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Culture Connection: understanding and respecting differences October 9, 2010

Posted by nupurs in Connections through Culture.
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Unlike the mainstream schools where education is easily accessible, Bandhyali is a school on the outskirts of Jaipur which caters to the children for whom school is a palace and education a dream. Bandhyali School, in Bandhyali village, is a primary school for 325 children, 201 girls and 124 boys. All these children are from educationally, socially, and economically disadvantaged communities from the surrounding villages. Bandhayli is a free school. No fee is charged, and all books, notebooks and stationery are provided by the school.

This school is run by an organisation called Digantar which aims to develop educational opportunities for children from the nearby villages. The purpose of education is to make every child a self-motivated and independent learner with the ability to think critically. Digantar strives to develop educational opportunities for all children based on this idea. Every child is capable of learning to live in the society, defining his / her goals for life, finding ways of achieving the chosen goals, taking appropriate action, and of being responsible for the actions taken.

Children at Bandhyali School had never visited another place outside their village. They were hesitant to ask questions and make any decision. They lacked creativity and had never shown interest in learning English language.

Nobody had ever envisaged that a visit by a group of teachers from the UK in 2004 would change the classroom environment and improve the quality of education in Bandhyali School. This group of teachers was led by Mr. Paul Whitcombe, Head teacher of Lord Scudamore Primary School, Herefordshire who proposed the idea of partnership with Bandhyali School. Both schools were formally partnered under the Global School Partnerships programme.

The staff  at  Bandhyali were excited with the prospects of this alliance as it would not only give an opportunity to the students to engage with contemporary issues but also enable the teachers in developing new skills among the students. The aim of this partnership was to primarily evaluate and improve teaching-learning practices, and this was truly in line with the philosophy of education at Bandhyali. This wide-ranging aim would provide endless opportunities for integrating new forms of expression, creativity, exploring diversity and other global issues and supporting formative assessment.

The Global School Partnerships programme, managed by the British Council has provided an opportunity to both schools to work collaboratively in raising awareness about both countries and develop a strong global dimension in the primary curriculum. The programme has benefitted 759 students.

Interaction, creativity and empowerment are the three cornerstones of this six-year old partnership between Bandhyali, a rural school in the Jagatpura district of Rajasthan and Lord Scudamore Primary School in UK. The partnership has come a long way since then; it has laid the foundations of the education dream for the wider school community.

Teachers from the UK school worked on various subjects with the students at Bandhyali. Interaction with teachers from the UK has motivated the students to develop an interest in English language. Various activities were conducted which resulted in improved skills in speaking and writing. The teachers also planned dramas and poems which has improved students’ creativity skills.

Activities in subjects like history and geography has increased children’s knowledge not only of their own country but of UK as well. Locating their partner country and knowing about the geographical conditions taught the students to use a map. They learnt about the similarities and differences between each others’ culture.

The staff at Bandhyali, during their visits to the partner school in UK, learnt a lot about new teaching-learning practices and inter-disciplinary approaches to curriculum transaction; major part of the curriculum is now thoughtfully designed around major seasons, festivals and other events.

The children are now so confident. They are always curious to know more about things around them. They don’t stop questioning until they are satisfied with the answer. They enjoy studying. They don’t shy away in exploring and expressing themselves creatively.

The programme has also benefitted the teachers. The exchange visits have helped in teachers’ professional development, taught them to bring creativity in to the classroom and to make optimum use of each and every resource available.

This partnership has had its positive impact on the community as well. Parents of these children have now become open-minded. They once never agreed to send their daughters to school, are now ready to send them to the UK.

Abdul Gaffar, Senior Academic Co-ordinator, Bandhyali School reminisces asking a parent of a student – “until a few years ago you didn’t even want to send your daughter to school, and you now want her to visit England?’ Prompt came the reply, “I want to give the best education to my daughter and I want her to see the world…”

The mind-set of women in the village has radically changed. They are no longer scared to ask questions and are actively involved in discussions on topics like why men don’t undertake household tasks and why women do more work than men?

Bandhyali School has had an exemplary involvement with the community. The village folk now freely interact with the visiting teachers. The village elders help students with their projects on understanding the changes in lifestyle, education, industry and agriculture practices. The village community has done some significant fund-raising to set up temporary structures for classrooms while a new building for the school is being constructed.

The literacy rate in the surrounding areas in 1992 was 14% for men and 2% for women which has now shot up to 47% for men and 38% for women, as per the survey done in 2008. There is now a long waiting list of students wanting to seek admission in Bandhyali. There are about 197 children waiting to seek admission in this school.

Children of both schools now feel interconnected with each other. They have an urge to visit their partner school in UK. This partnership has developed a holistic perspective among the students of both schools. The activities have helped in develop social ethos and respect and understand the culture and traditions of another country.

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Policy Implications for English Teaching and Learning November 28, 2009

Posted by Anooja in English for Progress.
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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.

        Activity Based Learning November 20, 2009

        Posted by Catherine in English for Progress.
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        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?

        Where should Teacher Educators come from? November 20, 2009

        Posted by Philip Clegg in English for Progress.
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        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.

        How long do we have? November 20, 2009

        Posted by Seamus in English for Progress.
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        Three things I heard yesterday.

        1.  Colombia’s National Bilingual Programme is a 16 – year programme and started 11 years after a new language policy was enacted.

        2.  China is engaged in a 40-year language programme.

        3. The UK Education acts of 1911 and 1918 which liberalised curriculum did not translate into progressive practice in the classroom until the 1960s.

        What about India?

        English in the corporate sector November 9, 2009

        Posted by Stephen in English for Progress.
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        The 2008 NASSCOM Everest report warned that the ITES sector in India needs to recruit beyond the ‘ready to eat’ pool of talented graduates. With BPO expanding into 2nd and 3rd tier cities and even into rural areas, what does this mean for the future of the Indian corporate sector? How can India take advantage of its demographic dividend (nearly half the population is under 25)? What measures are necessary in the education and corporate sectors, and who is responsible. These are some of the questions we will be debating at the Third Policy Dialogue in Delhi, 19-20 Nov. What are your views?

        Hi everyone! November 6, 2009

        Posted by Seamus in English for Progress.
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        I’m Seamus and I’m a Senior Training Consultant for Project English based in Sri Lanka.  I’ll be blogging my way through the third policy dialogue giving you my impressions and talking to other delegates and giving you theirs too.

        I’m looking forward to hearing about David Graddol’s research for English Next India and the debate around his findings.  I’m particularly interested in how this might relate to Sri Lanka and will be talking to the Sri Lanka delegation to get their reactions.

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