The term 'post literacy' has come to have different meanings in various educational systems. In some countries, the term is used loosely to include all forms of education that follow after the achievement of basic literacy. In some other countries, post literacy is defined more narrowly to simply consolidate basic literacy skills to a level equivalent to the completion of formal primary school. In this definition, post literacy is considered as a 'bridge' between primary schooling or its equivalent and further study.
The definition accepted by the National Literacy Mission lies somewhere in between these two extremes. As a part of continuing education, post-literacy programmes attempt to give interested learners an opportunity to harness and develop their learning potential after completion of a course in basic literacy.
Learning skills acquired by neo-literates during the short span on the literacy campaigns are at best fragile. There is a genuine danger of neo-literates regressing into partial or total illiteracy unless special efforts are continued to consolidate, sustain and possibly enhance their literacy levels.
Thus, the aim of the Mission's post literacy programme is to consolidate the basic literacy skills of speaking, reading, writing, numeracy and problem-solving and at the same time, transform these learners into an educated 'whole person', who is a productive socio-economic asset to the community.
The National Literacy Mission has designed a one-year post literacy programme, to be implemented in a mission mode. In fact, it has laid a great deal of emphasis on the planning and launching of post literacy programme simultaneously after conclusion of the total literacy campaigns phase. In keeping with its aims, the Mission has formulated and circulated broad guidelines for implementation of post literacy programmes. The three basic elements are:
Post literacy learning strategies as developed by the National Literacy Mission envisage the provision of learning opportunities both in structured and unstructured situations. Structured situation refers to organised learning where primers or graded textual material as well as suitably designed supplementary reading books for neo-literates. Unstructured situations refer to widely differing literacy abilities necessitating the provision of a wide range of learning materials and tools. These range from wall newspapers to book corners or libraries. Various media like radio and television are also used along with local art forms, study tours and excursions. Two novel and successful methods of imparting information are 'village parliament' as experimented in Bilaspur district, or 'Gaon Kacheri' in Pune district.
The post literacy programme thus serves as an umbrella under which a host of development activities are taken up; skill development forms a major component of post literacy; enterprising district collectors have been able to dovetail skill development within innovative development schemes. It is during the post literacy phase that linkages with other departments - especially with health, rural development and environment are forged.
One of the most important tasks of the post literacy is the 'mopping up' operation or remediation. Those learners who dropped out of the total literacy campaigns phase or could not achieve the prescribed norms of literacy, are enabled to achieve the required levels. The first phase of the post literacy programme envisages 40 hours of guided learning, focusing not only on remediation, retention and consolidation of literacy skills of neo-literates but seeking to ingrain the reading habit in them - so that they are able to put their literacy skills to good use in their daily life.
The next phase of the post literacy programme provides opportunities for unstructured learning through self-directed processes. The Jan Chetna Kendras are used as an 'open window' for dissemination of information regarding ongoing development schemes. Many districts have brought out simplified booklets on development schemes for neo-literates that have helped them to make informed choices. Districts are encouraged to create a pool of literature by holding a writers' workshop and the tapping the talent of local story-tellers.
The village library movement is yet another initiative to promote self-reliance in learning. In each village where the number of neo-literates is substantial, small pathagars with a reading room or a library in the existing shikshan kendra/youth club should be established. Similarly at the block level, preferably in the library of the secondary or higher secondary schools, separate sections for neo-literates can be created. This support library at the block level is expected to nurture the library at the village level. It could also lend books and rotate them to different villages on a weekly, fortnightly and monthly basis. The creation of a library for each village unit of 100 learners is central to the organisation of all post literacy activities.
Thiruchirapally district of Tamil Nadu has the distinction of having virtually completed the post literacy programme on a totally ad hoc grant. The Thiruchirapally Mavatta Arivoli Iyakkam headed by the district collector ran according to schedule and has now made the transition to the continuing education phase. The Arivoli strongpoint was that it had a wide reach and adequate presence in the rural areas - a large number of village panchayat residents, most of them women, say that they owe their posts won in the 1996 panchayat elections, to their newly acquired literacy. The 2,400 village libraries, a feature of the post-literacy stage are well used. Often little more than a tin roof shed, where books are displayed like buntings on string tied to poles, the libraries are also doubling as the headquarters of women's self-help group of the area. An interesting practice initiated by the Arivoli is to have library organisers send direct reports on post cards, on the state of basic amenities in the village ranging from hand pumps and streetlights to drinking water. These missives reach the district collector and the practice has accorded the library organisers importance in the community.
Post literacy programmes are open to everybody who takes reading and learning as a way to enrich life. But they are specifically designed to cater to:
Each district is unique. The learners are not uniformly endowed. Their ingenuity for learning, receptivity and retentitivity are varied. Therefore the National Literacy Mission has permitted and encouraged great flexibility and innovation in designing and implementation of post literacy programmes. The concerned zila saksharta samiti is free to create a model that suits the needs of the district and its learners.
Faridkot district showed the way for others way back in 1995. Under its post literacy programme, it formed the Lok Chetna Kendras, close-knit clusters of neo-literates and literacy volunteers. Membership-based the scheme elicited a remarkable response. In just two years, nearly 4,000 Lok Chetna Kendras had been registered with well over two lakh members. Lok Chetna Sabhas were set up to coordinate the activities of the kendras in each village. The office bearers of these bodies were elected democratically from among the executive committee members of the Lok Chetna Kendras of that area. Each kendra runs a library for neo-literates. To arouse discussion and free expression of ideas on topical issues, each kendra meets once a fortnight. The topics range from social evils like intoxicants and vulgar songs to voter awareness, and health. The kendras are also taking an initiative in other fields by organising eye camps and animal husbandry camps.
At the launch of a post literacy programme, a quick survey is undertaken to comprehend the realistic state of learners. A system of external evaluation is adopted for the assessment of post literacy achievement, in keeping with the National Literacy Mission's thrust on transparency and objectivity.
Post literacy programmes have done well in ensuring a successful transition of neo-literates from guided learning to self-learning and finally to life-long learning. The Post literacy programmes implemented so far have covered considerable ground and the cumulative experience has yielded valuable insights for the planning of post literacy programmes and the shaping of continuing education strategies.