English in Action is using mobile phones, the internet, print-materials, television, and peer-to-peer learning to help 25 million Bangladeshis improve their English as a route into work and out of poverty.
English in Action aims at enabling 25 million Bangladeshi adults and school children to improve their English language skills that will help them access better economic and social opportunities.
With English rapidly becoming the global language of business, fluency in working English can play a major role in helping people escape from poverty. Nearly 70 million Bangladeshis survive on less than a dollar a day and a third of the urban population lives in slums. The programme, English in Action, supports the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals, which are aimed at eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.
English in Action is about equipping the poorest people with language skills that will help them find jobs, engage in entrepreneurial activities and improve their standard of living. It has been devised in consultation with the Government of Bangladesh and national education institutions. Funding is being provided by the UK Department for International Development.
Of the 25 million people targeted by English in Action, 10 million are school children and 15 million are adults. Literally millions of those at whom the programme is targeted are beyond the reach of conventional education strategies and tools. With English in Action we are breaking completely new ground in the ways we engage people and transmit content.
Innovative Approach for Adults
Part of English in Action, BBC Janala ('window' in Bangla) is an award-winning, multi-platform service which is enabling millions of Bangladeshis to learn English affordably – through their mobile phones, the web, television programmes, print media and peer-to-peer learning.
Our main target audience is adults aged 15-45 years, from a wide range of socio-economic groups. So far nearly 28 million people – a quarter of the adult population in Bangladesh – have watched or used EIA media products. Over 43 million are aware of at least one EIA media products.
Innovative use of television lies at the heart of the success of BBC Janala. The project’s two biggest – series the drama Bishaash and accompanying educational game show BBC Janala – Mojay Mojay Shekha (“Learning with fun”) – have enabled millions of Bangladesh Television viewers to learn English together, reaching 20 and 18 million people respectively. A second series of Mojay Mojay Shekha, launched in 2012, attracted over 12 million viewers in the first month alone. The show seeks to motivate audiences to learn English through fun and games.
BBC Janala Nijey Nijey Shekha (the project’s new factual / reality series) launched in 2013 attracted millions of people. The series followed eight individuals with a need for English in their lives, setting each of them a “challenge” to learn some English over a three day period. Over 8.5 million people have viewed this series.
Our mobile phone service transforms a simple handset into a low-cost learning device. Anyone can learn and practise English by calling a mobile shortcode, from any Bangladeshi mobile operator. So far, more than 7 million people have accessed 3-minute audio lessons for the cost of less than 50 paisa per minute.
Changing Classroom Practices
In schools, The EIA programme introduces new English language teaching and learning activities to teachers and students across Bangladesh. By April 2014, more than 12,500 teachers and almost a million students have been reached by the programme. By 2017, we aim to reach 51,000 teachers and over 7 million students.
International research indicates that classrooms and schools are the best places for teachers to improve their practices. It also shows that teachers learn most effectively from each other, with additional stimulation and support from outside.
The EIA schools programme therefore includes, new classroom activities for teachers and students, at the heart of teachers’ learning; audio-visual professional development and classroom resources made available at low cost through memory (SD) cards on teachers’ mobile phones, with supporting print materials; on-going support through paired teachers in schools, regular locally-based meetings of teachers and launch workshops.
Our teacher professional development materials and classroom resources are linked to the national textbook, English for Today, making it easy for teachers to incorporate activities and practices into their lessons.
We work within the Government of Bangladesh systems. We involve Upazila staff in field level monitoring, and many of our lead teachers are Master Trainers from the formal Government teacher development programmes; and we work closely with Government Education Offices.
Direct feedback from beneficiaries is positive
95 percent of surveyed teachers reported that EIA had helped them improve their own language skills and 90% feels EIA has an impact on the way they teach.
Research finding shows, when teachers changes their practice and students experience the difference, from near zero, over 90% of their talk is now in English in the classroom. And, with this new opportunity to speak and practise English, students are learning more. When tested on an international 12 grade scale, within 12 months: 54% of primary students improved a whole grade; and 38% of secondary students improved a whole grade.