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Teaching English Online To Government School Students

Teaching English Online To Government School Students

RightToRead, an edtech program, is an effort to demonstrate that technology that supports reading and comprehension can play a major role in enhancing English proficiency of students in government schools. The initiative aims to enable English literacy in India (and globally) with the help of multi-sensory reading and comprehension AI software– ReadToMe® (research indicates, language is learnt best when learners are exposed to the language in a multi-sensory environment).

RightToRead: Teachers Are Using ReadToMe® Software In Their Classrooms

Maharashtra is an impressive example of thousands of teachers accessing and using ReadToMe® in their classrooms. In 2018, the Government of Maharashtra agreed to implement the RightToRead Program in 65,000 government schools across the state in partnership with EnglishHelper and Schoolnet. Launched in July 2019, the program has already been implemented in nearly 15,000 schools reaching 4 million students. The program has its footprint in all 36 districts and 389 blocks in the state. Once the schools reopen, RightToRead will be implemented in the remaining 50,000 schools. At full deployment, within 2020, RightToRead will benefit 13 million students in Maharashtra.

Teachers who use the software were trained either in person or remotely. The software enables the reading of curriculum prescribed textbooks. ReadToMe® can be easily integrated into the school timetable, obviating the need for any extra classes. Teachers continue to play a pivotal role in class and report their effectiveness is enhanced. Teachers have been using the software regularly and have noted increased engagement and excitement among students. The program has assisted in improving the English reading and comprehension ability of students.

COVID-19 – The Crisis And Its Impact

COVID-19 has brought the world to a standstill. Countries are struggling to fight the spread of the disease and most educational activities have come to a halt. Schools have been shut for over a month. Given the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, it is possible schools will remain closed for long periods of time over the remainder of this year. This does not bode well for students and their learning needs.

However, all is not lost. The advanced capabilities of technology are helping in myriad ways. Working from home has already become a norm across the globe. Financial services can be accessed online. Essential commodities are being shipped to doorsteps eliminating the need to go shopping in crowded malls and shops. Tele-medicine and a host of healthcare apps are now the order of the day. In the world of education, schools and colleges for the affluent hardly seem to have missed a beat. Lessons, revisions and tests, all rendered online, have seamlessly replaced the brick and mortar life of academics in just a few weeks.

Even as this transformation is underway, a few questions need to be answered:

1) How do we leverage technology to reach every child? At this moment, it appears students from low-income families are being left out and will lag behind.

2) Is this change simply a ‘bridge’ that is temporary and will the use of technology diminish once normalcy is resumed?

3) What is the role of the teacher when teaching remotely?

Technology Can Be Accessed By All

RightToRead has demonstrated the power of technology in government schools. The question is how do students of government schools now access learning remotely given the constraints of devices, internet and affordability.

The answer from a technological perspective is simple. For example, students in Maharashtra can now read their English textbooks at home by downloading the ReadToMe Student Edition app from Playstore. The app is priced affordably and does not require the internet once downloaded. Similarly, ReadToMe Virtual Classroom is a very effective way for teachers to teach English to students who have access to the internet. 

Admittedly, this may still not solve the problem for all students. This is where civil society and the government will have to provide support. How much will it cost to get every family a tablet and an internet connection? 

Technology Is Here To Stay!

Ever asked a government school English teacher why they struggle to achieve learning goals in their classrooms? The answer is simple. It is very difficult to teach a challenging language like English to children who come from families that do not have a history of literacy. For these students, there is no English in their environment and there is no academic help available at home. Teachers have found the integration of multi-sensory technology into the learning process to be a boon. 

Imagine, therefore, these students going back home and reading their textbooks using the same multi-sensory app downloaded from Playstore. The improvement would be manifold!

In some regions, we have experienced, firsthand, the shortage of skilled teachers. Why is it so difficult to imagine the use of technology for students – teacher ‘arbitrage’? Punjabi speaking English teachers based in Delhi teaching students in Punjab?

The Role Of Teachers Who Teach Remotely

At least for now, we must assume there will be a few constants. Learning goals will not change and learning content will remain the same. In this scenario, especially when teaching remotely how does a teacher achieve the same effectiveness in a virtual class? Technology makes somethings easy to track and manage e.g. scheduling classes and tracking attendance.

It’s the forty minutes of class delivered online that will need new teaching skills. 

The good news is that there is now a significant body of experience of how remote teaching works and the skills needed to make teachers make the most of a virtual classroom. The point is, teachers will need to learn these new skills and those reluctant to do so may find themselves at a disadvantage.

In Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced technology into the forefront across many vectors of use. Education cannot be a laggard. The affluent seem to have quickly transitioned into technology-enabled learning. This time we cannot ignore the learners from lower economic strata. The current crisis provides leverage to equalise the education playing field for all children. Technology solutions must be affordable for institutions and for individuals. For the poorest, budgetary support will be needed to acquire minimum capabilities e.g. devices and accessing the internet. Teachers will have to be re-skilled. All this has been done and models of success exist in plenty. In other words, the compulsion is now and there is no reason to wait.

To know how to use ReadToMe® pronunciation tool please click here.

For more information about RightToRead projects, please connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.

Click here for our innovative spoken English program – EnglishBolo™, a joint Initiative of EnglishHelper and Schoolnet. To know more about EnglishBolo™ connect with us on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.

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