Unique bid to spread English in schools
English in Schools (EIS), a joint initiative by The Daily Star and AKTEL, will help the students learn English and prepare themselves for global challenges, educationists and policymakers said yesterday.
This will also enable the school children to develop a reading habit and broaden their knowledge base, they observed at an EIS orientation session for school teachers.
At least 376 headmasters and English teachers from 189 schools under Dhaka zone participated in the event at Emmanuelle's Convention Centre in the capital's Rifles Square.
Under EIS, around 1,000 schools across the country will get three copies of The Daily Star five days a week for free. The distribution begins on Tuesday and will be carried out in phases. Gradually, more schools will come under the scheme.
Every week, an extra full-page with English language-learning materials will be brought out.
The venture, aimed at promoting English learning at secondary schools, also includes organising contests on spelling, vocabulary and book reading, among others.
Participating teachers lauded the initiative by the mobile operator and the national daily in association with the education ministry.
They said its proper implementation will create great enthusiasm among the students.
In his address as chief guest, Dhaka University Vice-chancellor Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique said the first 10 years of education shape an individual's personality traits. “So, programmes like English in Schools are of vital importance.”
The habit of reading English newspapers will help students learn the language that is crucial in today's world where the major sources of knowledge are in English.
“There's no alternative to learning English to lead a decent life in the global village,” said the DU VC.
Speaking as special guest, Education Secretary Syed Ataur Rahman said Bangladesh is never short of individuals with immense potential. Unfortunately, many fail to scale the heights in the academic world due to language barrier.
He said he believes The Daily Star-AKTEL project can really bring about a significant change.
The government has decided to form a committee to identify weaknesses in English teaching methods in use and recommend ways to overcome those. It also plans to set up a permanent institute for English language, he continued.
Besides, the government is considering making the most of information and communication technologies (ICT) to ensure more effective English teaching.
Teachers have a great role to play in the 'English in Schools' initiative. They need to motivate the students and make the subject interesting for better learning, Ataur observed.
Prof Noman Ur Rashid, director general of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education, said, “We need to learn English, because we live in a global village. We fully support the initiative.”
He noted that Bangladeshis are richly endowed, but they often could not reach optimum levels of their potentials due to language barriers.
He however said he is optimistic, and likened this initiative to small drops of water that together make a sea.
To the teachers, he said, “This is a great opportunity for you. Please grab it.”
AKTEL Managing Director and CEO Jefri A Tambi said Bangladesh is a nation with bright future, but lack of proficiency in English often appears to be a key hurdle.
Only one percent people here have English literacy, whereas it is much higher in India and Pakistan, he said.
Mentioning the correlation between English language skills and ICT boom, he said, “I believe 'English in Schools' will help Bangladesh's efforts to become a developed country.”
Thanking the education ministry for collaborating on the initiative, The Daily Star Editor and Publisher Mahfuz Anam said teachers have a pivotal role to encourage the students to read newspapers in between classes and during tiffin breaks.
As a newspaper contains various issues, students can surely find interests in those and get in the habit of reading.
“This may be a small initiative, but we believe it will leave a far-reaching impact on the nation's future. We have sown just a seed for the groundbreaking change.”
Referring to India, he said the country is tapping the opportunities of globalisation because people there know English better than those in many other countries.
“We must lean our mother tongue first, but to be partner of the time, we must learn English,” he continued.
The scheme would go through evaluation for effectiveness. Creating a website and skills training on IT may also be included in it.
AKTEL Chief Commercial Officer Bidyut Kumar Basu spoke at the orientation session conducted by Prof Shaheen Kabir of Jahangirnagar University.
Brother Leo Pereira, principal of Saint Joseph's Higher Secondary School, told The Daily Star that the initiative is relevant in that the state of English learning is poor in schools in rural areas.
In schools, newspapers could be read in groups and issues discussed for better understanding, he added.
Delwar Hossain Sarker, headmaster of Kalapara High School of Munshiganj, said the special weekly page planned to come with the newspaper would be of tremendous help to the teachers.
Mita Kundu, an assistant teacher of Goalondo Shaheed Smriti Government High School, said students would be more interested if quizzes and competitions are organised regularly, and the winners rewarded.
Acting Malaysian High Commissioner in Dhaka James Koh Siaw Heong and The Daily Star Managing Editor Syed Fahim Munaim were present.