Fluency in English in government schools is often a challenge for students, especially because many schools use the local language to provide education. According to the Eighth All India Education Survey (AIES), English as the language of instruction was only used in 15.49% of Indian schools at the primary level, 21.08% at the upper primary level, 28.73% at the secondary level, and 33.06% at the Higher secondary level.
Learning the language for public school students is difficult for a number of reasons, English phonetics is arbitrary and rewarding for students who are not exposed to English in their daily life. There is also the problem of the lack of teachers and the lack of knowledge of English.
To address this issue, EnglishHelper (EH), an educational technology program founded by Venkat Srinivasan, a cognitive researcher and social entrepreneur based in Boston, launched RightToRead, a program that uses the ReadToMe artificial intelligence platform to support multi-sensory reading and comprehension.
Sanjay Gupta, head of EnglishHelper, said that students get basic programming for free while improving their reading, comprehension, and speaking skills in English. EdTech partners with Intel and Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide school management software and student support to over 25,000 schools.
The program integrates into the existing curriculum (in which the software enables schoolbooks to be read). “Schools with just one PC / laptop can use the software by teaching English in a dedicated AV room during normal school hours,” explains Gupta. “Teachers can download the ReadToMe Android app on their phones and connect their device to a screen to teach the textbook using the software. They can also use platforms like Zoom to virtually take courses using their phones or laptops, he adds.
How does it look?
After the program, there appears to have been between 20 and 40% more improvements in reading and understanding. “This result is due to the constant exposure that enables students to learn English sounds and improve word recognition. In addition, the adaptation to the curriculum ensures the practical implementation of the prescribed textbooks and makes longer teaching units superfluous, “says Akanksha Bilani, Head of Regional Alliance – the Asia Pacific and Japan at Intel.
Speaking of technical learning solutions, it can become a major equalizer for disadvantaged children in which affordable holistic education has true meaning. We as a society already have organizations that develop learning modules through live applications and classes in popular social media platforms and deliver classes. Cooperation from the industry in order to speed up technological innovation in the cloud, the network, and on the edge can pave the way into a dynamic and accessible learning environment.
The artificial intelligence-based virtual language teacher improves English proficiency in a conversational style at Learning Matters, where a price of Rs 100 per student per month makes it an economically viable initiative. Just the Alexa device or smartphone, compatible books (either paperback or e-book format; for both teacher and student programs) from EnglishHelper (EH), and an internet connection. Schools can purchase an Alexa-enabled device of their choice. EH provides the books and access to the virtual voice teacher. The students follow a prescribed course of instruction within each course.
The voice teacher repeats the lessons, speaks to the students, asks questions, “listens” to the answers, makes comments, and corrects grammatical errors again and again like a human instructor. This helps students learn the language naturally but at their own pace and through repeated practice to gain their proficiency. A non-judgmental learning environment is created in which students can speak confidently without fear of judgment. The long-term vision is to teach a variety of scientific subjects.
The program has five levels geared in CEFR (Language Common Reference Framework for Languages). Calibration to the CEFR standards means that it is the degree of competition and not the age of the student is taken into account. The duration of the program is about 10 months to complete a learning level with a frequency of 4 hours a week.
Loss of learning and English regression is a “bad beast to deal with,” and the problem is more acute in public schools. The Annual State of Education Report (ASER) shows fifth graders in rural India cannot understand Level II text. The main reasons for this are severe resource constraints and the alarming lack of qualified teachers, which leads to poor English proficiency and poor learning outcomes. Exams, which in turn lead to bad grades, early dropouts, and unemployment. If the English proficiency of students and teachers can be addressed simultaneously, the root causes of this systemic challenge can be effectively addressed.