In India, the medium of instruction in the vast majority of government rural and urban schools is the regional language. English is now introduced as a second language in Class 1 in most of these schools. However, even after many years of its compulsory study, vast numbers of students completing high school are unable to speak, read or write simple English. Consequently, for most of these students, access to higher education, employment, technical knowledge, and the world of computers and the Internet, will also be limited.
The principal cause for the inadequate command of English of high school leavers is that their teachers themselves have a very limited knowledge of English. Consequently, little English is spoken or transacted in the classroom. Moreover neither their pre-service training, nor the limited opportunities for inservice training, has equipped teachers to teach English as a second language.
Issues / Needs We Address
Our goal is to empower socially and economically disadvantaged students studying in mainstream regional medium elementary schools, as well as post-secondary youth from similar background, with a basic proficiency in English. This requires addressing the following needs :
- Giving opportunities for elementary school students to listen to spoken English, and to be able to respond in English, as well as acquire basic reading and writing skills.
- Providing instructional and supplementary learning materials in English, which are relevant to the Indian context, and appropriate to the backgrounds and interests of mainstream elementary school students.
- Significantly enhancing elementary school teachers' limited knowledge of the English language.
- Providing these teachers with practical and effective methods of teaching English to students, whose background and exposure to English is very limited.
- Developing English courses for post-secondary youth.
Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI)
A 3-Year CLR Interactive Radio Course for Teaching Spoken English Skills to Elementary School Students in Rural and Urban Regional Medium Government Schools
To improve the spoken English skills of large numbers of students, the CLR has developed two bilingual interactive radio courses :
- "Aamhi Ingraji Shikto / We Learn English" for Marathi speaking listeners.
- "Aao Angrezi Sikhe / We Learn English" for Hindi speaking listeners.
For Classes 4, 5 and 6, a total of 245 radio lessons have been developed - approximately 80 radio lessons, each of 15-minutes duration, for each class. Using All India Radio (AIR) facilities, this bilingual and interactive radio course has been broadcast to lakhs of students in Maharashtra, and 5 Northern Indian states in collaboration with the state and district education authorities.
The Instructional Process
- We are using an innovative, interactive pedagogy known as Interactive Radio Instruction. This allows listeners to not only hear English being spoken, but gives them opportunities during the radio lesson itself to speak in English.
- The radio lessons broadcast in Maharashtra are both in Marathi and English. In the North Indian states, the radio lessons are in Hindi and English. We have adopted this bilingual approach based on existing research, and our own experience in teaching English. The existing global research confirms that a known language can be fruitfully used to learn a new one.
- Our own experience has convinced us that the bilingual approach is particularly important for the learning of English in our regional medium government schools - where English is rarely spoken or heard, and is taught by teachers whose own knowledge of English is very limited. The bilingual approach helps students to engage in their own learning, and to understand and enjoy English, rather than learning it by rote.
- Our radio lessons contain a variety of child-friendly formats - drama, songs, language games, etc. in both Marathi / Hindi and English - which hold the interest of elementary school children.
- Along with the focus on teaching spoken English, our radio lessons promote appropriate attitudes related to democracy, secularism, gender, health, small family norm, etc.
- This pedagogy we are using, known as Interactive Radio Instruction, has been very successfully used to teach English, other school subjects and educational programmes for adults in a number of other countries.
Implementing the Radio Course for Government Regional Medium Elementary School Students in Various States
The 3-year bilingual interactive radio course “Aamhi Ingraji Shikto / We Learn English” for teaching spoken English to Marathi speaking students was implemented in Pune district between 2001-2004 and in Mumbai, between 2002-2005. In 2005-2008, we included a reading and writing component to each of the 3-years of the radio course. “Aamhi Ingraji Shikto” is currently being broadcast by All India Radio for all the Pune Zilla Parishad elementary schools from 2009 onwards.
The Hindi version of this course, “Aao Angrezi Sikhe / We Learn English” was broadcast in the following states:
- Delhi - 2002-04
- Jharkhand - 2004-06 (several districts)
- Rajasthan - 2005-06 (2 districts)
- Uttarakhand - 2004-06 (2 districts)
- Uttar Pradesh – 2008 – 2010 (1 district)
The Radio Audience
Millions of students have listened to our radio course in various states of India. As the radio course was broadcast during the school-day, and sometimes repeated at night by All-India Radio(AIR), many adult listeners also benefitted from the broadcasts. The AIR Listenership Survey in 2002 estimated that about 200,000 urban and rural people, outside the formal school system, were listening to the CLR radio lessons in Pune District alone, making it one of the most popular radio programmes in Pune District.
Impact of English Radio Course on Listening and Spoken English Skills of Students
- We have continuously assessed the impact of our radio course on the listening and spoken English skills of large numbers of students who have been listened to the broadcasts of our English radio course. Rural and urban students in Class 5, who had just begun to learn English and listened to the 90 radio lessons scheduled for Class 5, spoke far more English than Class 7 students from the same schools, who had not been exposed to the radio programme.
- After 3 years of radio lessons, rural students in Class 7 not only spoke far more English, but were also able to write better than rural Class 9 students not exposed to the radio programme.
- Teachers were extremely appreciative that the radio lessons helped them to teach spoken English, and that the lessons fulfilled a real need to improve the confidence and abilities of their students to speak English.
- Based on the significant impact of the radio course on the English skills of Class 4 rural students studying in Pune district government schools, a 2011 independent evaluation recommended that this 3-year course should be broadcast throughout Maharashtra state.
