If we start training teachers to deliver proficiency in reading and writing, we can measure the outcomes obtained and make improvement in early English literacy.
One in six elementary teachers in India are not trained. The New Education Policy (NEP) outlines many arguments and the most important of those is that currently India spends only three per cent of its GDP on education and ranks 62nd in total public expenditure on education per student.
While we expect this to rise to six per cent, one can safely assume that with most state governments slashing their budgets in the wake of the Covid pandemic, this will take a while to happen. The next best outcome is twofold - work towards simple achievable goals and work with private partners to achieve them.
Two areas in which private partnerships can deliver efficiently are technology and teacher training. The up-gradation in teacher training itself needs to factor in:
1) Familiarity with early learning goals
2) Activity-based learning
3) Game-based experiential education.
Squarepanda - an early literacy system - conducted an assessment. Our experience in Chhattisgarh was an eye-opener. The state has over 50,000 students across 1,327 schools. The first assessment by the team showed a 17 per cent proficiency in reading and 13 per cent proficiency in comprehension among students of grade III across seven schools where the pilot was conducted. We focussed on teacher training first.
This training is not a literacy-based training, but on how to use our tools and worksheets to ensure that the children get a good grounding in early English literacy. With two weeks, the children showed 80 per cent proficiency in reading and 76 per cent proficiency in comprehension. Children learn faster when they're having fun.
We realised that the challenge of early English literacy is a matter of perspective. We are not able to manage it, because we are not able to measure it.
The government is keen to improve this situation.
If we start training the teachers to deliver proficiency in reading and writing, then we can measure the outcomes obtained and make a significant improvement in early English literacy. Children from poor households are sent to balwadis managed by ayahs. These ayahs are not equipped to impart literacy. Hence there is no hope of training children in foundational literacy.
We have to invest in an appropriate curriculum, education-friendly technologies and free internet. In addition to this, we have to train a large number of teachers from the ground up to be familiar with the goals of early English literacy.
An optimal teacher training program will prepare teachers for the future, incorporating digital learning in with the traditional methods, and helping teachers become more digitally literate. With NEP-2020 coming in play, teachers are now required to change their mindset while the conventional curriculum, assessments and teaching practices get transformed into a more NEP-aligned position.
In a country where traditional forms of learning - such as writing on a blackboard and reading from the textbook or 'rote learning' - have been prevalent, teachers will now have to unlearn their traditional approach to learning and re-learn how to use a new experiential framework while guiding students.
Teacher training, especially in the English language, is a necessity and not an option. This holds true especially in the early years or Early Childhood Children Education (ECCE), where one teacher often teaches multiple subjects together including English. In remote areas especially, while language expertise is not a must, language familiarity is a much-desired goal among teachers.
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