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Oracy – A Compeer to Literacy

“For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals. Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk and we learned to listen.

Speech has allowed the communication of ideas, enabling human beings to work together to build the impossible. Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking.”

  • Stephen Hawking

We all can express and convey our ideas and emotions through speech. However, not many are heard and go noticed. If you think it’s the knowledge, then consider conveying it. If you believe its conveying, then consider doing that effectively, and that’s the key, ‘effective communication.’ 

Over the years, educators have realised the importance of effective communication. It surely is an art for some people; however, to the rest of us, it should be considered as a skill that can be acquired.

Schools are yet to give this ‘skill’ the desired significance in the curriculum. While literacy and numeracy require focused teaching, the art of communication is assumed to just happen. Which is why, in the early model of education, the 3Rs were the sole focus:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Arithmetic

However, the time travelled, and with it came the change in need. In the 21st century, the focus has shifted from 3Rs to 4Cs:

  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking

Oracy or Public Speaking, being one of the significant domains of development, is gradually coming to the forefront and is now becoming an integral part of the school curriculum. It will be a defining moment for schools that are contemplating on adopting Public Speaking as a subject.

Each child will essentially need the ‘skill of communication’ to excel in his chosen field. Think of a scenario where a child aspires to be the host of Nat Geo Wildlife show. Does the school curriculum anywhere expose the child to the skills required for such a career? Besides knowledge of the subject, i.e. wildlife, he will need excellent communication skills to ace his chosen profession. This is true for any career you can think of, be it a News Anchor, Lawyer, Educator, Businessman, Trainer, Diplomat, Coach, Salesman, CEO, Sports analyst, Tour guide, Spokesperson or a Medical professional. Take another example, Stand-up comedians or the Humour Sapiens like Shridhar Venkataramana, Akash Gupta and Rahul Subramaniam are some of the well-known comedians today for the way they plant their jokes and deliver them with ease at the perfect timing. Most of them are Management graduates but chose to pursue a career that utilise their skill in speech and wit. Several such professions are in the making.

While we have technology at our aid to help us with most complicated calculations, there are none currently to generate a discussion, develop a speech, or win an argument!

So, how do we provide the skill of communication the desired attention and the focus that it requires? While some of the schools have initiated allocating a couple of periods to Public Speaking, we can definitely take some steps at home as parents and partner in our child’s learning. Indra Nooyi, India-born American businesswoman and ex CEO of PepsiCo in one of the talks, shared how her mother would play a speech game with her and her sister every night during dinner. The mother taught them to dream big. Every night before dinner, she would give both the girls a topic to speak on, like, ‘What would you do if you were the prime minister of the country?’ Both the daughters would think of convincing arguments and present it and the mother would decide who would she vote for. Using a small exercise of fostering daily dialogue or speech, the mother ensured that her daughters were thinking big and were effective communicators.

Children are natural story weavers and tellers. All we need to do is give them lots of opportunities to express. Chalk out a ‘dedicated-twenty-minutes-discourse-time’ at home. Get your kids to play games like ‘Tell a tale, make a point.’ Devdutt Patnaik’s parents didn’t have an inkling that their son would make a fortune just by Telling Tales! With a small change in the family culture, you will notice your child developing one of the necessary skills for life – effective communication because…

“None of the things which are done with intelligence are done without the aid of speech.”

– Socrates

-Anita Singh-

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