English as a language has deep roots in India. Punjab’s present relationship with English is dominated by the desire of the state’s youth to exit the state. Harvinder Atwal, founder of the famous e-learning platform BKSB in Britain, is in Chandigarh to change the way people relate to the English language.
Atwal is amongst the top Indian-origin businesswomen in UK. She has established an e-learning platform named “Skills Anytime” to cater to the need for developing basic functional skills among all age groups. The platform has a special focus on English learning. Elaborating on the seeds of this idea, Harvinder said, “My grandfather left India in 1954 and studied in an English school. His experience with English was an inspiration to me. He took English as an enabler and not as a foreign language. Learning this new language opened a plethora of new opportunities for him. My father had the same experience. This motivated me to make people aware of the innate potential of the language”.
In a state where English is largely a means to qualify IELTS, Harvinder is aiming to make people aware that English has a bigger purpose. Elaborating on it, Harvinder says, “English should be taken as an addition to a skill set. Students should learn to communicate properly and express themselves in a lucid way. IELTS is a reality and it is a part of the enabling process but English should be learned through a blended approach in which the learner is able to use the language properly. Clearing the IELTS test is only part of the process”.
When asked about the e-learning platform Harvinder told Newsline, “Skills Anytime helps individuals in a unique way as it undertakes an initial assessment to point out the weak areas for every individual and trains them accordingly. IELTS training is also provided and there is a strong focus on getting results along with developing real life English skills of the person”.
She said her digital platform also helps students for their CBSE examinations by providing them e-learning support for English grammar and comprehension. When asked about the business model of the platform, she replied, “The model is a replication of my e-learning platform BKSB, which is used in 90% of the colleges in UK and 63% of the colleges in Australia. BKSB is also used in 100% of the prisons in UK to enable the prisoners to speak and communicate properly in English once they are released. We hope to replicate our success in India. We have already tied up with institutions like Panjab University, MCMDAV College, MRS-PTU, etc. We also collaborated with the Punjab Government to train 100 shortlisted SCERT teachers. We are hoping to go pan-India very soon”.
When asked about Punjabi, Harvinder replied, “Whatever may be the case, Punjabi is our mother tongue. I am a Punjabi woman and I have been brought up in a family where only Punjabi was allowed inside the house. To me, personally, Punjabi and English both have a special role in my life. I think that these two languages play a special role in Punjab as well. I hope to continue my efforts to make Punjabi students better prepared for a global world.”