Children, Classroom, Teachers, Teaching, Education
31 Jul

Originally published at Testify Ed-Quality Initiative, Read The Original Article Here…

As a matter of fact, India is a multi-linguistic country. There are speakers of a 100 different languages in almost every state and city in our country. There is a systematic push of non-English speakers towards the bottom half of the economic pyramid. Higher education in job profiles favors English speakers in the majority of the cases. So it is compulsory to make the kids learn English, especially those of the low-income communities. One such community resides at Munirka Village in Delhi. When I started working with the Centre for Education and Health Research Organisation (CEHRO INDIA) at Munirka, I started discovering the complexity of the situation.

Image Credits- CEHRO INDIA

CEHRO runs various after-school programs for kids from the nearby slums. It hires teachers from amongst the same community. Most of the teachers are part-timers and are pursuing a bachelor’s degree simultaneously. None of them have any qualification or experience apart from their experience at CEHRO as a teacher. We took up the task of starting an ‘Oral English and Phonics Program.’ We chose 3 highly motivated teachers out of a pool of 12. I really appreciate the determination and passion for teaching in all 3 of them even though they didn’t know English. However not only did they not know English but they were also ashamed of it.They were demoralized and under-confident when it came to learning English. They were paid Rs.2000 a month for the job which was like pocket money for them. Our job was very challenging because we had to make these teachers teach English to a group of 50 kids without compromising upon the quality of the teaching. This looked impossible. All the kids and teachers were first generation learners and came from families which in most cases could not afford basic amenities in life.

Image Credits- CEHRO INDIA

Given the least support, guidance, resources, and exposure to these kids we, therefore, need the best teachers of the country or even of the world to handle such a situation. What we had instead were 3 motivated youngsters without any qualification or any fluency in the language which they were supposed to teach. Kids go through so much in life and yet they come to the center hoping to get something out of it. Therefore we cannot afford to let them down. Hence we had to find a solution to the humongous problem confronting us.

When asked what do you need the most the answer from one teacher was “I need a separate room to study as I have 8 members in my family and just one room. It’s difficult to concentrate.”

How can a teacher without basic knowledge of English and teaching teach English to kids?

Though the question is tough, the answer is relatively easier. Many good quality schools might have highly qualified teachers but still, moving aside from these few cases, most of us learn languages from our environment and not in the classroom. We learn our mother tongue effortlessly. So the focus of the program became more towards creating experiences and minimizing teacher instructions. We minimized things to be taught for learning the language. For example, we do not teach letter names. As letter names do not have anything to do with reading, writing or speaking. There are no word meanings taught. There is no translation happening. In effect, teachers are not teaching anything. They are just creating experiences through sounds, songs, video stories, and poems. And in the process, they have fun and learn English themselves. The only ‘sutra’ of the program is to expose kids and teachers alike to as much English as possible through as many mediums as possible.

Teachers at CEHRO INDIA for a training session in Testify EdQ Initiative Program

We trained teachers on teaching phonics. Teachers practiced their lessons and had done basic planning for each day in a week. Their lessons are supported by phonic songs and a set structure of instructions. They are now getting used to it and kids are learning sounds, blending and segmenting. Teachers use videos for storytelling and act out stories every time they hear it. Teachers also use songs from ‘Karadi Tales’ to teach songs which in turn exposes kids to the language in a fun and attractive way. It’s been 3 weeks since we have started implementing it. We are amazed to see the difference between the before and after training for these teachers.

According to Babita, one of the teacher, “Now the classrooms are more fun and I am enjoying it. Before kids and I get bored while teaching and we had no clue on what to teach and how to progress. Kids started loving the songs, sounds and stories. Even the attendance has improved”.

Though the results are motivating in terms of attendance, classroom participation and motivation levels of teachers and kids, we cannot at this point say for sure that this will work out.This is still difficult for teachers as they need a lot of support and feedback. It would take at least 3 months for us to verify that this is giving them a basic push. We welcome anyone and everyone who wants to help us in achieving what we want for kids at Munirka. We welcome new methodologies and resources for the same.

Shiv Poojan, the author of this article, has a passion for improving the quality of education served especially to the poor of India. He is the Founder of Testify Ed-Quality Initiative Program at CEHRO INDIA. Connect with him at shivmishra003@gmail.com

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