Monthly Archives: December 2013

English Impact Report launch and panel discussion

English Impact Report launch and panel discussionBritish Council India, in partnership with Pratham ASER Centre (Annual Status of Education Report)  launched the English Impact Report: Investigating English Language Learning Outcomes at the Primary School Level in Rural India, at the British Council in New Delhi on Wednesday 20 November 2013.

Edited by Dr Vivien Berry and put together by the British Council’s research, publications and assessment teams in India and the UK, this report presents an analysis of the English learning outcomes data gathered by Pratham ASER Centre from children attending primary schools in rural India from 2007 to 2012.

In his welcome address to an audience of over 200 from the English teaching and education sector packed into the British Council auditorium in Delhi, Rob Lynes, Country Director British Council India, spoke about the importance of English as a language of opportunity, access, education and social equity.

Martin Davidson, Chief Executive British Council, stressed the role of English in growing cultural relations and international business but emphasised that English should not be offered at the cost of the sustained health of the local vernaculars and the national language, Hindi.

Madhav Chavan, CEO of Pratham Education Foundation, who launched the publication with Rob Lynes and Martin Davidson, asked the audience to reflect on the question, “Is learning English the same for everybody? Or should it or could it be different for different learners?”

Dr Rukmini Banerjee, Director Pratham ASER Centre and Dr Vivien Berry, Senior Researcher, English Language Assessment, British Council presented the report findings of the English learning outcomes at the primary level in India from the ASER 2012 survey.

Presentation of the key findings was followed by Colin Bangay, Senior Education Advisor, DFID India chairing a panel discussion on “What can we do to make a difference to English language learning outcomes in India?”

Rukmini Banerji felt that English should be considered as a broad continuum where different languages have a role to play and we need to enable the children to communicate and comprehend as much as they can no matter which language.

“T is for Technology and T is for Teacher. Technology is an enabler that will not replace the teacher but will support the teacher” said Ujjwal Singh, Founder CEO, The Curriculum Company.

Alison Barrett, Director English for Education Systems, British Council South Asia spoke about the importance of quality in teacher education to impact learning outcomes, both for teachers as well as learners, and made a plea for improved understanding of learning outcomes among teachers.

Jamie Dunlea, Researcher, English and Exams, British Council, said that subjects need to be integrated more, similar content and tasks and build on the resource and there is blended learning.

Baroness Usha Prashar, Deputy Chair British Council summed up the evening’s programme by underlining the need to develop strategies to enable children to learn in different contexts and also how important partnerships is for British Council.

The event was webcast live; and invited audiences in our centres in Chandigarh, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad watched the proceedings and questions poured in via Twitter.

“I am immensely impressed with British Council moving in this direction – rigorous research which builds on meaningful partnership and has pragmatic application.” – Colin Bangay, Senior Education Advisor, DFID India
“British Council is not about promoting English but promoting international friendship, connections, trust and relationships. I admire India for being one the most linguistically diverse countries in the world.” – Martin Davidson, Chief Executive, British Council

Important links:

Photo gallery

The entire event can be watched here

Download the pdf version of the report here

British Council Research and publications

Press Release

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National Finals of Annual Inter-School Drama Festival 2013-2014

Thank you for watching! The live webcast is now over. Recordings will be available soon!

Results of National Finals of Annual Inter-School Drama 2013-14.

# St Marks Sr Secondary School, Meera Bagh, Delhi wins ‘Best Actress’ prize.

# Kolkata GOALZ Police School, Kolkata wins ‘Best Actor’ prize.

# PSBB Learning Leadership Academy, Bengaluru wins ‘Best Teacher Co-ordinator’ prize.

# Bright Day School, Vasna Unit, Vadodara wins ‘Best Script’ prize.

# Kolkata GOALZ Police School, Kolkata wins ‘Best Production’ prize.

# Modern High School for Girls, Kolkata wins ‘Best Make-up’ prize.

Congratulations to all of you!…

9 schools, over 90 participants, all set to re-create Shakespeare’s magic on stage and you can watch the action from anywhere across the globe!

The National Finals of Annual Inter-School Drama Festival will be live webcast from the British Council India’s website on Sunday, 8 December 2013. The theme for this year is ‘Shakespeare: Celebrating 450 years’ and South City International School will host the live event. The webcast (the third for the competition) will allow you to catch all the action in REAL TIME, watch our chief guests speaking about the performances and the grand prize distribution ceremony. The performances are open to all!

