Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Exploring New Methods of Teaching English

By Anindya Dutta Gupta 

In India, the significance of English as a language is profound. It is mainly due to its role as a means for upward economic and social mobility. The reasons for such significance can be traced back to the colonial times.

During the British rule, English was considered by Indians as a tool for access to government offices and posts under the British East India Company. Today, even in the rural areas of our country, the demand for learning English is immense. However, there is a major gap between ‘what is’ and ‘what ought to be’. Learning levels of English remain low among children due to several factors among which ill-trained teachers is one.

Another major factor for the same is that children mostly in the rural as well as in many urban areas find it difficult, many a times impossible, to communicate in English outside the school. Hence, the result is the wrongful use of rote learning where repetitive use from memory is used as a technique to communicate. Again, rote learning can only teach children to reproduce what they have read but it cannot enable them to engage in a conversation. Learning any language does not only mean that the learner has a strong grasp of the grammatical forms. Rather, proficiency in both oral and written abilities encourages one to participate in discussions.

To counter such a practice, the English content teams of Pratham carried out a program last year for a considerable period of time to teach English to primary school children in the states of Assam, Bihar and Maharashtra. The approach of the teams in designing the content for these children was bilingual in nature. The bilingual approach was adopted to make English learning much easier. This is because children are already familiar with their mother tongue. Teaching a foreign language to children with the help of their mother tongue becomes much more effective and easier for teachers. Moreover, rhymes, scrapbooks, classroom activities and other such material were included to make learning much more interesting. Children learn English grammar in school but they are unable to use them to construct sentences while reading or writing. So, the emphasis was on speaking, reading and writing skills. For the purpose of this program, volunteers were trained to teach children English. 
The results of this program were beyond expectations.

The charts below show the improvement in learning levels of English among children in Assam, Bihar and Mumbai. A Pre test was taken in all the pilot locations before the classes began. All students appeared for a Post test after the course had ended. All charts have the average scores of the Pre and Post Tests on the vertical axis and school standards of children on the horizontal axis. If one compares the Pre test results with those of the Post test, the levels of improvement in learning levels of English is clear for different standards in these three locations.

This experiment only goes to show that a bilingual approach, complemented with interesting teaching aids helps in the effective teaching of English especially where children are unable to communicate in English outside school. 


  1. Good! You are working in a right direction but you must focus on other states also.I have sent my resume if you have any help from my side, i would like to be with your organization.

  2. I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it, I have you bookmarked to check out all the new stuff you post....
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