Pratham Books at the Global Book Fund, CIES 2016

Suzanne Singh, Chairperson, Pratham Books was invited to be part of a discussion on the Global Book Fund at CIES 2016 in Vancouver.

The Comparative and International Education Society (CIES), Inc., was founded in 1956 to foster cross-cultural understanding, scholarship, academic achievement and societal development through the international study of educational ideas, systems, and practices.

The Global Book Fund is a groundbreaking initiative with a wide range of partners that is building on experience from health sector commodity reform to transform the development, procurement and distribution of books for the education sector. It is expected that Book Fund activities will increase book quality and availability while decreasing costs. The initial focus will be on books for reading instruction and practice in underserved languages.
The three Book Fund panels at CIES this year updated CIES participants on progress and engaged them in contributing to improving and increasing content, transforming approaches to financing and procurement and modernizing approaches to supply chain management to ensure Books For Every Child.
The lack of high quality textbooks, reading books and library materials in languages children understand in many countries has produced a learning crisis: “Of the world’s 650 million primary school age children, at least 250 million are not learning the basics in reading and mathematics . . . 130 million of these children are in primary school but have not achieved the minimum benchmarks for learning (UNESCO EFA GMR, 2014).”

Suzanne’s panel focused on providing a critical analysis of new approaches to content development, content access and supply. She presented StoryWeaver as a tool to address the issue. Her co panelists were:
Ana Robledo, RTI who began the session by providing an overview of the large-scale Learning Materials Survey that was just completed for Africa. This survey reviewed more than 6000 titles in 11 African countries, covering many languages of instruction. She described the results of the survey and framed the issues of title availability and access. Ed Gaible, Natoma Group, presented recommendations from his recently conducted design study for the Global Reading Repository and solicited feedback from the audience on maximizing the functionality and use of the GRR for governments, organizations and individuals to upload, download and print titles within and across contexts.
Michelle Malecki presented the two prototypes of “track&trace” technology that USAID is piloting to improve book distribution and management.
Paul Frank, SIL LEAD and Suzanne, presented and discussed the open source software packages that their respective organizations had developed and engaged the audience in a conversation about encouraging access by local authors and large scale uptake.

Suzanne spoke of how Pratham Books was using Open Source as a means to address the scarcity in multilingual reading resources for children through the StoryWeaver platform
Pratham Books mission is a ‘book in every child’s hand’ and this has a two part objective, one is to create more multilingual reading resources so there are more available for children to read and the second is to provide access to these books, where children need them the most. She spoke of the challenge in creating a scalable publishing model for a massively multi-lingual and multi-cultural market. Pratham Books’ solution was to create an open source platform, StoryWeaver, which provides free access to thousands of books in multiple languages. As a publisher that has been creating children’s books, primarily in print, for over a decade, Pratham Books’ has a vast catalogue of high quality books in 18 Indian languages. We have openly licensed our storybooks on StoryWeaver for users to read, download or print. Apart from this, we have also embedded some tools for content creation – to enable people to repurpose the content into more languages and versions. The goal is to bring together content users and content creators and create a participatory culture that will catalyse the creation of more content.

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