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An English Resource Centre for Pune Municipal Corporation Schools

There is very little understanding of the challenges involved in teaching English as a second language in government schools. For instance, the crucial importance of listening and speaking skills is not recognised. Nor is there a clear understanding of how the language can be acquired by students who have little or no exposure to it in their home and immediate environments. Consequently, despite English instruction starting in Class 1 in most states, an overwhelming number of young people graduating from our mainstream regional-medium schools lack functional English skills. Without basic English skills, these students are handicapped in terms of opportunities for higher education and employment, and access to various bodies of knowledge and to new technologies.

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The CLR-PMC English Resource Centre

To meet this challenge of improving English in government schools, the CLR has set up an English Resource Centre (ERC) to strengthen the English skills of teachers as well as students in the predominantly Marathi medium schools of the Pune Municipal Corporation(PMC. This is a three-year project which aims at improving the listening, speaking, reading and writing skills of students in Classes 3,4,5 and 6., as well as improving the English communication and teaching skills of English teachers.

In partnership with the Pune Municipal School Board, the ERC addresses an existing systemic problem, by serving as an institutional measure within the government system, dedicated to the improvement of English language learning. Through this centre, we have provided a range of technical inputs as described below.

  • An audio course for teaching basic spoken English skills to approximately 12,000 students in Class 4.
  • Development and provision of a supplementary reader to each of the 12,000 students in Class 3 to teach alphabet and early reading skills.
  • Orientation workshops for all teachers of Class 3 and 4 in the above activities.
  • Courses for teaching basic English skills to teachers
  • Building a team of teacher mentors to assist teachers in the classroom

For more details on the ERC, see Annual Report, 2010-2011, (pgs.21-23)

A 3-Year Interactive Radio Course for Teaching Spoken English in Pune District Elementary Schools

In the academic year,2010-11, the Pune Zilla Parishad Education Department initiated the implementation of CLR’s bilingual radio course “Aamhi Ingraji Shikto / We Learn English” in Class 4 of approximately 3613 primary schools throughout Pune district.

"A majority of the students have begun to try to use English in their everyday conversations, and have greater confidence to speak the language. Their vocabulary has enhanced and so has the knowledge of pronunciation. Since the programme is transacted by means of Interactive Radio Instruction, the students demonstrate better listening skills."
A ZP Teacher's reaction to the Radio Programme

This was implemented after conducting a baseline test of the listening and speaking skills of the ZP school students. For effective implementation, CLR conducted training sessions for Cluster Coordinators of all 13 blocks in Pune district to familiarise them with all aspects of the radio course. These ZP officials were in turn to train the Class 4 ZP teachers of all the schools in the transaction of the course before the radio broadcasts began. A Teacher’s Guide was also provided.

At the end of the year, this programme was externally evaluated by the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) in Loni. The learning outcomes in listening and speaking were compared with the baseline data. Reactions of parents and teachers towards the course were also collected. The external evaluation reflected that the radio course had led to substantial improvements in the listening and speaking skills of students.

Encouraged by this improvement, the CEO of the Pune Zilla Parishad and the DIET recommended that it should be continued into its second year, i.e. for Class 5 in the total number of 835 upper primary schools.

A major recommendation of the DIET evaluation report was that the CLR radio course should be broadcast throughout Maharashtra.

Yuva English – An English Course for Post-Secondary Youth from Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Backgrounds

Rationale

Most youth who have studied in regional medium schools would have extremely limited speaking, listening and reading skills in English, despite having been exposed to 7 -10 years of instruction in English as a second/third language. This is primarily because English was poorly taught in their schools, and is rarely used in their immediate environment. Without basic English skills, these young people are handicapped in terms of higher education and employment, but also access to various bodies of knowledge and to new technologies.

Given this existing scenario, and the dearth of English courses that cater specially to the unique needs of these young learners from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, the Centre For Learning Resources (CLR), funded by the Tech Mahindra Foundation (TMF), has designed a course entitled ‘Yuva English’, to impart basic communication skills in English, with a focus on speaking, listening and reading.

Objectives

Yuva English aims to enable learners in the age-group 16-30 years to:

  • Use English to improve performance in higher secondary schools, colleges, polytechnics, vocational education training institutes, at the workplace and in social situations.
  • Build confidence in speaking and understanding English.
"Yuva English course is one course which allows the use of our home language, which makes the learning situation less fearful."
Instructor at Rasta, an NGO in Delhi

Structure, Content and Duration

Yuva English is an interactive, bilingual 140-hour course - 140 modules, each of 1-hour duration. The entire course is meant to be completed in about 3 months. Recommended class size is 15-20 learners.

"In this course there is more emphasis on encouraging the learners to talk. In earlier courses that I have taught only I would talk and learners would be sitting passively."
Instructor at JSS, an NGO in Mumbai

Course Materials

These include an Instructor’s Package comprising an Instructor’s Manual, audio-visual materials, as well evaluation materials (pre-test and post-test) to track the progress of learners. There are separate materials for language games and activities. For each learner, there is a Learner’s Book, Supplementary Reader and a Spoken English Practice CD.

 

Training of Instructors and Certification of Learners

It is proposed to diffuse Yuva English from 2012 onwards through Yuva Academies in Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore. Institutions interested in conducting Yuva English courses can depute their instructors for a 3-day training programme to these Yuva Academies. Yuva Academy trainers will provide training to these instructors, and will continue to support these instructors through periodic audio conferencing. The Yuva Academies will also provide testing services for certification of learner proficiency.

Course Quality and Impact on English Skills of Learners

Yuva English has been developed through extensive trialling and monitoring, as well as feedback received from participating organisations and learners in Delhi , Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore. NGO staff, instructors, students, external experts, CLR and TMF staff have all attested to the high quality of the Yuva materials, and its relevance to teaching English communication skills to post-secondary youth from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Learners

Pre-test and post-tests conducted by NGOs, who participated in the trialling, indicated a significant improvement in English skills of Yuva English learners.

For more information on the components of the Yuva English course, click here.

Development of Graded Reading Series in English for Students in Regional Medium Schools

There is very little appropriate reading material for students learning English as a second language in our regional medium schools. Finely graded reading materials for the youngest learners are not available. For older learners, existing books in English that are at their reading skill level do not contain age-appropriate text as they are originally written for younger English-speaking students. Since reading is not only pleasurable but enhances language learning, we plan to address the problem of this mismatch between interest level and language level through the publication of several series of titles – fiction and non- fiction – for at least 3 levels of English text, matching the content of each level with the appropriate interest level.

The books in this series feature much needed fictional and non-fictional reading materials for students learning English as a second or third language in regional medium schools. For regional medium upper primary and middle school students struggling to achieve proficiency in reading English, these books will provide motivating and appealing age-appropriate content with the necessary low readability levels, thus giving them a sense of success in reading whole books from cover to cover. They can also be enjoyed at earlier levels by students in English medium schools. Graded language structures and controlled vocabulary, combined with age-appropriate interest levels, help learners to become proficient readers and experience the joy of successfully reading an entire book.

Level 1 - Set A (12 books) for 8-10 year olds

This level contains:

  • Decodable words with early phonic elements
  • Some 'sight' words
  • Simple and basic compound sentences
  • Text which is close to contemporary spoken English
  • Illustrations to assist comprehension