Working with Women’s Groups
Khoj Approach

Khoj sees the roots of women’s subordination in their socialization and education right from the childhood that consequently breeds economic dependence as well.

Any endeavor that is directed towards empowerment of women warrants a focus on a kind of alternative education that provokes critical consciousness, responds to the needs and interests of the learners, stirs creativity, gives a world view and independence of mind and facilitates decision making, is learner centered and action oriented.

Khoj methodology seeks to respond to the learning and developmental needs of the adults and the adolescents from the economically and socially disadvantaged households and is informed of the following principles:

  • The contents and method of teaching and the process of learning should have a direct relevance to the lives of the learners. The skills of reading and writing divorced from realities do not help them in any fruitful way.
  • The contents and the method of teaching should respond to the learning needs of the learners and should also benefit from the knowledge and experiences of the learners.
  • The contents and the method of teaching should facilitate analyzing and understanding the problems of and the world around the learners.
  • The education should be based on the mutual respect and equality between the teachers and the learners and facilitate active participation in all the processes of learning.
  • The education should not only promote but establish gender equity.
  • The prevalent alphabetic method of adult literacy has failed in imparting literacy skills as it does not take care of the learning needs of adults, is time consuming, monotonous and mechanical. A new method of adult literacy is required that is based on natural learning processes and the rich knowledge base of the adults. Khoj methodology also incorporates a phonetically based method of teaching literacy in Urdu.

Working with Women
Khoj Methodology

Khoj methodology is a journey from understanding one’s realities: discussing and debating women’s issues to learning how to read and write to women writing their realities to women reading to have knowledge and power to women taking action to solve problems to women emerging as leaders

As a first step, issues are presented in the form of pictures which represent everyday situations, scenes or objects that have a direct relationship to the lives of the group members and the locality in which they live. These pictures or “codes” initiate discussion among the group.

As these codes represent their every day life, this leads to a reaction by the group who start talking about themselves, their situation and their problems. During this process of experience sharing, the adult education teacher’s role is mainly to facilitate the discussion, prevent it from going off the track, fill in the gaps in information and encourage all the members to participate in the discussions.

Structured information sharing follows the discussion in the group in order to empower them with knowledge and skills which can lead them to positive action.

As Khoj methodology is issue based, word based and phonetic some time is spent with the learners to make the logic of phonics understood. In a highly interactive discussion it is brought home that all infants start speaking trying to understand the sounds around them and to follow the sound sequence in the given words. It is further emphasized that a speaker of a word or a sentence is the best judge of what sounds that particular word or sentence contains. The thing they need to do is to pay some attention to what they speak; they listen to what they say and understand the sequence of the sounds. In phonetically based literacy learners are the owners of the sounds of the words as they are the ones who produce them. The job of the teacher is to draw their attention to this fact.

At the end of the discussion on a particular issue, the teacher summarizes the discussion and asks the group which word/words were used most frequently (which is the same as the issue raised through the picture). The teacher then asks the group to tell her what sounds made that particular word or words. If the learners are able to identify the sounds in correct sequence fifty percent of the work literacy is done. After that the teacher takes them further and that is the realm of writing. This method starts from speaking and then facilitates reading through teaching how to write first. She writes the complete word on the blackboard and tells the group that is how the whole word is written. The idea behind is that women should have the picture of the whole word in their mind. The teacher then erases the word and writes the written representations of sounds in that particular word one by one and asks the learners to copy it. Each learner is personally guided how to write. Unless one written representation of a particular sound is mastered the teacher does not move to the next one.

To facilitate the process of learning, flashcards are used which contain all possible written forms of the sounds. The teacher uses the flash cards to show the visual presentation of the sounds and to test the comprehension of the learners. The members of the literacy group are asked to use these flash cards to identify the sounds they have learnt in a particular key word. Once the group is comfortable with the concept of sounds and has attained mastery in how to write the written representations contained in the key word they have learnt the teacher demonstrates how new words can be made by merely changing the sequence of the sounds learnt. After being taught 5-7 sounds, the learners are in a position to make tens of new words and short sentences by re-arranging the sequence of the sounds. As the learning progresses, the learners are taught the use of spaces between the words, how to make sentences, use of punctuation etc. Learning written representations of about 15-20 sounds, they are in a position to construct meaningful and coherent text. After that learners enter into the more complex arena of learning the language.

