In a bid to address the education gaps in rural India and also strengthen its vernacular offerings, search giant Google has launched personalised reading tutor app ‘Bolo’ to help children improve their reading skills.
According to the company, the application has been designed for primary grade students. The app which is powered by Google’s speech recognition and text-to-speech technology comes with a built-in reading tutor named as “Diya”. The software tutor is designed to encourage, explain and correct the children as they read out aloud.
Google has been piloting Bolo across 200 villages in Uttar Pradesh over the past few months with the help of research company Aser. The pilot results showed that 64% of children witnessed an improvement in reading proficiency in just three months.
With promising results, Bolo has now been launched all over India under an open beta program. Google will also be working with four nonprofit partners — Pratham Education Foundation, Room to Read, Saajha and Kaivalya Education Foundation – a Piramal Initiative, who will ensure that the service reaches to all the children in the country.
Bolo Looks To Make Reading Fun
The features available to the children through Bolo app:
- The app will help kids read by themselves as it assists them at every step, giving both positive and corrective feedback
- All the reading material on the app is completely free and the initial catalogue from Storyweaver.org.in includes 50 stories in Hindi and 40 in English; with more being added by other partners soon
- Children can also play interesting word games and earn in-app rewards and badges, helping reading become both fun and a daily habit
- Multiple children can use the same app and track their progress separately
- With time the difficulty level of recommended stories will adjust to the children’s reading skills
- Reading tutor Diya will read texts aloud and also explain the meaning of English words
- The app is reportedly ad free and can also work offline
- All personal information will always be safely stored in the device
In its official blog post, Google has said that currently, the app is designed and optimised for native Hindi speakers but will eventually offer service in other languages.
Increasing penetration of internet and smartphones have led to a rise in the number of edtech startups in India. According to Inc42 Datalab’s estimates, around 3,500 startups are working to develop the education space in India by creating content in various formats and languages to help students learn at their own convenience.
However, not much has been achieved in terms of addressing the gaps in the education space especially in rural areas where internet reach is lower.
According to ASER 2018 report which conducted a survey on 596 districts in rural India, of all students enrolled in fifth grade in rural India, only about half of them could confidently read a second grade textbook.