Moroccans won’t read your book, they are busy watching TV
By Hamza El Mounhi
Morocco World News
Ahmedabad, India, January 20, 2013
The European spends on average 30 min per day reading. The Arabs spend 6 min per year. In this regard, Moroccans are not an exception. In other words, one European reads in one day what 5 Arab individuals read in a year. Better phrased, one European is able to process in one day 5 times the amount of information and knowledge processed by an Arab in a year.
Well, I am not bringing anything new; it is obvious that the intellectual gap between our two worlds is huge. However, these statics are frightening and push us to consider further the relationship between “reading” and “development.”
During my childhood, parents and teachers used to praise the benefits of reading and presented it as the ideal way to acquire proficiency in a language. When I grew up, they told me that reading is the key to understand the complexity of the world. Well, it seems that they were right.
This key gives access to information and helps analyzing it. Since most of our problems are a result of information asymmetry at all levels, “reading” seems to be an acceptable solution to a portion of our common challenges.
Before starting to use the key, one needs to have it. If we want to start reading we should first be able to recognize words and understand sentences; which is not to be taken for granted. Reading entails a whole “complex” cognitive process.
First, one needs to focus for a relatively long period of time, which is becoming more and more challenging in today’s world. Then, a significant effort has to be put in order to understand “new words” or complex linguistic expressions, which can be very painful. As they say, no pain no gain. Here the gain we are talking about is quite blurry. When I was a child, teachers used to tell me that reading helps developing your writing skills and reflection abilities. Honestly, I was not convinced as the benefits of reading were not immediate.
I was very happy when I saw that our politicians are aware of the importance of that matter. I was less happy when I saw that we are failing to adopt new innovative solutions and are always sticking to classic panaceas such as building one or two big libraries, broadcast the information on national TV, everybody claps and we are all happy.
The place where I am now, India, had an amazing experience to engage people to read. One of my professors at the Indian Institute of Management, Pr.Brijit Kothari had this brilliant idea to make people read through…TV!
Subtitles are as old as TV but usually used for translation. But what if they are used for the same language?
The experience held at large scale in India consisted of subtitling widely-followed TV shows (mostly Bollywood songs). People are hence reading de facto and spontaneously.
With this innovation, they could achieve three objectives with one solution. The Indian initiative has three major outcomes:
1) People read something they like during a consequent period of time. The experience becomes enjoyable and they are ready to reiterate it.
2) The language used is simple and easy to understand. Hence, it is possible to engage large spans of the population (as TV penetration is close to 100%) covering all ages.
3) People connect words with sounds and orthography with phonetics.
Such initiatives are certainly not enough. Nevertheless, they give to reading the flip it needs. For the rest, we can think of building libraries.
A final year student at HEC Paris, Hamza El Mounhi is now completing his education in India at the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad. He is very interested in development issues, focusing mainly on education, healthcare and social entrepreneurship. In his articles, he will bring to us India’s successful innovations in these fields and see to which extent they can present a solution to Morocco’s challenges. He is also a blogger and has been active member of several associations and NGOs. He writes also in French and has his own blog (http://indiaandmorocco.wordpress.com/). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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