Improving English Proficiency of Elementary School Teachers
Given the increasing importance of English, improving the standards of English has been recognized by many as a key area of reform in the qualitative improvement of regional medium schools in India. In this connection, it is generally acknowledged that after many years of studying English in schools, many students complete high school with extremely limited English skills. This is primarily due to the fact that the vast majority of teachers themselves have a very limited command of English, highlighted in this excerpt from the 2007 Position Paper of the Consortium For English Language Teaching In India:
The biggest constraint is the low English proficiency of teachers at the primary stage…. At the primary stage, especially in rural areas, primary school teachers cannot speak English, even if they can read it with hesitation. This is a bigger problem in North and Eastern India. The situation is slightly better in the southern states. Lacking in the ability to speak good English, teachers all over the country prefer to get children to copy alphabets and words from the textbook and start reading instruction from Class 1 itself.
It is pertinent to note that in the 2005 National Curriculum Framework, a principal recommendation of the Focus Group on Teaching of English was that, "All teachers who teach should have basic proficiency in English".
‘Enhance Your English’ – A Course for Improving English Skills of Teachers
The CLR course "Enhance Your English" has been developed keeping in mind that teachers in these schools often have an extensive passive knowledge of English, but find it difficult to transact English lessons effectively because they do not speak the language with confidence, being neither native English speakers, nor having much opportunity to use English in their daily lives. Specifically, this course has been designed to help teachers to:
- Improve their listening and speaking skills in English in both familiar and unfamiliar situations.
- Increase their reading comprehension and basic writing skills.
- Enhance their confidence to speak in English, both within and outside the classroom.
Improving English Proficiency of Post-Secondary Youth
‘Yuva English’ – A Functional English Course for Post-Secondary Youth
Yuva English is a course to improve the basic English skills of rural and urban youth from primarily socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. These learners would have completed their secondary education in regional medium schools, and would be about 16 – 30 years old. They would be attending higher secondary schools or colleges. Many would be seeking employment or would be already employed. Since the English skills of these young people would be extremely limited, the main goal of Yuva English is to provide them with basic English skills, empower them in their pursuit of higher education and access to various fields of knowledge and employment, as well as improvement in job performance.
Yuva English aims to enable learners to:
- Increase basic proficiency in listening, speaking and reading with a special focus on listening and speaking.
- Use English in multiple contexts - college, at the workplace and in social situations.
- Build confidence in speaking and understanding English.
- Improve higher education performance, increase employment prospects and job performance, and better life-chances.
The Overall Approach
Yuva English uses an interactive, learner-centred and bilingual approach to teaching English. Its design and content has been finalised after studying the needs and interests of the young urban and rural learners from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Through its narrative content, the course attempts to connect with this group culturally.
The course is structured in such a way as to take into account the learning style of young adult learners - a balance between quiet, focussed book work, and competitive games, singing, drawing and acting. Each module (as further detailed in the next section) has short activities that engage the learner in listening, speaking, reading, writing, grammar, or vocabulary. Finally the course ends with a number of functional modules to give learners a feel for how to use English in a variety of formal and informal situations.
Expected Attainment Levels
The expected attainment levels roughly correspond to the Cambridge Level 1 and Council of Europe Level A 2. This means that at the end of the course, young learners should be able to do the following:
Read and understand simple texts like street signs, public notices, forms, brochures, instructions, etc. He or she will be able to understand personal messages like notes or post cards, and understand the gist of new paper or magazine articles.
Listen and understand basic information in announcements at railway stations, airports and other public places, on the telephone, and on the radio and television, and understand instructions given by teachers, bank officials, supervisors at work, etc.
Speak to convey information and conduct a conversation, and ask questions to obtain information, in an informal situation or familiar work context, though there may be grammatical mistakes.
Write simple personal letters, notes and messages, though there may be grammatical mistakes, and fill in information in forms.
Current Projects and Activities
- An English Resource Centre for Pune Municipal Corporation Schools (Click here for more details)
- A 3-Year Interactive Radio Course for Teaching Spoken English in Pune District Elementary Schools. (Click here for more details)
- Yuva English – An English Course for Post-Secondary Youth from Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Backgrounds. (Click here for more details)
- Development of Graded Reading Series in English for Students in Regional Medium Schools. (Click here for more details)
Bilingual Learning Materials
The CLR has developed a range of graded, bilingual reading materials for young children, based on the globally researched understanding that a known language can fruitfully be used to learn a new one.
Other Reading Materials
The CLR has developed the Gudbud series of stories in English. The Gudbud series focusses on basic human values that are relevant to the lives of young children.
Examples of Agencies Requesting CLR Technical Support
- Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) - Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh
- Education Department - Pune Municipal Corporation, Bombay Municipal Corporation and Delhi Municipal Corporation
Indian NGOs / Organisations
- Azim Premji Foundation
- India Sponsorship Committee, Pune
- Tech Mahindra Foundation
CLR Activities in Teaching of English – Students and Teachers
To improve the teaching and learning of English,, the CLR has undertaken activities in the following areas :
- Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) - developing and broadcasting interactive radio courses for teaching English to elementary school students.
- Bilingual Learning Materials - designing and publishing bilingual supplementary materials for students
- Improving English Skills of Teachers - developing capacity building programmes for trainers and teachers, including developing of training materials.
- Improving English Skills of Adult Learners – A functional English course for post-secondary youth.