Teaching qualifications

Explained: First in Delhi, now in Punjab, here’s how the US Embassy’s RELO will help English teachers

Inspired by the Delhi government book, the Punjab Department of Education organized a one-day training workshop for public school English teachers in association with experts from the Regional English Language Office ( RELO). The development comes nearly two months after the Bhagwant Mann-led Aam Aadmi Party government in Punjab signed a Knowledge Sharing Agreement (KSA) with the Delhi government. The Indian Express explains the American link in training English teachers and what the Punjab government plans to do next.

What is RELO?

RELO is a wing of the United States Embassy in India which was established in 2005 as part of its Public Diplomacy Section. The project aims to strengthen ties between India and the United States by supporting English language learning.

Based at the U.S. Embassy office in New Delhi, RELO’s mission is “to support the effective teaching and learning of English in Afghanistan, Bhutan, and India, while building mutual understanding between the United States and these countries”.

RELO works with the state government and educational institutions to support them with teacher training, curriculum development, and other English language training projects.

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“RELO supports English language training as it strengthens U.S.-Indian ties, expands access to local and global employment, especially for youth, and enables access to career opportunities. academic and professional exchanges in the United States,” its website reads.

In India, RELO is led by Ruth Goode, who is responsible for designing, managing and advising on English language learning programs for India, Afghanistan and Bhutan.

Ruth Goode, RELO Manager, India with teachers in Delhi.

Behind Punjab’s association with RELO

For nearly five years now, RELO has already been working in association with the AAP government led by Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi to train English teachers. The Delhi government has now acted as a facilitator in the Punjab government’s recent association with the US Embassy wing.

Two days ago, June 9, the Punjab Department of Education held its first workshop at PAU Ludhiana in which RELO experts led by Goode interacted with at least 320 English language and study teachers. social services in public schools.

Punjab Education Department officials said they got in touch with RELO experts after an introductory meeting was hosted by Delhi Education Minister Manish Siosdia, who got the ball rolling and it was explored how the US Embassy wing which has previously worked to train English teachers in Delhi can also help improve the pedagogy of language learning in Punjab.

“The purpose of the Knowledge Sharing Agreement (KSA) we signed with the Delhi government was to extract best practices and implement them in Punjab to improve health and education systems. Delhi’s Minister of Education, Manish Sisodia, arranged our first meeting with RELO a few days ago. We have also interacted with teachers who have done this training in Delhi and what impressed us was their level of confidence while interacting, teaching etc. We then asked RELO if they could also work for Punjab. The preliminary workshop was organized to know the basic problems faced by teachers, students, etc. Punjab Education Minister Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer told The Indian Express.

Ruth Goode, RELO Manager, India at a one-day workshop for Punjab teachers in Ludhiana.

Work in Delhi

Since 2017, the U.S. Embassy has been working with the Delhi government for English teacher training and capacity building. A group of ‘mentor teachers’ has been established to continue training and mentoring government teachers in Delhi.

Several groups of teachers in Delhi have gone through the TESOL Core Certificate Program (TCCP) offered by the US Embassy, ​​an intensive 140-hour English teacher training program in which participants learn strategies for teaching to improve and facilitate the learning of English in the classroom.

TESOL stands for “Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages”. More than 800 Delhi teachers have been trained by RELO to improve their English teaching skills and bring creativity into classrooms. Trained teachers further train their colleagues who interact with students in classrooms.

The Delhi government has also launched an online professional development program for teachers of English in public schools in partnership with RELO. The 8-week program — “Professional Development for Teachers of English” (PDET) — exposed middle and high school teachers to English language teaching best practices to improve their teaching skills.

Ruth Goode, Head of RELO, India with Delhi MP CM Manish Sisodia.

What future for Punjab?

A senior education department official said RELO experts will now conduct a ‘teacher needs analysis’ survey of Punjab government teachers to assess what kind of programs would suit them best. .

“The one-day workshop was a grassroots interaction. We look forward to a long-term collaboration with the US Embassy to train teachers in Punjab as Delhi has done,” the official said.

Education Minister Hayer said a formal Memorandum of Understanding is underway with the US Embassy for teacher training in Punjab. “For every basic thing in the world today, you need English. From a job to moving abroad, our students need English every step of the way. After seeing the results in Delhi, we plan to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with RELO for long-term teacher training in teaching English,” he said. Hayer said on his recent visits to public schools, he was “shocked” to see that students couldn’t even read basic Punjabi textbooks. “Quit English, they can’t even read basic Punjabi textbooks. Most of them told me they never took online classes during Covid due to lack of smartphones. We need to make them proficient in English and Punjabi,” he said.

In Punjab, why favor English?

Language has always been a stumbling block not only for students, but also for teachers, in Punjab, especially in rural areas. Of all the subjects, the maximum number of students fail in English at the Class X and XII board exams. It was not until 1999 that English became a compulsory subject in the public schools of Punjab from Class I. Previously, it started from Class VI. Even then, there was no separate framework for hiring English teachers with specialist qualifications. For decades, social studies teachers continued to teach English in schools in Punjab.

Amazingly, Punjab never treated English as a specialist subject and social science teachers were tasked with teaching English from the start, a disastrous practice that continues to this day in some schools. It was not until 2007 that some 1,000 recruitment positions for English teachers for the executive master’s (classes VI to X) were advertised and recruitment began for the subject.

Some teachers had also moved to court saying they were obliged to teach English even though they were not qualified to do so. The government had only begun to hire English teachers on a regular basis in recent years.

In Punjab, English is difficult not only for students but also for some teachers. The same came to light when former education minister Dr Daljit Singh Cheema took on a ‘class’ of English teachers as more than 80,000 students had failed English in Class X councils of 2015.

The English teachers failed to spell the basic words and wrote vacant, should, lake and eight as “vacent, shuld, laek and eaght”, respectively.

Teachers also failed to construct basic sentences when asked to write a paragraph explaining why their performance was poor. One of the teachers wrote: “It was a very weak class from 6 by chance.” (What the teacher meant was that it wasn’t him, but the students were weak).

Except for one, none of the more than 200 teachers was able to speak English. By writing ‘syllabus’ as ‘sylabbus’, teachers made up to fifteen spelling mistakes in a sentence.

An English teacher wrote: “I think the test level in English subjects is quite difficult. Grammar issues weren’t as important. The 10th grade English curriculum is broad. (sic)

A Punjabi teacher, who was given English to teach, wrote, “I tried very hard at my level. A science teacher teaching English in class X wrote: “I am a science teacher, taught English as an extra subject in class 10.” (sic)

Even in the recent National Achievement Survey (NAS) 2021 report, in which Punjab ranked first in all subjects for Class III, V and VIII, it stood at number 3 in English for Class X after Chandigarh and Goa.

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Is this the first time that teachers from Punjab will undergo such training?

No, earlier the SAD-BJP government had signed an agreement with the British Council India to train teachers to teach English. Under the Punjab English Language Teaching Initiative Secondary (PELTI-S) program which was designed and run by the British Council from 2013 to 2016, a group of 186 teachers were trained as ‘mentor trainers’ to train more government teachers to teaching English. It was intended for class IX and X teachers to improve counseling results.