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Ongoing Projects
Same Language Subtitling on National Television:

Project Summary


India's 7+ literacy is 65.4% (2001 Census), a gain of 12.9% from the 1991 census. However, the literacy skills of at least half the so-called "literates" are abysmally low. There are at least 300 million people in each of the categories of non-, early, and full literacy. Over 160 million rural and urban poor with early literacy skills already have access to TV. Moreover, access is growing rapidly.


  • Raise the literacy skills of all early literates on a mass scale, through lifelong practice.
  • Increase the frequency of literacy practices among: a) early literates not in school (children and adults), and b) emergent literates in schools or literacy centers.
  • Motivate non-literates toward literacy, through entertainment and popular culture.
  • Make reading an automatic and reflex phenomenon in everyday life.
  • Create a reading culture, an environment for reading.
  • Increase the entire population's exposure to print (especially critical for pre-reading children).
  • Inform people about important social issues and generate thinking around these issues.Meet the above objectives at an extremely low per person cost.
  • Deliver in an economically sustainable model.
  • Longterm institutionalization of the project/concept for further development and replication.
  • Induce change in the entertainment industry by demonstrating a win-win formula for edutainment.
  • Influence educational policy-making to invest in lifelong, everyday forms of literacy.

How will the objectives be met?

With a very simple, proven, and powerful concept: Same Language Subtitling (SLS). SLS suggests subtitling the lyrics of song programmes on national television, in the 'same' language as the audio. Subtitles change color to match the audio track exactly. Even a non-literate person can identify which word is being sung. SLS is implementable in any Indian language, however, Hindi film songs are suggested in this project because they are passionately watched all over, and, half the country's non- and early literates reside in the Hindi belt. Questions asked on the program in a competition mode will inform and generate thinking around important social issues.

Project Details

Past treatment of literacy development: The 1990s experienced a spurt in the literacy rate (52.5% in 1991 to 65.4% in 2001), thanks to the Total Literacy Campaings (TLCs) in nearly all the districts of India, under the aegis of the National Literacy Mission. The TLCs successfully added around 100 million neo-literate people, bringing the early literate population to over 300 million at present. Early literates are defined as people whose literacy skills are at risk of gradual erosion or ultimately relapse into non-literacy. The TLC did not plan for the continued improvement of early literacy skills. The Post-Literacy Campaigns (PLCs) failed to enlist a majority of the neo-literates. The Continuing Education (CE) program initiated recently, does not fundamentally address the low motivation for sustained participation in 'formalized' PL/CE activities. Thus, we have millions more so-called "literates" who are functionally still non-literate. For example, they may be unable to read a newspaper, write a letter, or fill out a simple form.

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Same Language Subtitling on Television

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