Higher literacy thanks to Bollywood

The Boston Globe has a new article up today about some research about how music videos are leading to booming literacy rates in rural India -

Same-language subtitling extricates literacy from the tangles of school infrastructure and teacher availability. And since television, more than any other medium, has the power to reach out to billions across the developing world, it holds unique promise for hard-to-access groups like rural women, who are discouraged from venturing outside their villages once they hit puberty.

Essentially, the broadcasting of music videos with same-language subtitles has led to a noticeable increase in literacy and functional literacy rates in rural villages in parts of India. By extension, it's common to notice that progress in societies is often part and parcel with literacy rates, and especially literacy rates among women.

Extending this observation further, I think it is important to consider the social value systems that are also being transmitted, along with reading skills, through these music videos. Media theorists, one after another, have brought attention to the idea that the medium through which something is communicated (or in this case taught) carries with it important values, limitations, assumptions and consequences. Educating rural citizens of India through Bollywood music videos could very well lead to a clash in value systems that are characteristic of rural Indian societies versus those found more often in Bollywood films. Although I think these are valid concerns, it goes without saying that higher literacy is a social good that is beneficial, almost without caveat.