In this issue of Face to Face Sarah Berry talks to Principal Manju Rana, an accomplished academician, is the Principal cum Director of Seth Anandram Jaipuria School, Vasundhara, Ghaziabad.
Recipient of the prestigious ‘Lord Baden Powell National Award’, she has been adjudged ‘The Best Principal’ in the International Category by SOF & Helpage India. Honouring her supervision, Education World & Digital Learning placed the school among the top leaders in Delhi / NCR.
Sarah Berry: A good practice, adopted in school, helps to enhance teaching/learning experiences. Could you please enlist two, adopted at your school? One by for teachers, and one pertaining to students in the field of English language learning.
Manju Rana: Utilizing best practices in a classroom positively impacts students by providing motivation to learn, and promoting success in a global world. A balanced and integrated curriculum, along with an active learning process, in which students are engaged in hands-on activities, rather than passively receiving knowledge, is the prime requisite in a classroom. Thus, especially in the field of teaching and learning English Language, myriad practices are adopted. Therefore, students are discouraged from doing rote learning; more emphasis is laid on activity based learning; technology is incorporated into teaching methodology, curriculum is planned according to the changing needs of the students, integrated learning encouraged, and focus is laid on interaction of assessment with teaching and learning.
Similarly, the school has multiple good practices for a teachers’ personal and professional teaching/learning experiences. Sagaciously conceived workshops are organized for teachers to constantly update them with the current changes in English language. Teachers are trained to be tech savvy, and also be facilitators for students and colleagues. They are also encouraged to be a part of local, national and international communities in order to share and benefit from teaching/learning practices prevalent in different institutions, across the world.
Sarah Berry: What are the major changes you have noticed, pertaining to language teaching/learning, especially English?
Manju Rana: English language teaching is evolving all the time, particularly alongside advances in technology. There is a major shift in teaching English as a skill rather than a subject. More focus is laid on acquisition of the four skills – speaking, listening, reading and writing. A switch over to Communicative English is encouraged; this includes the introduction of practical topics in writing skills namely formal letters, invitations, advertisements, etc, the basic knowledge of which is of practical importance.
Optimum use of technology is made to make teaching interesting. Technology has brought in blended learning in English learning, as teachers combine digital media with more traditional forms of teaching, and their course material reflects this trend. Project – based learning has also enhanced the efficacy of the English teaching/learning process, whereby students are encouraged to create and share content. While there is much online content already present for learners, some programmes and apps allow learners to produce their own content and share what they have created with others. Popular online sites like Quizizz and Socrative allow students to create their own content and thus simplify learning. Peer teaching and activity based learning eliminate the monotony of the class and help students to retain concepts for a longer time. In context, the ‘gamification’ of the English language has assisted students in the school.
Sarah Berry: Could you enlist any two challenges, according to you, that students face while learning English, accompanied by solutions you have adopted?
Manju Rana: Teaching English, according to me, is an enjoyable experience, and helping our students is rewarding. However, the English language classroom also presents challenges that can test our patience and ability to be effective. The foremost problem is lack of reading habits among the students that often results in poor written expression, lack of ideas and below-par vocabulary. For overcoming this barrier, the school has set a designated half to one hour only for reading, that too beyond the curriculum, and this is ensured through proper library time for all classes. Literary Week and book review sessions (could be verbal also) are held often. Parents are also encouraged to read and be role models.
Secondly, lack of effective communication skills among students poses to be another challenge. In order to bring them at par, various workshops are conducted to encourage students to speak effectively. Teachers conduct multiple conversation sessions with students to raise their spirits in order to speak without hesitation. Parents are emboldened to be role models by always conversing in English. Listening and reading skills have a direct impact on communication skills. Therefore students are encouraged to read English newspapers and listen to English news regularly in the classrooms.
Sarah Berry: To what extent, do you feel, English is needed for future employability?
Manju Rana: In today’s scenario, the world has shriveled into a small global village. No one can survive in isolation. Good communication skills are a pre-requisite for most of the jobs in private or public sectors, and English serves as a common medium in this respect. Thus, it is rightfully said that English is the most commonly used language in the corporate world; its knowledge is, hence, most sought after. Corporate English does not mean only the ability to make grammatically correct sentences; it includes other related skills for effective communication like presentation skills, negotiation skills and interpersonal skills, among others, using that language. Furthermore, as we have a multi-cultural and multi-linguistic work force in companies, English is the language which connects people, by default. It is the language used for official communication.
Sarah Berry: How has technology impacted language learning?
Manju Rana: Technology’s role in learning is astonishing, and it has dramatically affected the way we communicate in English. To be more specific, the way we speak today is, by and large, the way we spoke before the internet came into being, though with an enriched vocabulary. Conventions of telephone conversations have changed little. What is hugely different, however, is the way we write today. That is the area where technology has had the biggest impact. Example, E-mails altered the structure of the letter as a communicative tool. It brought with it a whole new etiquette, as well as new conventions and new abbreviations, such as IMO (in my opinion), PFA (please find attached), et cetera; yet technology has made the teaching learning process interesting. It supports ‘Multiple Intelligence’. Students can be catered to according to their different learning abilities; it provides access to various online activities and quizzes related to English language learning; difficult and abstract concepts can be explained innovatively; it aids in research work for project based learning; above all English Language labs are an outcome of technology; they help in enhancing the four skills of English Language learning.