After collective discussions and debates the group reaches some conclusion and based on the agreed analysis and identification of the root causes of the key problems decisions are made on initiating individual and collective action. A number of aids are used to facilitate the process.

The linking of work on practical solutions to adult education is one of the key aspects of the new approach. The issues raised by the groups are related to status of women and girls, rights and responsibilities, decision making and participation in political processes, general health problems, reproductive health, child care, poor economic resources, children’s education, property rights and inheritance, livestock and poultry management, absence of physical infrastructure, conflict management, poor sanitation and drainage facilities and development of local leadership.

The role of the supporting organization in the practical solutions is that of a catalyst. As issues emerge from the group discussions, Khoj facilitates them frame their ideas in realistic terms, to have access to any technical expertise and to organize the activity. Action and action planning is an ongoing process.

It takes approximately six months to complete the first phase of learning. The last leg of the literacy and numeracy program accommodates a process of reinforcing what they had learnt earlier in literacy, arithmetic and on the awareness building side. They read stories on different issues and write their own views on issues crucial to them. Many other activities like weekly study circles take place in order to establish an effective link between learning and action.

A WORD OF CAUTION: Abrupt discontinuation of any literacy program after six months would very easily throw them back in illiteracy. It is imperative to organize activities which encourage the learners to keep using their newly acquired skills and hence making literacy a life tool of empowerment for them.

Advanced Level Adult Education

After the first phase, higher level education starts. The idea behind second phase is to give a comprehensive grounding in issues affecting their lives and also to show them possibilities and scope of action they can take. The subjects included for this level are health education (first aid, healthcare, reproductive health and childcare), kitchen gardening, livestock keeping, poultry keeping, nutrition, legal and political rights, home economics and safe environment.

Those women who wish to study for a certificate in formal education are facilitated and coached for the same.

Khoj methodology leads to keep establishing a link between learning and doing and some subsequent action.

Computer education is also on offer for those who display higher performance and show aptitude for computer learning. They also need instruction in English. So far, those women who are part of the matriculation program are working on the computers.

In the meantime a process of shaping a local level women’s organization can also take place so that the work can be institutionalized.

Working with Children - Khoj Methodology

  • The alternative methodology sees children at the center stage of education. It is highly participatory and involves children in the process of learning and teaching.
  • It is firmly rooted in the realities of life. In order to ensure relevance alternative educational materials have been developed.
  • In order to ensure logical and analytical thinking questioning is provoked in learners. Dialogue on issues is the first step in the process of learning.
  • Only after a meaningful dialogue learning how to read and right takes place. Literacy is word based that normally represents an issue.
  • In order to build on a child’s existing knowledge of language a phonetic method of teaching Urdu is used. Nasira Habib has developed the method.
  • The issues are presented to children through codes.
  • An alternative a core program is taught for the first six months before entering into subject focused teaching.
  • The core program includes twenty-five codes with the same number of key words/phrases/sentences. Some of the key issues represented through codes are as follows:The significance of education, trees and healthy environment, animals and their role in life, outer parts of human body, inner parts of human body, balanced diet, personal hygiene, clean house, status of girls in our society, flag and a country, accidents and how to avoid them, the role of sun in human life, significance of play and sports, children’s rights, modes of measurement, care of elderly and sick.On completion, children are able to read and write any text in Urdu language. They are good at basic arithmetic. They are exposed to new ideas. They grow in self-confidence and become active learners and actors in the drama of life.
  • Instead of depositing information in the minds of children a problem posing method is adopted that makes learning analytical and effective.
  • As the methodology believes in learning by doing the work is largely activity based.
  • A number of activities are designed to expose them to the realities of life.
  • After the core level daily life health education, ecological agriculture, nutrition and computer applications are also taught in addition to standard school subjects.
  • The experience shows that unless mothers are also involved in the process of questioning, analysis, dialogue, alternative consciousness and action many of the efforts with children go waste. As a result, Khoj makes a special effort to form mothers’ groups and where possible women’s educational groups as well because the organization believes that women’s education and children’s education complement each other.

The comparative advantage of the alternative methodology is as follows:

Conventional Alternative
Teacher Centered Learner Centered
Alphabetic Method of Literacy Phonetic Method
Memory Based Understanding Based
Less Efficient Very Efficient
Theoretical Experiential/Practical
Mechanical Creative
Abstract Specific
Not Related to Practical Life Rooted in the Realities of Life
Snubs Questioning Provokes Questioning
Monotonous Interesting
Discourages Self Expression Encourages Self-Expression