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How to communicate science to illiterate people?

About 40% of more than one billion population of India still costitute illiterate people who do not have access to any print mainstream media and communicuating science to them is a daunting task.Of late broadcast media has appreciably reached to remote corners of India thanks to the rapid spread of sattelite mediated television programmes.But lack of proper supply of electricity and other essential infrastructures is a limiting factor to exploit fully the benefit of this broadcast media too.Then how to reach such audience?
Some novel methods of communication of science and technology to such people is currently in vogue in certain parts of eastern Uttar Pradesh province of India which include S&T communication through cultural events.Here people are easily oriented first to some mythologial or legandary shows/drama and then in very subtle way science and technology is introduced to them for their easy grasp.Such expereiments have yielded encouraging results.
An example perhaps would make the methodology more explicit and clear.In Indian mythology the godess of power Ie DURGA is known to have had waged a fight with a mighty demon named MAHISHSHUR/RAKTABIJ who attianed some sort of immortality as mere fall of one drop of his blood could create yet another invincible MAHISHASHUR .But Godess Durga played a trick and ultimately killed the demon.Help of this myth is sought to explain the gullible the science of cloning.And so on so forth.
How many of you dear friends would approve such method of communicating science to illiterate people? Is it good to mix mythology with science?

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Comment by Elisabeth Simelton on August 3, 2007 at 20:38
In an aquaculture project in Vietnam we let the farmers from two villages and two ethnic groups visit each other. The hosts cooked and presented 3 traditional fish dishes, in terms of ingredients, cost etc. The visitors voted for the dish they liked best in terms of taste, decoration, nutritous value, cost. (Only the winner was announced)

The benefit of this simple thing (need not be literate to vote, eat or cook food !!) was that they had something to discuss with each other and they were active.

As a communicator and trainer it is easy to create situations where you let people talk and learn from each other first, ask questions, overhear where the might be misconceptions and missing links, and continue from there.
Comment by Dr.Arvind Mishra on May 25, 2007 at 12:40
Yes Rina you are quite right.and this group of literate superstitious people are very hard to tackle.They are prejudiced also.No amount of their brain wash bears fruit and therefore I think they should be left as such .Why waste energy on them which could otherwise be properly channelled in to more fruitful projects.Such people are not only in WB but everywhere in India and may be worldover.Beware of these goons!
Comment by Rina Mukherji on May 25, 2007 at 11:50
But wait, Arvind. I do not see why we should confine our discussion to the illiterate. In India, there are a lot of literate people who are so full of superstitions that they cresate problems for the community and society as a whole. I personally feel that these are the ones who must be tackled first. In states like West Bengal, it is difficult to find totally unlettered people-even in rural areas. But entire populations believe in ill and good omens, ghosts, witches and the like. The Central Board for Workers ' Education is trying to tackle superstition in villages which it has adopted. In our personal lives, too, we must tackle such stupidity. I have always tried to educating and pooh-poohing the stupid superstitions that many friends, relatives and neighbours harbour. And believe me, it is shocking to know that many are postgraduates, and professionals too. As communicators, we have our duties cut out here as well, notwithstanding the danger of becoming socially unpopular!
Comment by Dr.Arvind Mishra on May 24, 2007 at 2:42
Agreed Rina ji and its where innovative methods as enlisted above reflecting man's ingenuity could play a decisive role in communicating science to lay people.An inquisitive sci communicator must be searching for such methods to educate approprate target groups.
Thanks for contributing to discussion.
Comment by Rina Mukherji on May 23, 2007 at 14:21
You see, it depends on what is the best available means to communicate. Carnivals, annual events like the Sagar Mela in India, and similar events attract large numbers of people. To convey something important, the media must be interesting enough. If community radios, television, films and ICTs are available, well and good. Otherwise, in places where no such arrangements are available, we must be practical enough to opt for the most attractive option.
Comment by Dr.Arvind Mishra on May 23, 2007 at 12:16
Thanks a lot Mike for this very valuable piece of information for science communisators worldwide.How much interesting is it that even a boisterous event like RDJ carnival could accomodate science in its theme and fetch a reward to the organisation behind the show.its a holistic approach to sci communication.As MS.Rina and Ms.Lynette also report such begennings In INDIA and PHILLIPINE it holds promise for other nations as well.
Comment by MikeShanahan on May 23, 2007 at 8:39
In Brazil the annual carnival in Rio de Janeiro is a massively popular cultural event. In recent years, science communication has featured in the carnival thanks to a collaboration between a samba [the dance] school and a science centre in the city. For more information, see:
Comment by Lynette Lee Corporal on May 23, 2007 at 3:58
In my country, especially in far-flung villages, rural health officials and volunteers have employed fun and creative means to get the community's attention. Some of these are puppetry and storytelling [this is especially the case when it comes to teaching hygienic practices to children], theater plays, and radio dramas [very popular in the villages]. I even heard of one town doing a comedy skit of supernatural creatures in Philippine folklore and introducing the importance of having oneself vaccinated. Of course, like what you said, one has to know which medium is far better for which audience. Yes, it would be interesting to use folk traditions and myths.
Comment by Dr.Arvind Mishra on May 22, 2007 at 14:39
I thank Ms.Corporal for accepting and approving the idea of sci communication through legends and myths.
Yes I do agree that one should try such methods very cautiously and carefully so that the message of science is not distorted.
Now Ms.RIna please note that sci communication through folk is now relatively an old practice in not only WB, U.p. but many other districts as well eg.,M.P. and Rajsthan whereh puppetary is aso in vouge.
National council of science and technology communication[NCSTC],Govt of India has been instrumental in organising sci commun through Folk media since a decade in India.
What parameter one could use to decide which medium is better[or far better !] than any other medium?
I think you definately had some idea when you used that superlative expression in declaring folk medium as a far better medium for sci communication.
Kindly enlighten us about the criteria in question and oblige.
Comment by Rina Mukherji on May 22, 2007 at 13:46
There is a far better method being employed in the interiors of rursl Bengal. The Press and Publicity Division of the government and the Voluntary Health Association of India have been using folk theatre, folk songs and semi-classical dance forms to convey the need for better methods of hygiene , reproductive health and safe sex. Although it is still very early to assess how many deaths due to infant and maternal morality have been arrested, people in these regions are quite well-informed of the basics now. Or so I found when I visited there. Honestly, this is the only way thst anything could be conveyed here, since there is no power in these villages and the people are too poor to even possess radios. Folk rhymes and ctchy lyrics are also used by local bards to convey the message successfully in remote islands here, It makes for entertainment, and ideas like conserving the forests do get across to the people!


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