational literacy and numeracy, i.e., the ability to read and comprehend basic text and the ability to carry out basic addition and subtraction with Indian numerals. (NEP 2020).

Foundational Literacy and Numeracy

While literacy is the ability to read, write, speak and listen in several ways that facilitates to exchange views and thoughts across different stakeholders and know the world view, numeracy helps in developing logical thinking and reasoning strategies in our daily life activities. Literacy is a critical component; if we wish to see that our children are successful in their studies as well as personal and community lives.

Numeracy is nevertheless significant in several walks of our lives including sports, cooking, tailoring, shopping etc., concepts like measurement, patterns, time are just a part of calculations in our everyday life. Hence literacy and numeracy become essential skills to achieve success in life. This emphasis can clearly be seen in the National Education Policy, 2020 when it states, ‘The rest of this Policy will become relevant for our students only if this most basic learning requirement is first achieved’.

Research studies have revealed that once children fall behind on foundational literacy and numeracy, they tend to maintain flat learning curves for years, perpetually unable to catch up. For many children, this has become a major reason for not attending school, or for dropping out altogether. At the same time, teachers have explained the extreme difficulty they currently face in covering the syllabus while also paying attention to the large numbers of students who have fallen behind over a good period. Achieving foundational literacy and numeracy for all children must become an immediate national mission.

Foundational learning accounts for children’s ability to read and meaningfully comprehend, as well as using basic mathematical operations in real life. India is facing a learning crisis and various national and international surveys, point to the low and in some cases declining learning levels. In the last two decades, we have reached near universal access to schooling (enrolment for children aged six- fourteen years is ninety five percent). However, learning levels have remained consistently low. Most of the foundational skills are acquired in grades I and II, where children ‘learn to read’.

Literacy is a critical foundation of education- across cultures, countries and people. Since ensuring that all people have access to literacy is so vital, researchers have invested considerable time and effort in studying how children learn to read and what teachers can do to help them learn to read better.

Today we are living in a world that is continuously talking, yet we are not hearing these conversations necessarily and fully. With technology being a major part of our lives, much of our communication is typed and silent and we are relatively more distracted and diverted. This is leading to creating gaps in acquiring fundamental skills especially by young children.

As a result, children remain behind on their literacy capabilities at the initial phase of their education. In order to make sure that this pattern does not continue and learning gaps are filled at the earliest, there is a need for exploring such innovations which are context based and can be customised as per the classroom needs.

Literacy is the mainstay of all education. Without a correct and clear understanding of language, communication and writing skills, it is almost impossible for children to succeed in their educational journey. The situation becomes

more precarious in the education systems like ours that heavily depend on standardized assessment and standardized assessment relies so profoundly on writing.

Another serious point related to literacy is that children can often fall behind at the beginning of their literacy lessons if they miss out on a basic communication step which is ‘spoken communication’. This skill is more quickly and naturally learnt through interaction with parents and other people surrounding the child in early life. Though there is nothing new about the importance of spoken communication, but in today’s world, we are observing the beginning of declining skills in this area and it has been caused by the rise of technology which has majorly impacted the life of young children today.


Chatta is a teaching approach which involves training, software and resources for educators to help improve literacy through linking words and images and creating audio-visual storyboards. Through linking experiences and subject content with modelled language and oral rehearsal, students of all ages can think, speak and write at length and in depth.

‘Teachers create audio- visual storyboards which are shared with students,’ explains Williams. ‘The approach has been designed to mirror the way people think and can be used both in classrooms and at home. The audio-visual cues of Chatta strengthen long term memory and make it effortless for children and young people to speak, write and express their thoughts. The exposure to strong models of language makes it easy to understand deeper language and vocabulary when reading and to apply it when writing.’

The impact of Chatta has been phenomenal. Educators using Chatta’s approach have seen children, who had previously been unable to talk, developing fluent speech. A randomised control trial concluded that children who experienced Chatta’s approach made significantly greater progress than those who did not use the Chatta approach.