It is a hard accepted fact but it cannot be denied that in today’s fast changing world, English is a very important subject. India is bestowed with numerous cultures and languages and English also serves as a binding factor in connecting people across states and regions.
The trend in basic understanding in English has remained relatively stagnant over the years. Annual Status of Education Report too supports this assumption. As per ASER survey Report the percentage of Standard 5th students in Himachal Pradesh who could read at least words was 82.1 percent in 2007. This number dropped to 80.6 percent in 2014.
This was however much better than the national average of 59.4 (2007) and 49.2 (2014) percentage respectively.
To bring qualitative enhancement in learning levels among primary class students in Himachal Pradesh, a pilot project was launched by Pratham Education Foundation in Kuthar Block of Solan District in Himachal Pradesh.
50 Government Primary Schools were chosen as a part of this pilot project which has been named as “First Step”. The program is being implemented by District Institute of Education and Training (DIET, Solan) in collaboration with Pratham Education Foundation, Himachal Pradesh.
The program aims to enable primary school children to achieve basic competencies in listening, speaking, reading and writing English.
The first phase focused on developing students’ skills to identify letters particularly through their sounds. The second phase will introduce students to more difficult vocabulary and relatively lengthier texts (about 6 - 15 sentences). There will also be a consolidated component on grammar (nouns, verbs and tenses, adjectives, etc.). The final phase would aim at bringing students at par with their with their grade-level English textbooks. The program will run for one academic session and each phase has been suitably divided as per the need of the learners.
Technology has been put to appropriate use in this intervention and teachers receive message on their phone which helps them equip students with phonetics. Besides, audio files of jingles focusing on identifying letters and words through sound are also an integral part of this program.
The program has been running in both winter and summer closing schools of Kuthar Education block in District Solan of Himachal Pradesh.
Capacity development of teachers has been an ongoing component of this intervention and training programs are organized from time to time. Besides, Pratham Education Foundation has also established a Talk Centre through which basic skill enhancement of teachers is being done so that they get become confident English speakers themselves too.