Monthly Archives: November 2009

Policy Implications for English Teaching and Learning

Hello everyone

It was a pleasure watching the conference sessions live online yesterday. I urge those of you who wanted to attend the conference but could not, to use this facility provided by British Council to watch it live and even take part in it by adding comments. You comments may get discussed.

I tuned in for some of the sessions. Some- like, ‘building skills for employability’- were gripping as well as hilarious. Especially the speech by Manish Sabharwal; was it eloquence epitomized!  Some were eye openers–Policy implications for English teaching and learning. It was quite informative.

‘Policy implications for English teaching and learning’ dealt a lot with scenario in schools in different parts of India. I guess good English teaching and learning in schools will lead to ‘building employability skills’ in the long run!  This points to the lacuna we have in India in this area.

Isn’t that one of the reasons that makes ‘building employability skills’ a necessity now? I have heard private school principals lamenting about the difficulty they face in recruiting good teachers. They have to place the good teachers in high school so that the 10th grade results are not compromised. So most often the worst teachers end up in the primary section.

Rod Bolitho, Academic Director of Norwich Institute for Language Education (NILE), raised many questions which I felt are very relevant.

Some questions, about the shortage of English teachers in India, are listed below.

  1. How attractive is teaching as a career in India in general?
  2. What is the reason behind the English graduates choosing fields other than teaching as profession?
  3. Is there any appropriate formulated initiative in India to raise the number of English teachers in training?
  4. Has the government decided what the probable number of teachers required to be trained is in order to meet the demand in, maybe, the next 10 years?
  5. Are there enough institutions training teachers?

      Some others, about the quality of English teachers/education, are below.

      1. What is the minimum qualification for school teachers? Is there any standardisation of qualification for the primary school teachers teaching English across India?
      2. In some states the minimum qualification set for the teachers of English is far lower than the others. So is bad English being perpetuated through the system?
      3. What type of pre-service training do they undergo?
      4. What kind of training is going on in pre-service level and how practical is it?
      5. Are the pre-service training institutions calibrated completely against the needs of the teachers?
      6. Are the skills of the teacher educator the skills which are needed to produce methodologically and linguistically competent teachers?

        What is your opinion on these issues? Please write in your comments, would love to hear your ideas.

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        English Next India – what does it mean to you?

        We’ve all had a bit of time to digest David Graddol’s ‘tiny tome’ (not my quote) during the Third Policy Dialogue. If not, you can still view the recording of his presentation at http://www.britishcouncil.org.in/efponline/sessions/18.html

        What I’d like to know is what does it mean to you. His statistics and conclusions may be new for an international audience, but is there anything new for an Indian audience?

        What are your views?

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        Keeping the discussion going

        It’s Friday evening and the face to face conference is over. It was a fantastic two days!

        Thank you to all of you who have posted and commented on this blog – the discussion has been stimulating, wide ranging and engaging. We want to keep the discussion going over the next few weeks, so we’ll be keeping the blog open. Many of the speakers will be checking the posts about their sessions, so a good oportunity to connect with them via comments. You can also comment directly on the recorded sessions on the same page where you view them, and read others’ comments. We’ll also be uploading more photos and interviews, so keep an eye on YouTube and Picassa.

        www.britishcouncil.org.in/EfPonline

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        The Role of English in Conflict Transformation

        Gill Westaway, Director, British Council Sri Lanka, and Duncan Wilson, Head Project English, British Council Sri Lanka, presented the STEPS (Skills Through English for Public Servants) project which has been implemented in Sri Lanka.  The project was completed in partnership with GTZ (an NGO), and Psyche Kennet was cited as the main contributor to the materials development. 

        Gill told us how according to the UNHCR, the number of people affected by conflict is now at all time high.  Gill explained how educational programmes can contribute to conflict transformation, starting from the empowerment of different communities and marginalised groups through a fair selection process and even grouping of candidates on training programmes.  The role of English as a link language is also obvious in countries such as Sri Lanka where the national languages of Sinhala and Tamil have become social and ethnic dividers. 

        We saw how a task-based language learning approach also supports conflict transformation in that it encourages sub-skills of critical thinking, skills which mirror the principles of conflict resolution.  Duncan showed us how the classroom materials they use on the STEPS project integrate language learning with the content element of conflict resolution, as well as the interactional skills of negotiating, debating, coming to a consensus, etc, skills which are of obvious use in conflict resolution. 

         This has been a very successful project, the principles of which could in theory be replicated in other areas which are experiencing similar conflicts.

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        Activity Based Learning

        In this session entitled ‘Managing the Silent Revolution’ the audience watched a video which showed how Activity Based Learning (ABL) has been implemented in schools in Tamil Nadu.  We saw the teacher in a non-traditional role, not as the teacher standing as an authoritative figure at the front of the classroom, but as a facilitator of activities in which children were able to participate much more freely.  Children were encouraged to work in groups and help each other, as well as monitor their own progress.  The classroom scene was a refreshing change from visions of children sitting in rows listening to a teacher; here the role of the child is very much a participative one in which confidence and motivation are key to the learning process.

        The film was a great start to the session on ABL, and will truly motivate teachers in other areas to learn from this project.

        How could other schools implement ABL?

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        The Future of EL education: Methodological Choices

        Panel: Mr. HH Ariyadasa, Mr. David Graddol, Prof. Ajit K. Mohanty

        In this main stage discussion some interesting points were raised. Let us know your thoughts and views on these issues. 

        1. Advocating a shift away from rote memorisation.

        2. English has to be embedded into multi-lingual school education.

        3. In their current state, English medium schools are not the solution, and may actually cause failure in the educational system.

        4.  (A student asks) Isn’t learning four langauges a waste of time? Why don’t we learn science instead?

        5.  Moving English down to class 1 exposes the educational system at its weakest, most vulnerable point.

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        Where should Teacher Educators come from?

        In the parallel session, ‘In-service and Pre-service English Language Teacher Education’, the room split into two groups to discuss the best way forward for in-service and pre-service teacher education.

        One recomendation that came out was that Teacher Educators should come from schools and not from institutes or universities. They should be good teachers with a lot of practical experience and not traditional academics with doctorate degrees. What do you think?

        Who is going to select these teachers? How to select them?
        Should teachers be allowed to nominate themselves?
        How do we replace the good teachers who we take out to become teacher educators?
        Your comments please.

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        Continuous Professsional Development

        A brief outline of the issues covered by the two eminent speakers:

        Krishna Dixit

        At present there is no CPD policy in India,  clearly a neglected area.

              Why CPD?

        1.  Inadequate education

        2.  Facilitate change

        3.  Help teachers to prosper in ELT

        How to motivate teachers ? How can the system help teachers embark on this lifelong journey?

        Rod Bolitho: the notion of developement must come from within the individual.

        ‘continuous’  requires constant reinvention. 

        ‘professional’ teaching as a real profession to be taken seriously. Teachers are typically challenged more than other professions .

        ‘development’ self-directed change and progress in individuals and institutions.

        Echoing and touching upon what Dr. Martin Wedell “If the exams don’t change, nothing changes”.

        We need a policy for a financial support as at the moment it operates on a ‘goodwill basis’.

        ‘Change Forces’ change is mandatory, but growth is optional.

        So… as a teacher are you a hedgehog, a dinosaur or a chameleon?

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