English Proficiency in Andhra Pradesh
Andhra Pradesh is the 7th largest state in the country with a population of almost 50 million people. Around 4 million students are enrolled in government and government-aided schools in the state. Over the years, though enrolment has increased in schools there is still much work to be done to improve learning outcomes. A large number of students exit K12 struggling with the basics of reading and comprehension. The literacy rate of the state is 67% ranking it 33 out of 35 states covered by the Census of India.
English literacy is an even bigger challenge for Andhra Pradesh. As per the Annual Status Education Report (ASER) 2016, only 47.3% of students from standard 5 in Andhra Pradesh can read a standard 2 text in English.
In February 2018, EnglishHelper conducted a baseline assessment for students of grades 6 & 7 across a few schools of Andhra Pradesh. The assessment evaluated the English proficiency of students as per the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The assessments aimed to test student’s learning at a fundamental level, recognizing that most students are first-generation learners. The baseline results of grade 6 painted a grim picture. Across India, 46% of students were above the lowest CEFR level (A1.1), while in Andhra Pradesh, only 10% of the students were above A1.1 proficiency.
RightToRead – A Lever for Change
RightToRead is an initiative to deploy technology-enabled English reading and comprehension in government schools. English textbooks are read in class by multi-sensory AI software (ReadToMe®). The tech-enabled reading is undertaken during normal class periods; teachers continue to play a pivotal role. Since its first implementation in 2013, the RightToRead program is now spread across the country and is expected to achieve a footprint of 100,000 schools early in 2020.
RightToRead was initiated in Andhra Pradesh in 2017 in 4 schools. EnglishHelper, in partnership with Schoolnet, expanded the program in 2018 to the Smart Schools of Kakinada and Vishakhapatnam. Since then, RightToRead has been implemented in 55 schools across 6 districts. It currently benefits over 16,000 students (grades 1 to 12) in the state. The coming together of technology and education in ReadToMe® classrooms provide an opportunity to improve the level of English literacy in these schools.
Aruna, an English teacher at Municipal Corporation High School, Kakinada has been using ReadToMe® for over a year. She appreciates the versatility of ReadToMe®, “pronunciation has become easy as students can repeat the words again and again with the help of the software. ReadToMe® shows the meaning of words with a single click. A lot of students do not have textbooks, the software becomes very helpful in such scenarios.” Students are fascinated by the picture dictionary tool in ReadToMe®.
The Way Ahead
The Government of Andhra Pradesh decided to introduce English medium in government schools from grades 1 through 6. This change will be implemented from the academic year of 2020-2021. Teachers will be trained and equipped to teach in English and new teachers will be recruited based on their proficiency in English. This initiative is in line with the government’s aim to transform Andhra Pradesh into a “Knowledge Hub”.
The introduction of English medium in schools is a massive project. The move from the English language as an “academic subject” to the “medium of instruction” will have wide-ranging effects in Andhra Pradesh, which has over 40,000 government and government-aided schools. Several million students and thousands of teachers will be affected by this initiative.
While the introduction of the English medium in AP schools is important for the growing knowledge economy, the transition will not be without challenges. The introduction and integration of technology as a reading intervention can make a difference. RightToRead has already been implemented successfully in the state. The multi-sensory reading and comprehension AI software, ReadToMe® can be deployed for learning English and enabling the study of other subjects in English. By bringing these initiatives together, AP has a golden opportunity to achieve higher English literacy, transition successfully to English as the medium of instruction and integrate technology with curriculum!
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