Google’s app ‘Bolo’ to help 10 million school kids in Uttar Pradesh

Around 10 million (1 crore) children enrolled in around 1.13 lakh primary schools of Uttar Pradesh will now be able to improve their vocabulary and pronunciation of Hindi and English, using tech giant Google’s app, ‘Bolo’.

The free app, launched in India in March 2019, uses Google’s speech recognition and text-to-speech technology. The app features an animated character, ‘Diya’, who encourages children to read stories aloud and helps if the child is unable to pronounce a word. It also lauds the reader when he/she completes the reading, state education department officials said.

Designed for primary grade children, aged between 6 and 11 years, Bolo helps improve both their English and Hindi reading skills, by encouraging them to read aloud. The app also gives instant feedback, said Prayagraj-based State Institute of Educational Management and Training (SIEMAT) director Sanjay Sinha.

He said that the app will also help teachers wherever they are in doubt about the pronunciation of a Hindi or English word. For its introduction in government primary schools, the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan project officials have entered into an agreement with Google and till July 30, parents of these children who have smartphones, have also been trained by teachers to use the app at home to help children, they add.

Google Bolo is actually a read-along app or a speech-based, reading-tutor app for Android-based smartphones. It can be downloaded for free from Google’s Play Store.

While the literacy rate varies between states in India due to limited access to ‘quality material’, insufficient resources, and other challenges that children face, Google believes that the new Bolo app will help them at least improve their reading skills.

Google India in its blog post mentioned that the new Bolo app will assist children as a personalised reading tutor and provide feedback to them.

The app includes an initial catalogue from Storyweaver with over 50 stories in Hindi and 40 in the English language.

Additionally, the app includes word games and earn-in app rewards and badges to make it more fun and interactive. The company notes that the ‘Diya’ feature can explain the meaning of English text in Hindi and it works even when there is no internet connectivity.

Citing the Annual State of Education Report (ASER) 2018 report, Google said that of all students enrolled in grade 5 in rural India, only about half of them can confidently read a grade 2 level textbook.

With the help of ASER Centre, the tech giant piloted the new Bolo app across 200 villages in Uttar Pradesh over the past few months. In the survey, Google found 64 per cent of children showing an improvement in reading proficiency within three months.

As part of efforts to implement Mission Prerna—the flagship programme of UP government to improve quality of education in schools running under the Basic Shiksha Department across the state— members of the state resource group (SRG), key resource persons (KRPs) and academic resource persons (ARPs) are giving online training to around 5.5 lakh primary school teachers of the state including assistant teachers, Shiksha Mitras and subject instructors, since July 20 on using Google Bolo effectively, state resource group member Sunil Tiwari said.

The app can also work offline and does not require an active internet connection, he said. These teachers were given the mission of helping and training parents of children with smartphones, in their respective schools, to download the app and use it till July 30, he added.