Teaching English, the easy way

Wednesday, April 09, 2014
By Avinash Lohana

‘e-teach’ is a commendable initiative to teach English  in vernacular schools. And it’s fast catching on, with 1,200 schools already using the technology to make learning of the language easy

The world is going global today and English as a language has played a pivotal role in building bridges between nations. However, there is a certain strata of society which is deprived of this learning and struggle to compete in the rat race. To reduce this shortcoming, the Bombay Community Public Trust (BCPT) along with three other partners, viz. Learning Space Foundation (LSF), Tata Interactive Systems (TIS) and Muktangan have embarked on an initiative to provide education to those who are deprived of learning English, with a program called 'e-teach.'

This program was initiated with various objectives, one being to reduce the disparity faced by children from the poor strata due to their inability to communicate in English, then to improve the utilisation of the vast infrastructure and teaching staff which exists in vernacular schools and to teach the students of Balwadi and 1st Std through simple technology which makes the subject fun and easy to understand.

The method adopted to achieve these objectives was to prepare and display master audio-visual animated action-packed DVDs made by TIS to teach the compulsory syllabus prescribed by the Maharashtra Government for English. These DVDs are distributed free of cost to vernacular schools which cater to those children who cannot afford to learn English in good schools and hence suffer the brunt. Harsha Parekh, Executive Trustee of BCPT said, “E teach was the idea of H.T. Parekh, Founder of BCPT. He realised that there is a need for improving English, mostly so that the kids from vernacular medium could survive in the real world, as also because there were a lot of dropouts from vernacular schools, not because the teaching was bad, but English was not given much priority. Even parents wanted their kids to learn proper English and hence were shifting their kids to English medium schools.” However, there were repercussions to this as well. Parekh further added, “English medium schools are costly, hence they had to then face financial hardships to get admissions there.”

So every party involved analysed this concern and came out with a solution. To teach English in the same vernacular and Marathi medium schools, but with some technological assistance. They came out with an idea of converting the entire English text book into a DVD with music, pictures and animation that would attract kids and gauge their attention towards the subject. Nitin Orayan, Founder of LSF said, “We were always clear about one thing that if we want this initiative to be a success we have to stick to the syllabus, because as per the university norms, students have to be taught the syllabus prescribed by the Maharashtra Government. However, we did not want this DVD to be boring, so we included, animation, pictures and music to generate interest amongst children. We sat with the members of TIS, who converted the entire English textbook into a user friendly interactive DVD.”

However, the journey wasn’t simple and there were many hurdles that the team had to overcome for this initiative to function successfully. “Initial difficulties was the cost of the DVD s which is high. Just when we managed to overcome that, the syllabus changed. So we had to redo the entire process. Moreover, the schools were hesitant in the beginning and refused to take full responsibility of the teaching. So we had to provide a helping hand for quite some time to make them comfortable with this new change,” said Parekh.

In the academic year 2011-12 they did a test run in one taluka in Thane district with very encouraging results. So in 2012-13, they convinced 200 schools to partner them in the cause. Gradually through word of mouth more talukas began to show interest and now in 2013-14 they are working in four talukas of Thane district covering around 1,200 schools. They even received good support from the Government and parents who promoted and motivated the idea.

Pramila Nayakwadi, Principal of Aryan Education Society School, Girgaum who has been covered under this program said that the students have benefited immensely and have shown good enthusiasm in the class. “We began this program on April 8, 2013, with standard one and two. Since we are a Marathi medium school and English is not our primary language, our students struggled with it. However, after using these DVDs students have shown great interest towards the language. Also, animation and music adds to their entire learning experience. So people are happy with the change and have also started conversing in English.”

When asked if they had expected such kind of a feedback and support from people, Orayan said, “It would have been difficult if we had faced resistance from any party involved, however, everyone supported the cause with open arms and their willingness to participate made our work easy.”

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