16 Mar 2010

25 million Bangladeshis to benefit from new OU/DFID English Language programme

Children at the English in Action launch in Bangladesh

Children at the English in Action launch in Bangladesh

A £50 million, 9-year programme to help 25 million people in Bangladesh develop their English language skills via new mobile technologies, English in Action, was launched last week at a special reception in Bangladesh, attended by Government ministers including Dr Afsarul Ameen, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, and the British High Commissioner. English in Action, currently in pilot phase, was initiated at the request of the Government of Bangladesh, is funded by the UK Department for International Development, and is using expertise from The Open University in researching the project operations and developing, supporting and evaluating innovative teacher education programmes.

English in Action provides English teachers in Bangladesh with professional development training and resources and classroom materials, so that they can enhance their own teaching skills and bring new ideas into the classroom. The Open University’s experts in distance education have helped to produce development materials for teachers that fit with the Bangladeshi curriculum, and advise on how teachers and their use of technology can be supported in the programme. Teachers are given handheld mobile devices such as iPods to use in the classroom with speakers, so that pupils can listen to podcasts and other audio or video materials, and use these in conjunction with their school textbooks.

One teacher involved in the project said: “Earlier, when I used to read from books, I thought students do not understand at some point, they cannot understand further. Now I am using the iPod for the purpose of active listening. The pupils listen from the iPod and get a good grasp of the lesson. They build a comprehensive understanding.”

Children illustrate ways they learn English at the launch event

Children illustrate ways they learn English at the launch event

An innovative feature of the programme is the development of a local support structure with regular groups of teachers coming together in ‘cluster meetings’ to share experiences and advise each other on how they are using the new materials. This collaboration is crucial to the success of the programme and also helps teachers in more rural areas build their own network of peer support.

In addition to the resources available through the programme, 200 secondary school teachers are studying a customised level 1 OU course – Make Your Teaching Experience Count - which is being delivered through BRAC University in Bangladesh and quality assured by the OU.

Frank Banks, Professor of Teacher Education at The Open University, said: “Widening access to education and using technology to overcome barriers to learning lies at the heart of the OU’s mission. English in Action is all about using new technology and resources to realise change at the classroom level. With the innovative materials and training courses based on our research, teachers can enhance their lessons and develop their own professional capabilities. The programme also helps them build professional networks – which gives teachers in rural areas much-valued support from their peers.”

English in Action aims to reach 25 million primary and secondary school children and adult learners. It is a partnership programme, led and managed by BMB Mott MacDonald, with the BBC World Service Trust, the Open University, Underprivileged Children’s Educational Programme and Friends in Village Development Bangladesh.

Notes to Editors

About English in Action
English in Action (EIA) has been initiated at the request of the Government of Bangladesh and is funded by a grant from the UK Government. The implementation of the Project is being managed by BMB Mott MacDonald, and supported by a number of partners including the BBC World Service Trust (BBC WST); Friends in Village Development Bangladesh, (FIVDB); the Open University (OU); and Underprivileged Children’s Educational Project (UCEP).

BMB Mott MacDonald has managed similar projects and programmes in India and Nepal, and beyond South Asia in Indonesia, South Africa, the Sudan and the Yemen. BBC WST is the international development arm of the BBC and works worldwide with BBC Learning English on educational and English learning initiatives. OU UK offers a very substantial resource spread across the teaching of English and teacher education and use of multi-media throughout the world. FIVDB and UCEP bring the enormous success of their schools to enable the piloting of initiatives.

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