Hazratha Bagadi is a student from Government Higher Primary School Number 3 Laxmeshwar in Gadag district and he had a problem. He could never complete his English homework.
A Grade three student, the nine-year-old Hazratha speaks Urdu at home. His parents hold blue-collar jobs: his father works at a garage while his mother is employed at the local bidi factory. After a hard day of physically strenuous labour, the parents are too drained to spare the energy or the time to help Hazratha with his homework. Consequently Hazratha struggled with his homework that included reading, writing, speaking and other curricular activities-most of which needed to be undertaken in English.
It was at this stage that Mantra4Change entered the picture. Before we began our intervention at Hazratha’s school, we gained a thorough understanding of the conditions at the school. Through our interactions, one thing became crystal clear: Hazratha was not alone. Most students were struggling to complete their English homework or classwork as their understanding of the English language was abysmal. In fact, many students were failing at academics only because of their inability to master the English language.
Our interactions revealed that the teachers were open to a change in the teaching methodology. We also learnt that although the parents attended Parent Teacher Meetings as a matter of custom, their children’s educational attainment was not a priority.
Armed with all this background research we at Mantra4Change began our interventions. We commenced the intervention by providing training to the teachers at the cluster level. We suggesed engaging activities and sessions to generate interest among the young students. We were using methods that had been tried and tested at our other partner schools. We introduced the use of flashcards for teaching the alphabet. This session was to be followed by writing the alphabets/words on the board, which the students had to copy in their notebooks.
The third session, focussing on contextualisation of the learning asked students to encircle the words as they appeared in a newspaper. Research has shown that gains are huge when learning is embedded in the context of a learner. The fourth session was dictation- giving them some work to practice at home and in the classroom. We asked teachers to limit the number of words to five in order to provide students ample time to absorb the learning.
Over a course of five months, with follow-up classes conducted every week, students have shown appreciable improvements. Most of the students have been initiated into learning the English language, vindicating our methodology that aims not just at making learning an engaging and interactive experience for students but also focuses on all language skills – reading, writing and speaking.
And what of Hazratha? The boy now completes his homework diligently every day. What’s more, he has already mastered 100 new English words and he can’t wait to learn more.
By Raghu Patil, School Transformation Lead and Vasundhara, Programme Manager at Mantra4Change