‘Oral Tools’: Far More Than the Spoken Word
Humans have been managing information throughout our long evolution, and there are many types of pre-literate information management tools, broadly falling into 8 categories that matter to financial inclusion: graphic representation; precisely targeted numeracy training; mnemonics; repetitive learning systems; physical assets; story, image and formula; collective or delegated memory; and modern information and communications technologies.

Member of a rural financial co-operative writes in an OIM passbook page. Mnemonic cues support passbook navigation, easing the process of learning place value.

Member of a rural financial co-operative writes in an OIM passbook page. Mnemonic cues support passbook navigation, easing the process of learning place value.

‘Oral Tools’: Far More Than the Spoken Word
The rhythms of client financial services use, and the retail interfaces of many supplier institutions, offer significant learning potential, because of the frequent, regular, long-term nature of transactional relationships. Due to what psychologists call the ‘spacing effect’, each transaction can act as a ‘review’ for clients, bringing back information to their attention that, with less frequent contact – or more frequent contact over shorter periods — they might forget.

The retail interface also offers many opportunities for what cognitive psychologists call ‘cueing’ – using reminders or ‘triggers’ to induce clients to retrieve previously stored information. New information is more easily recalled if it is closely linked with other information that the learner has already stored securely in long-term memory. The ancient Greeks for example, developed a system for recall of detailed information based on instinctive human mastery of spatial lay-out of familiar places, such our childhood home or village. Mnemonic cues, tied closely to familiar local reference points, allow clients to quickly retrieve critical information that supports the learning of new skills, such as the location of a passbook entry (see right).

Building on Oral Strengths
Just as it is hard for sighted people to see the strengths of the blind, it is hard for literates to see the strengths of orality. Building on those strengths empowers oral individuals, easing and motivating learning. For example, illiterate people have shown remarkable adaptation to counting and calculating, without knowing arithmetic notation, by using cash.

DSCN2542 (1)

Fast and pretty accurate.

Cash, more than any other technology or institution, makes the large-number frontier (3+ digits) accessible to personal exploration by illiterate and semi-literate individuals. Cash contains text and the Hindu-Arabic numeral system, including the arithmetic zero. It facilitates physical one-to-one correspondence, a foundational human counting practice — but also embodies standardized measures (and units) of value and readily facilitates standardized time-value.



Make it YOURS!

Functional numeracy for millions of adult women. A safe,flexible savings account that illiterate villagers can understand, use and trust. Thriving, dynamic villages creating opportunities at home. If this vision excites you, call us about our volunteer opportunities. Make My Oral Village YOURS.