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   Volume 3 | Issue 12 | March 27, 2011 |


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ETTE: innovation in teaching English

Rakibul Hasan

One of the ETTE training sessions. Courtesy: British Council

A global language today, English has assumed a very important profile around the world in terms of communicating thoughts and ideas around the world. The advent of globalisation has created more opportunity and access to information, of which the largest portion is expressed in English. As a result, English language competency has become indispensable for every candidate to survive in today's global competition. However, the state of English proficiency amongst the general students of Bangladesh is not very satisfactory. The upsetting rate of failures in English exams every year portrays the poor image of English language education in the country. One of the main reasons behind incompetence in English, especially in the case of students from rural areas, is the lack of quality English teachers in the primary schools. Primary school teachers from the rural areas hardly apply any modern technique to introduce their students with the necessary skills of English such as listening, speaking, reading and writing. With an aim to improvising the English teaching scenario in Bangladesh, the British Council initiated the 'English for teaching: Teaching for English' (ETTE) project in the year 2008. The target audience of the ETTE project consists of mainly the teachers working in the primary level. ETTE also operates in other countries of Central and South Asia regions namely, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The main objective of ETTE is to assist the school teachers in the primary government schools across the country to teach better English in class. According to research, most of the primary school teachers in rural areas lack the basic communication skills and innovative teaching ideas that are essential in a school teacher. Through the ETTE programmes, teachers were trained in a simple and easy-to-follow way which they can also apply in their own classrooms. A group of talented mentors from both Bangladesh and abroad, instructed the trainees on different innovative methods to add vitality to their English teaching. A network of training-centres has been established across different venues in Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet. The course design and study-materials have been developed focusing on the special needs of the apprentices. To provide the trainees with a familiar learning environment, lessons from the 'English for Today' textbooks provided to the students from class one to five by the national curriculum for primary schools, are included in the course materials so that the participant-teachers can make the best use of textbooks in their class by teaching the lessons in a clear and concise manner.

An engaging session between the trainers and trainees. Courtesy: British Council

The apprentices at the ETTE training-programmes are encouraged by the trainers to develop their English skills in an open creative space. "Here the participants get to acquire not only the knowledge but also the application techniques of their newly achieved insights in practical life. Particular emphasis is given to listening and speaking as communicational skills are often ignored in our education system.” says Mariam Begum, one of the mentors at the ETTE project and an Associate Professor at the Institute of Education Research, University of Dhaka.

The training programmes portray two aspects -- innovative teaching methods and developing English skills. During every session the trainees have to go through a series of drills like practicing different exercises from the course book, listening to the audio scripts and watching PowerPoint presentations on different themes which help them to get a clear perception on using their English skills effectively in different situations. The trainees are encouraged to speak in English with each other. There is also a feedback session where the trainees can share their ideas and evaluate their performance through effective discussions between the mentors and apprentices.

As the participants at the ETTE training programme for the most part include assistant teachers, teachers, and head teachers of government primary schools, one of the most important features of the ETTE programme is to instruct the participant-teachers on how to make their classes more interactive. The trainees are introduced to creative methods of teaching English like how to engage their students in the learning process through fun-exercises like reciting rhymes, making up stories, describing a picture and so on. “One of the main problems for us, the primary school teachers, is that we often fall short of innovative ways to attract our students towards English. But here at the ETTE project we have been introduced to techniques to inspire our students to learn English and have fun at the same time. Now I often practice different unique drills with my students; for example, cleaning up the whole classroom while reciting a rhyme from the textbook, by practicing these motivating drills, a sense of co-operation builds up amongst the students,” says Nasima Akhter, head teacher of Sarkarhat Government Primary School, Mirsarai, Chittagong and a participant at the ETTE training programme.

By creating a very positive English learning environment, the ETTE project has enhanced the confidence level of the trainees to a great extent. “I was quite hesitant to speak English in public. But after the ETTE training programmes, I can now speak English quite fluently and I also encourage my students to communicate in English at school, which creates a positive energy among them to go beyond their fear in the subject of English,” says Md. Abul Monsur, head-teacher of Hitkhain Government primary school. He has also had the opportunity to attend the 'ETTE training programmes for the mentors' both at home and abroad, where he has been instructed on different methods of conducting training sessions, voice projection and much more.

The government also highly appreciated the success of the ETTE project on enhancing the primary school teacher's capacity to teach better English. ETTE has successfully organised several teacher training programmes for Bangladesh government's Primary Education Development Programme (PEDP-2). Since its inception back in 2008, ETTE has developed strong links with government bodies, NGOs and donor agencies.

The ETTE project in Bangladesh is prepared to shape up the future of Bangladesh by ensuring effective education and access to essential resources. This way, an enlightened society can be built while excelling in global competitions.

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