Michael Connolly, Assistant Director English Partnership, British Council, speaks about the various initiatives and programmes conducted by the British Council for improving the standards of English language teaching.
1) What is the aim of the English language teacher programme?
The aim of our programme is to improve English teacher education. We focus on teacher development programme for English teachers in the government sector primarily. But the ultimate aim is to improve learning outcomes for students.
We’ve been working in India since 2007. During this time we have worked with 11 state governments, including Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka governments. We’re currently working with Maharasthra, West Bengal, Delhi, Assam and Bihar.
We have 100 million English language learners in India. No organisation can work with such large numbers. But what we do is we focus on teacher educators who will be resource persons in a State, at district level, who will then be able to support other teachers, which ultimately will help the learners.
Our main interest is to help teachers who have to work in challenging situations. Many teachers lack support and have low motivation. Our emphasis is on building up their self-awareness, telling them where to find resources and how to use them. We motivate teachers to make them understand that interactive classrooms means better learning outcomes.
2) What is the English digital partnership?
The British Council has arranged for digital resources for teachers and learners. We have mapped our website content to the Indian national curriculum. So anyone can pick up a CD and click on an activity linked to the national curriculum, from class I to class VIII.
We have mobile technology, learning apps — one in particular is for job-seekers — to help people with interview skills. English strokes is an app for learning English through cricket. It has been designed in collaboration with Kris Srikkanth.
But since not everyone has access to this kind of technology, we have resources on audio, video, radio and print as well. We have mobile apps designed for Apple as well as Nokia. So there are different types of resources for different people.
3) Can you discuss the nature of the English language teacher educator conference?
For our conference that is held in Hyderabad, we bring together teacher educators from the private and public sector, government, universities, schools and NGOs. In the last three years, we have looked at sustainability in teacher education and assessment.
One of the themes of the conference is reflection, which is learning from experience. Another theme is continuous professional development and the third theme is technology.
This is the largest teacher educator conference in the world. It was attended by 1,300 participants last year, which has doubled since previous years. We had speakers and delegates from 21 countries.
4) How does the programme seek to help the teachers?
One of the themes of the conference is continuous professional development. We train teachers in the traditional way. But we understand that this is not enough for teacher development. We don’t just limit ourselves to providing the resources. It’s all within a framework — we tell them how to use the resources, how to become a better teacher, how to be better in the language. We are focussed on helping teachers outside the classroom. If you simply train the teacher and walk way, nothing happens. We need sustained intervention, particularly in rural areas where they don’t have access to resources. We need to provide the resources and show how to use them and how it links to the classroom.