If you can’t make it to Kolkata on Sunday, 8 December you can still catch the action on your smartphone, tablets, laptop and PCs on the British Council India’s website

Even details listed below. Make sure you don’t miss it!

Activity: Performances – National Finals
Date: 8 December 2013
Venue: South City International School, 375 Prince Anwar Shah Road, Kolkata 700068 (Behind South City Mall)
Time Schools
12.00 hrs – 12.30 hrs Delhi Public School, Rohini
12.45 hrs – 13.15 hrs Modern High School for Girls, Kolkata
13.30 hrs – 14.00 hrs PSBB Learning Leadership Academy, Bengaluru
14.15 hrs – 14.45 hrs Bright Day School, Vasna Unit, Vadodara
15.00 hrs – 15.30 hrs Union Chapel School, Kolkata
15.45 hrs – 16.15 hrs St Mary’s English Medium School, Udipi
16.30 hrs – 17.00 hrs G D Birla Centre for Education, Kolkata
17.15 hrs – 17.45 hrs St Marks Sr Secondary School, Meera Bagh, Delhi
18.00 hrs – 18.30 hrs Kolkata GOALZ Police School, Kolkata
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Teaching India’s multilingual children

To miss or not to miss…

Teacher: ‘So what do you do in your free time?’
Student: ‘I like listening music!’

If you live in India then you would have heard this response quite often. Said with confidence and panache and without batting an eyelid.

And why not? Agreed that there’s a little ‘to’ missing in the response. So what? You know what the speaker means. You also figured out that English is not the speaker’s mother tongue. But then there is this case of the missing ‘to’ and whatever the rationale, it is after all a grammatically incorrect sentence. But how important is this missing ‘to’? Will it, for example, hamper the speaker’s ability to perform on a job? Should it make them feel inadequate or lesser than any fluent English speaker?

India’s multi-ethnicity is a talent for the tourism industry but a drawback if you are an English teacher facing a class of students hailing from diverse parts of the country. With 22 national languages and over 1600 unofficial mother tongues the only thing that unites Indian students in a language class is their desire to become “fully fluent in English”. Given that English is the second official language after Hindi and is used and preferred in all official forms of communication, this desire is understandable. A good command over English is also seen as a ticket to a better job, elevated social standing and a general feeling of being a cut above the rest.

But it poses unthinkable hurdles for the language teacher. Each student comes with their own set of mother tongue grammar rules and a silent translator in the head. For example, a person whose mother tongue is Hindi generally likes to end his sentences with ‘is there’. Like ‘A cycle is there’ or ‘Too much pollution is there’. This word order is common in Hindi where most sentences end with ‘hai’ and the speaker tends to directly transpose this into English. Try explaining the use of articles to someone who translates ‘train aa rahi hai’ into ‘train is coming’ that you have to put a ‘The’ before train!

In addition, a majority of Indian languages have sounds very different from English that make it very difficult for a native speaker (of the local language) to adapt and copy the sounds of the English language. For instance, a Bengali will find it very hard to say /v/, /w/ and the vowel sound /Ʌ/ (as in cup) because these don’t exist in his tongue. Therefore, missing and modified sounds in Indian English is as common as missing prepositions and articles.

While it is the right thing to strive for perfect grammar in our students I believe the approach should be more practical than pedagogical.

First and foremost we need to set the expectations right. I believe students need to accept that English is a foreign language and we don’t really need to achieve a hundred percent accuracy in it. However, this can be challenging given the competitiveness of our culture.

The goal should be choosing ‘effectiveness’ over accuracy. So long as you are able to communicate effectively and make the listener understand what you say, you are in business. For example in the US, it is acceptable for blacks, Hispanics and Asians to talk in their own dialect while conversing with people of different cultures. The listener accepts any errors and concentrates on the gist of the meaning rather than the missing words or sounds.

Furthermore, it is important to learn chunks of language useful in a situation rather than get into the nitty gritty of grammar. In teaching jargon these are called ‘useful or process language’ and they build the bank of words that a speaker needs for different situations and contexts. So while the student enhances his vocabulary, the teacher is able to concentrate on the flow of communication rather than chase the missing parts of speech. Of course, the missing parts should not hamper communication. Then, you are in the right track.

If we ignore the case of the missing ‘to’s long enough, they might be forgotten one day. Who knows? Meanwhile, do you like listening music?

Kalpita Sarkar, Teacher of English & Children’s Fiction Writer, New Delhi.

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