CHENNAI: Harikrishnan, a 14-year-old teacher, pronounced the word ‘standard’ stressing on the ‘N’. His eager students, mostly ten-year olds, followed suit. He was teaching them how to spell words using phonics (standard phonetics for each letter of the alphabet).
There are many teachers like Harikrishnan, who are class 10 students from rural Tamil Nadu. They are proficient in the language and work part time at Vidyarambam, a trust dedicated towards educating the underprivileged children in English, Maths and Tamil. As part of the trust’s ‘Easy Learning English’ programme, the young teachers were trained by members of the trust.
Their mastery in the phonic way of teaching has now materialised into ‘Head Start’ — a new tailor programme for class five students — in which Harikrishnan and his fellow teachers will pass the technique to their juniors.
“They have allotted two teachers to a class of 20 students. We have a month to make our students learn all the alphabets. They are making good progress,” said another young teacher Anand Kumar from Tiruchirapalli.
According to the president of Vidyarambam, V Ranganathan, the programme started in January 2014, and 1,045 fifth standard students were offered free course. He said that the trust aimed to educate one lakh students from 10 rural districts by the end of 2015. He added that the programme would serve as a boon for rural students, who are bound to face a highly competitive environment in future, and make them employable.
The experienced teachers from the trust added that the phonic way of teaching English would help kids learn that there were 44 main sounds and 85 alternate sounds for 26 letters in the alphabet. “The syllable ‘Ch’ is pronounced differently in the words church and chaos. Usually, we don’t teach them the difference in pronunciation. With this technique, the spelling and way of pronouncing it can be remembered and learnt at one go,” said Prabhavathy, a trainer for the teachers.
She added that with this change in methodology, the students who experienced difficulty in reading showed marked progress. “The best part is, at the end of the course, we make them write a letter to their own parents. I don’t think there’s a better and a more encouraging way to measure their success,” she said with a smile.