Brij Kothari

Ashoka Fellow
India,
Fellow Since 2004

Citation

This profile was prepared when Brij Kothari was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2004.
The New Idea
Brij’s Same Language Subtitling (SLS) program makes reading practice an incidental, automatic, and subconscious part of popular TV entertainment, at a low per-person cost. SLS refers to subtitles on film song programs, in the “same” language as the audio. Thus, Hindi programs are subtitled in Hindi, Tamil programs in Tamil, and so on in every language. The basic idea is, what you see (text) is what you hear (audio), and the two reinforce each other. The power of SLS lies in the fact that it is covertly educational. No extra time, transport, and money needs to be set aside, as reading becomes a home-based experience complementing other reading and literacy work.

Over 500 million people in India, about half of India, has access to television and there are 27 million more rural viewers than urban viewers. There has been an annual increase of 10 percent in the number of houses with television. While media has been a major conduit for the government to spread awareness about literacy, Brij’s approach uses television to introduce reading practice in a non-intrusive manner. The subtitles are simply hitched on to the regular programming by the state-owned television channel, Doordarshan. Since the technical cost is very low and SLS can be implemented nationally without any additional infrastructure associated with schools, Brij’s program has now attracted government interest.

Brij is expanding into a new for-profit venture, BookBox, which aims to provide an affordable “book” for every child in every language. These animated audio-visual “books” for children are culturally-rooted, available already in 20 languages and can be distributed over a variety of existing Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the developing and developed world. A viewer would be able to select from a multicultural/multilingual selection of books. Books would be read with the text of the audio appearing as perfectly synchronized Same Language Subtitles (SLS) at the bottom of the animation.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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