The National Curriculum Framework – (NCF 2005) states that English is a “symbol of people’s aspirations.....for a fuller participation in national and international life.” It is easy to sense the compelling desire that people in urban India hold to “speak” English. The situation in rural India is not very different, as we at Akshara found out from our experience of working in rural pockets of Gadag District, Koppal District and Bangalore Rural District in Karnataka. The Government of Karnataka introduced English in Std I in 2007-08 under imperfect conditions. Government teachers themselves have come from a system where English was a ‘tough subject’ that lacked any real connect with the learner’s life and was taught mostly through rote. Keeping the ground reality in mind, both of Akshara’s English programmes are designed to be child-friendly as well as teacher-friendly, even as the focus is on achievable language skills through Listening-Speaking-Reading-Writing.
Swalpa English Thumba Fun (Some English, lots of fun), a print-rich programme has teaching-learning materials which an average school teacher can implement easily. Combined with capacity-building sessions for teachers, this was welcomed by teachers in interior Karnataka. “This teaching material is within reach of our Teachers as well as students....which is ideal especially for our rural schools”, is the comment made by a Teacher/Trainer from Kushtagi Taluka, Koppal District.
How Does It Work
Colourful and attractive charts are used to encourage conversations in English between teachers and students. The programme begins with simple steps for basic comprehension of language, building vocabulary and getting the syntax right. A Manual guides the teacher through a combination of open-ended-questions and drills to enhance language production. Reading and writing skills are built over familiarity with spoken language. The classroom is equipped with print material like story charts, phonic cards, work books and reading cards. Teacher training is given in the cascade model which is the essential backbone for a scaled up programme and builds basic capacities at every level.
Akshara has piloted a digital teaching learning programme using a Tablet in the 1st to 3rd grades in government schools. This is designed to provide an audio-visual learning experience, where students can repeatedly hear the ‘sounds’of the English language. This off-line content has interactive lessons for students with model simple sentences, pronunciation, phonics and reading along with visual clues.
How Does It Work
Each theme - such as Fruits and Vegetables, Parts of the body, My family - is developed to contain Conversation, Rhymes, Phonics, Grammar, Reading and Writing. Activities on the Tablet such as Record-and-play, Drag-and-drop, and Fill-in-the-blanks give students self-learning opportunities. Assessments are built into each lesson and data is digitally collected as well as instantly displayed to the teacher. Lessons are designed along grade-appropriate DSERT guidelines. Teacher empowerment is achieved through multiple short workshops spread over the year, to build language proficiency and confidence for classroom interactions. There are follow-up notes and exercises for practise on the Tablet for the Teacher.
Akshara’s approach actively encourages multilingual classrooms. Lesson plans allow the inclusion of the local language especially by the emergent learner. The mother tongue then becomes a rich resource rather than an intrusion.
'Swalpa English Thumba Fun' resonates well with the teacher community, since it meets their aspirational needs as well. Teachers do have a vocabulary in English, but have rarely been able to practice speaking it. During the training, they overcome their reservations to make efforts to speak the language.
The Akshara TLM does not stand alone. If implemented in its full spirit, it can potentially serve as an effective support to the prescribed curriculum. It simplifies and breaks down skills that are otherwise taken as a given in the design of the Government textbook.........