As Punjab starts listening labs, schools see dip in English failure rates

At Laddewalli Government School in Jalandhar, 11-year-old Sneha listens intently to an audio recording through a pair of headphones. The pencil in her hand hovers over a printed word list and through the recording, Sneha learns to use and pronounce each word. Like her, the other 20 students in the Intelligent Language Listening Lab (SLLL) listen to and repeat the same set of words.

“Listening lab is a blessing to me. My teachers introduced me to it a few months ago and explained to me the steps and procedures for listening to each chapter carefully. Listening not only made me learn new English words but also helped me improve my pronunciation, a very important part of spoken English, and refused My fear of this international language.Now I can speak difficult words with great ease and face the world with confidence.
Thank you,” Sneha says as she concludes her prepared speech.

The seventh grader, whose father repairs tire punctures for a living, admitted that before she joined the lab, she could not even complete a sentence in English. “But over the past five to six months, and since I’ve been taking listening lessons regularly and practicing with my classmates and sisters, my confidence has increased,” Sneha said.

“After carefully listening, reviewing and introducing each word into everyday conversations, I can now prepare my speeches in English on various topics such as the importance of the listening coefficient,” she added.

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Simran from Class 7 Government Girls Secondary School, Model Town in Jalandhar has also developed good communication skills through SLLL and has also set up a YouTube channel – Fun with Simran – where she shares her views on various topics.

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Like Simran and Sneha, girls from many public schools have improved their vocabulary and English communication skills with English as a Foreign Language (SLLL). Most of these students come from poor families and serve as wards for day laborers.

In Punjab, English Open Schools have been set up in junior high, secondary and tertiary schools in the past eight or nine months by the Ministry of Education. In schools where there was not enough space to set up a separate listening lab, students were provided with an audio player, headphones, and a drive with the recordings so that they could practice in their classrooms. The listening learning program has been launched in 6,349 public schools – 2557 middle schools, 1741 high schools and 2051 high schools – by the state Department of Education.

For public school students, English was one of the shortcomings. But that is no longer the case because we prepare our students to overcome this. They (the students) do this weekly activity happily; “They practice and make videos and share them with teachers and classmates,” said Tajinder Singh, Principal of Ladiwali Government School.

“You can speak to any of our students in English now and they will understand and try to come back in English only,” said English teachers Mamta and Ranjit Kaur.

“We try our best to enrich the communication skills of our students on par with any good private school…Most of our children come from very poor family backgrounds and here we give them the best facilities,” Sangeeta Bhatia, Principal of Model Town Government School said.

Another teacher, Ranjit, said, “They have a great enthusiasm for learning… Their parents do not even know what their children are learning in schools, so whatever efforts are required, it should only be made by teachers.”

“Change is visible across many areas as students share their videos in which they speak confidently about themselves and other issues. Our main motive is to design an appropriate methodology that can help them learn easily and will also assist the department when the outcome of this topic is further improved,” he said. Chander Shekhar, an English teacher for schools in Jalandhar, “Even teacher training is conducted from time to time.” He added, “Even other English related programs including English Booster Clubs (EBC), which was launched earlier, are also working on Reducing fear of the English language among students.

This program is based on the IELTS test and contains four modules – Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing – to prepare students for competitive exams and better job prospects after completing 10+2.

“We cover curricular and general topics in our worksheets… Students listen and learn to pronounce words and also learn to use punctuation, prepositions, etc.,” Shakar said. A senior official in the Education Department said, “We are adopting a multi-level approach, which was the brainchild of former Education Minister Krishan Kumar, to strengthen the base in English language which has prompted our students to take competitive exams in diverse fields including engineering, medical etc., which It wasn’t popular before.”

Until a few years ago, many public school students were failing English in their board exams. In 2017, as many as 70,436 students failed English in the 10th grade. In 2016, as many as 56,628 students failed despite being given 26-30 student marks, as the previous year saw that about 80,278 students failed in this subject.

But in 2019, as many as 91.09 per cent of 10th graders succeeded in English – and about 28,256 students failed compared to 89,789 students in 2018. This jump can be attributed to the English-speaking program introduced by the Punjab Department of Education in 2018- 2019 academic year.

The software was developed to reduce the failure rate and did exactly that.

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