How English Nali-Kali (ENK) Supports Foundational Literacy in English - an overview


English Nali Kali (ENK) is an ambitious program of the Government of Karnataka. The ENK program aims at enabling early grade (1-3) students in English language proficiency.

This post will take you through how ENK supports Foundational Literacy in English as per the National Educational Policy's (NEP) definition.

How English Nali Kali Supports Foundational Literacy in English - an overview

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What does the NEP define as the foundational years?

The foundational years focus on the years 3-8 years and includes the 3 years before primary school and the first 2 years of primary schooling when the foundations for later learning are built for children.

What according to NEP are the major aims of the primary /foundational years?

  • By 2030 Universal provisioning of quality early childhood education, to ensure that all students entering Grade 1 are school ready.
  • By 2025 All children attain foundational literacy and numeracy in primary classes i.e., every child achieves desired learning competencies in reading, writing and numeracy at the end of Grade III and not later than Grade V.
  • By 2022 Curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment is transformed to make learning Enjoyable, and Engaging, minimise rote learning, encourage acquiring of 21st-century skills.

What are 21st-century skills that children must acquire?

The World Development Report 2018 listed out a set of skills that young people must acquire to be employable and productive in future economies. These form the essence of human capital in the 21st century and include:
  • Advanced cognitive skills such as critical thinking and creativity help in complex problem-solving
  • Socio-behavioural skills such as teamwork, collaboration, effective communication, ethics, and social responsibility
  • A combination of skills that result in adaptability such as resourcefulness leadership skills, determination, analytical and reasoning skills

What is foundational literacy and what are the desired learning competencies?

  • Foundational literacy allows for children to read at an optimum speed with understanding.
  • Regardless of the language, all children must be able to read at optimum speed (45-60 words/minute) with the understanding of the text they read. 
  • Understanding what is being read is as important as being able to read. Reading without understanding is a wasted exercise.
  • The Goal of ENK (and FLN) is to ensure that by the end of grade 3 students can read an unknown text of 8-10 sentences with simple words with a speed of approximately 30-35 words per minute correctly and with understanding.

Skills Required for Reading

Regardless of the language, they are learning (whether the mother tongue or the second language,) children must master a few basic skills and techniques to be able to read meaningfully.

The basic skills that children must acquire to read, include recognition of letters, letter-sound associations, word blending and decoding. Children must be able to decode at a particular speed to comprehend what they read. This has been stressed in all earlier modules of ENK Level-1 and will not be stressed here in ENK Level-2.

People often feel that if children can read, (or decode) they will understand what is being said in the text. This is often not fully true. There is more to reading than simple and quick decoding. Children need to understand what they read which means they must have a minimum vocabulary in the language. In addition to this children need to have several skills that have to be cultivated by the teacher.

Skills Required for Reading Comprehension

Regardless of the language, they are learning (whether the mother tongue or the second language,) to read meaningfully students should be able to perform the following three reading-comprehension skills.

1. Identify simple facts presented in written text (literal comprehension)
2. Connect the text to other available knowledge (inferential comprehension)
3. Make judgments about the written text’s content (evaluative comprehension)

Literal Comprehension

Literal comprehension is the understanding of information and facts that are clearly stated in the text and is considered the most basic level of understanding. This is the form of understanding that is most often tested in our books. Students can usually make these direct connections, as long as they have the vocabulary to understand the keywords in the text.

Literal Comprehension
Literal Comprehension - Illustrative example

Children will be able to answer simple literal questions based on recall if they have understood the passage at a surface level. Literal comprehension requires an understanding of the main idea, the characters in the story, stated facts and the sequence of events. Most textbooks and teachers ask only these types of questions and so children often do not engage with the text except at a superficial level.

Inferential Comprehension

Inferential comprehension refers to the child's ability to understand the meaning that is not explicitly stated or explained in the text they have read, but where there are enough clues for children to understand what is said or where children use their available knowledge to draw conclusions. Children often have to be supported to consciously think about the unexplained facts so that they learn to draw inferences.

Inferential Comprehension
Inferential Comprehension - Illustrative example

Children will not make inferential meaning unless their thinking is not directed at thinking beyond the text. Since the answer to inferential questions is not directly stated in the text, they have to make connections over and above the text. Most teachers schools and textbooks would be satisfied with this answer as it is fundamentally correct. A teacher asking “so what if the time was drawing near?” will help children to think about the next step.


Evaluative Comprehension

Evaluative comprehension refers to the child’s ability to analyse what they have read and form an opinion about it based on the information the story gives. Common classroom practices do not help children to articulate their feelings about the text except at the most basic level.

Evaluative Comprehension
Evaluative Comprehension - Illustrative example

In our schools and educational system, this is not very common as children are expected to believe anything that comes out of a textbook or print. Simple evaluative questions help students engage more seriously with the text.

Story Narration

The retelling of a story is an excellent method that supports confidence in oral language, and aids comprehension, understanding of story structure.

When asked to narrate a story they have read, children often repeat a story word for a word from what is given in the text – this is a practice to be discouraged. Retelling stories is an important skill as it requires children to have enough vocabulary to tell the story in their own words, using available vocabulary and using inferential skills and evaluative skills to add extra ideas and points.

When children repeat a story after learning it by heart we have no way of knowing whether they have understood the story or not. It is better the child uses a mix of languages to narrate a story as these are the beginning steps towards oral fluency.


The above comprehension skills have to be taught deliberately to children. It is important to draw attention to how these skills are taught during story reading exercises at all levels so that children learn to become smart readers rather than just working on decoding. A part of the ENK Level-2 will focus on how the storytelling sessions in ENK can support it so that they learn to read with meaning.

Credits: Samagra Shikshana Karnataka and UNICEF{alertInfo}

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