English E-Teach Expansion Plan in Maharashtra

The syllabus based English E-learning program has been devised by the Tata Interactive Systems (TIS) and initiated by the Bombay Community Public Trust (BCPT) to better English language learning for third language learners among primary school children. The learning program was devised with interactive DVD’s using cartoon characters, animation, music and graphics to enhance children’s attention span during the class, and build a liking for the English language among children who did not have an English speaking environment in school or anywhere in their vicinity. The core essential objective was to create equal opportunity for these children with a good base of the English language during the primary school. In April-May 2011, with a view to extend the possibility of using this DVD based interactive English learning program in village primary schools, BCPT appointed an educational service NGO, Learning Space Foundation based in Thane district, which had the reputation for running inspiring supplementary programs for various age-groups of schooling children in English learning, Arts, Painting & Craft, Basic Computers and other disciplines necessary to create wholesome growth among village children.

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The Starting Point

Learning Space Foundation (LSF) headed by Mr. Nitin Orayan (Author & Educator) devised a trial initial plan of running the E-learning program in 24 primary schools of Wada & Bhiwandi in Thane district with a team of a head/supervisor and 4 facilitators. These teachers were chosen on merit and from the education field (D.Ed) and allotted 5-6 schools run by the Zilha Parishad (ZP) and the govt. Sponsored Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), each to be visited during 5 ½ working days of the week. A schedule was drawn out for the facilitators and the Z.P. school teachers were asked to observe and study the new enjoyable method for replication. This trial plan was successfully implemented in the chosen schools between June 15th 2011 to March 15th 2012, and it was established that over 1500 primary school children benefitted with a better ability to listen, comprehend and speak the basics of the language due to the new learning format and the fun activities done around each lesson.

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A Leap in Village Education

The trial success of the English E-learning implementation in edu. Year 2011-12 led to a discussion with the SSA in Wada for extending a sub-district wide program covering 300 schools, and soon approved by the District Edu. Board in Thane. The dynamics of running this larger program for benefitting village education changed when it was observed that only Z.P. school teachers could bring sustainability to the program by receiving it positively and implementing it as a means of easy learning for village children from 1st std. LSF devised a three pronged strategy to go forward with this;

  1. 1.Orientation and Training for Z.P. English Teachers all through the year on a monthly basis.
  2. 2.Selection of Resource Persons (RP’s) from among best Z.P. school teachers for inspiring, guiding and motivating the teachers.
  3. 3.Inspiring Gram-panchayats and teacher-parent bodies to help install TV-DVD players in village schools.
As a result of a practical strategy and dedicated efforts, about a 100 Z.P. schools in the Wada Block have emerged as Star schools with TV-DVD players, and another 50 schools that have made full use of the methods shown in the new program accompanied with sustained practise and use of English among children.

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Growing Popularity of the Program in other regions of Maharashtra

The usefulness of this DVD based enjoyable manner of learning English has been noticed by many other educators in different parts of Maharashtra. At the Wada teachers orientation program held by LSF in May 2012, there was participation from groups of teachers from Igatpuri, Nanded, Bhiwandi town and other places. Many groups of teachers have recognized the value of using an enjoyable medium of instruction for teaching English at primary school, and wish to be trained and guided for its regular use in their schools. As a recent development, schools of the Vasai sub-district in Thane, schools of Ratnagiri, Raigad, Latur, and many other districts have come forward to be part of this program, and change the existing depressing scene of English education in village primary schools. LSF and its active facilitators team have so far excelled in providing very inspiring and motivational trainings and guidance not only in the Wada sub-district but also for implementation to other parts of Maharashtra. However, there is a serious need to look at the organizational structure for providing justice to the massive task of implementing a new form of English learning on a state-wide extension plan.

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Tasks / Functions to be fulfilled for State-wide Implementation

1. Process of Training of Z.P. Teachers & Developing Volunteer Teachers

The existing team of LSF with a Head and 4 facilitators have groomed exceptional skills in training and motivating full-time teachers of the Zilha Parishad run system. This team has emerged from among youth of villages of Thane district with complete knowledge and empathy for teachers and children struggling to learn a foreign language without the support of any environment necessary for learning the language. This team will essentially focus on development & training, and be stationed at the LSF center in Kelthan village for all developmental activity, and will travel to various parts of Maharashtra to run training programs for local teachers, and also spotting and recruiting leaders among the educated youth (unemployed D.eds and B.Ed’s) to take up Volunteer teaching/facilitating in those area schools. Subsequently these volunteer teachers will be given on-the-spot in-school training to deal with day-to-day facilitating of the program in their respective schools. The LSF Master trainers team will also be developing & making back-up support material that will be in the form of leaflets as User DVD manual, DVD’s with live demonstrations for each lesson, and turn the program into a self-learning /user friendly easy to run system for all those who are interested in the village education system.

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2. General Supervision and Trouble-shooting

Qualified teachers with a deep liking and interest to develop their English speaking skills are very suitable to be part of a team that can guide Z.P. school teachers in their running of the program in school. In running a follow-up exercise of the quality of implementation happening in various areas, we will need an efficient team of 4 supervisors (increased to 5 by need) who are very skilled in identifying problems and trouble-shooting them instantly. These will have to be persons with some educational background and sufficient school teaching experience to efficiently guide others in usefully running the program on a day-to-day basis. At a given time, each supervisor will be going around monitoring a particular area of schools, gathering them and asking them about possible difficulties or in very specific cases visiting the schools. At a later stage in the year, these supervisors an train local youth in replicating their function of troubleshooting problems, but this will happen when the first batch of supervisors gain enough experience of that function. It has been noticed over the last two years of implementing this program in schools of rural areas that teachers are needing technical help while implementing a electronic hardware based program. Often, teachers sit back when they are not able to operate a DVD player or actually use a DVD even though all necessary training has been imparted. The waste of schooling time resulting out of this inability to tackle technicalities, needs that the back-up team is very well versed with the use of the DVD’s in the hardware – TV-DVD players/PC’s and can help repair minor problems of the hardware. The team selected for this function will be given a short term training of repair of the hardware mentioned above, at a reputed institute offering short term courses.

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3. Administrative and Accounting Tasks

All the rural schools with Region/Area wise categories, participating in the English Elearning training followed by implementation will be (in detail) computerized and monitored by a team of administrative personnel specifically assigned with that task. Monitoring will be done telephonically as well as by filling in and posting a set of documents by the teachers participating in the program. This reviewing method will be done on Unit basis (as two units are together) and further DVD’s will be distributed based only on successful results of earlier lessons.

The administrative function will be also assigned making bookings for trainings of different levels such as Unit 1 and 2, 3 & 4 and so forth for the 1st standard, and then followed by the 2nd std. Arranging logistics and other arrangements for the trainers will be another important function as the trainers cannot be burdened to make these arrangements. Administering the supervisory function, making their travel bookings etc. will be managed by this team.

Similarly, the task of accounting and keeping all monetary receipts and expenses on track will be an important function to handle various financial functions and its reporting to the BCPT for further payments to LSF on a timely basis.

A team of 3 administrative personnel and 2 accounting personnel will be necessary at the start of the financial year starting from 1st April 2013.

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