Sunday, July 22, 2007

Quick Thoughts on Literacy

The Indian Census defines a literate as a person aged 7 and above who can both read and write with understanding in any language. A person who can only read but cannot write is not literate. -

Axiom: Anything that the Govt does is wrong, stupid, extremely unproductive and pernicious.

The percentage of literates, as claimed by the Govt of India is false. My granny in the village, who couldn’t write a single character was counted as a literate. The literacy percentage is pretty close to zero. I’ve seen a million degree holders who can’t fill forms in various offices, which means they lack the basic ability to read. The Govt gives out degrees which are as good as a three dollar bill. To put it simply, a majority of Indians are educated AND illiterate. Read implicitly means comprehend, if it is just the ability to recognize characters using optic nerves, a lot of monkeys, dogs and a large number of mammals can be made literate in no time! Since most people don’t understand this ridiculously simple concept, I’ll change read to comprehend.

Writing is unnecessary. Everything should be based on need. There is no need to write. One can either type or better yet, just speak. Yes, writing probably increases tactile intelligence, but that can be done by a thousand other toys, they do a far better job of that - rubics cube is one such. What purpose does writing serve? Communication. That was in the Jurassic period, when people used paper. Now, one types, which is painfully slow. It is better to use podcasts and other voice based communications. Teaching people to write is very resource intensive - it needs people and it takes a lot of time to learn to draw the alphabets, both of which are an absolute waste of time. I will try to ban all writing on paper!

Preemptive strike against the nitpickers: Yes, the graphologists will lose their jobs, but as Kanwal Rekhi said somwhere on, the concentration should be on productivity and not on employment.

Speech to text conversion is the way to go. No more writing! What the world badly needs is a top-notch open source speech to text conversion engine. Two years from now Linux will reach an inflection point, add OpenOffice and a top-notch Speech to Text Engine, and the billion open source products out there - we’ll have all the technology necessary to solve the worlds problems - starvation, poverty, education and health. Linux will promptly proceed to trample Microsoft, with its complete stack of products. A large majority of people are outside US where Bill Gates can’t use his intelligent marketing, and there will be a lot more Linux users in the world than Windows. But that doesn’t matter anyways, Google is going to make the OS irrelevant, no one would notice what *brand* it is. I guess I am digressing from literacy..

Instead of write, able to type in one language or use a speech to text conversion engine or podcast, or telephone would meet the communication requirement. People should be able to speak on the phone, which will be converted to text at the other end and sent as email. Faxes will be banned. Now, this is pretty easy, anyone with a set of vocal chords meets this, hence we don’t have to mention this.

Next, we need basic arithmetic, ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide. Far more importantly compare numbers. Greater than and less than.

Literacy: Comprehend, +, -, *, /, <, >

Now that we have a definition of literacy, I am in a dilemma. Do I first start with the educated people and make them literate or do I start with the pure illiterate, those village rustics?

The pure illiterates would be a lot easier to work with, they lack degrees, silly egos, attitudes and such which are barriers to learning. It is easier to bypass the current set of educated people, they are all pretty much junk anyways and start working on blank formatted brains.

Once I make people literate, I’ll introduce them to Google and Wikipedia. That would solve a lot of Education problems. I guess it is better to create a mini-wikipedia as most people might feel overwhelmed by the amount of information in wikipedia. Of course, it will be cross linked so that people can zoom into any level of detail. This should pretty much solve a large majority of education problems. The onus on learning should be shifted from the teacher to the student. In fact, the best teacher is no teacher! Everyone will learn by debates - go to wikipedia, google, understand the rules of logic, fallacies ( and argue away!!

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