Anshikha, 16, doesn’t mind coming to school during summer vacations. If anything, it’s a chance to brush up on her spoken English. Confidently quoting Albert Einstein, she says, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” But Anshikha says she wants to be the fish that can climb a tree.
She explains to her 36 classmates — who have cleared Class X and are waiting for Class XI to begin — what she means: She doesn’t come from an affluent background, she still wants to be able to speak fluent English. Her classmates nod in approval.
The classroom in Rohini’s Rajkiya Pratibha Vikas Vidyalaya buzzes with activity on a hot summer afternoon. The class is being organised as part of Delhi government’s new initiative to teach spoken English to government school children. The course is being looked after by the Delhi Directorate of Education, and it is being undertaken in collaboration with British Council and Macmillan. Officials say similar classes are being held in all government schools.
Most students say it is difficult for them to speak fluent English because they come from lower middle class backgrounds. The government initiative, they say, has improved their vocabulary and, most importantly, helped them get rid of the hesitation in speaking the language.
“It has only been seven days but I feel I can speak English in front of others now,” says Sachin Goel, a Class X pass out who hopes to become a chartered accountant.
The teacher in-charge at the Rohini school, 21-year-old Sanchita Kapil, says the response has been positive. “Classes are held in a very friendly and interactive atmosphere. We try and teach English through exercises, which help students open up and talk more (in English),” she says.
The exercises, students say, are like games and help them learn new words. “We did this exercise last week, where we translated Hindi songs to English. We were all laughing through the exercise, but it helped me learn many new words,” says Pawan Kumar, who cycles for 30 minutes every day from his home in Rohini Sector 32 to come for the class.
Another student, Soni, who wants to become a teacher, says, “Jobs are given to people who are confident, and I feel confidence comes from a command over language. And English is the language which is dominant in the job market. I hope I can compete with the students from private schools in everything.” The course began on June 1.
Saumya Gupta, Director Education, says the pilot project is covering 10,000 students. “We intend to complete this course by August-end. After completion of 160 hours, we will have a third-party assessment by Trinity College, London. We are charging only Rs 500 from students, and fees will be waived off for those who attend classes regularly.”