Same-Language Subtitling Boosts Literacy in India

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India’s public television network Doordarshan and nonprofit organization PlanetRead are working together to transform Bollywood musicals into an educational tool for the children of India.

Over half of all Indian children are functionally illiterate. However, while education in the country remains scarce, television is an exceedingly popular medium.

Knowing this, the founder of PlanetRead, Dr. Brij Kothari, created a way for these seemingly incompatible aspects of Indian culture to benefit each other: Same-Language Subtitling (SLS).

Many of the songs featured in the musicals aired by Doordarshan are widely known in India, so for Dr. Kothari, SLS seemed like an easy and natural solution to the nation’s lack of literacy — and it happened to be incredibly effective.

Dr. Kothari estimates that SLS has helped 200 million Indians improve their language and reading skills. Additionally, ratings on Doordarshan have skyrocketed, and SLS has since been adopted by the private channel Zee TV as well.

Former President Bill Clinton lauded the creators of SLS and outlined the benefits of the program at a conference for the Clinton Global Initiative — see for yourself in this video.

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