English made engaging with Karadi Path
Specialising in language learning using tools of theatre, music, mime, movements, and body language, this programme is offered by The Karadi Path Company, a social enterprise.
CHENNAI: Karadi Path launched Joyful English which will help tribal children across Tamil Nadu learn English through tools of theatre, music, mimes, movements and storytelling instead of textbooks and grammar books
Imagine a classroom that has no textbooks, blackboards, chalks, pens, or pencils. But one where walls are painted in multiple colours with numbers, alphabets, animals, birds, and more to enhance activity-based learning; a TV monitor that plays stories, a speaker that plays songs, and your teacher is your co-learner.
Such classrooms are now a reality in 131 primary and secondary schools across nine districts of Tamil Nadu. Specialising in language learning using tools of theatre, music, mime, movements, and body language, this programme is offered by The Karadi Path Company, a social enterprise. They launched a software application ‘Joyful English’ in the city last week. This application will help teachers who are part of the programme prepare for the classes, learn with the students, and avail guidance if and when needed.
Joyful English is customised for the tribal schoolchildren so that they learn, understand, speak, and negotiate in the English language. “These children learn English for 10 years from their textbooks but at the end of the day they can’t speak English, they don’t understand the language, and they don’t relate to it,” notes CP Viswanath, CEO of the Karadi Path Company that works as a language solution provider.
Skill over syllabus
Working with the governments of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana, since 2010, the company has now partnered with the Tribal Welfare Department of Tamil Nadu. Around 6,500 students will benefit through this initiative funded by the state planning commission.
Tribal children go to Tamil-medium schools and speak languages like Badaga and Toda. They face challenges when it comes to English and need assistance to learn the language. To cater to this, the programme is entirely based on oral storytelling and listening comprehension. “The language Tamil itself is removed for most of these kids and English is doubly removed,” says Preetika Venkatakrishnan, senior vice president of Product, Training and Social Impact. “Our system is very much in keeping with the tribal needs as they have a very strong and rich oral tradition which is completely left out in the formal education system,” she adds.
The Karadi Path pedagogy is an immersive methodology of language learning that mimics the mother tongue’s way of learning a language that is through music, storytelling, and theatre instead of using textbooks and grammar books. “Everything is kind of going back to the natural old way. The pedagogy is based on how many of us are effortlessly multilingual because we have been in a multilingual environment and have catered to the language not from a classroom process but from an ecosystem and communicative process,” says Viswanath.
The company had a pilot study with 25 schools in the state where this mode of learning was introduced. The study was granted by US aid and won the Early Grade Reading Innovation Challenge (EGRIC). The outcome resulted in this being introduced in other schools early this year.
The classes under the Joyful English programme start with a meditative practice for students to become aware of their surroundings. Then online visual learning through theatre acts and plays, visualisation practices, and then using the body as a tool for learning. The classes have an attendance of 35 students. They are held thrice a week for 40 minutes each. Totally, it runs for 48 hours over one academic year. An impact test conducted by the trainers found that one hour of the Karadi Path programme is equivalent to 11 hours of conventional classes. “We help them learn English syntax only by doing actions. We won’t directly teach them prepositions but we help them use it through mime, music, storytelling, theatre, and movement and learn a language,” adds Preethika.
The system does not swap textbooks for another mode of learning. Preethika notes the English songs played in the classroom are tunes that capture the folk and classical traditions of India. The voices for the theatre plays are given by actors like Vidya Balan, Madhavan, Naseeruddin Shah, Girish Karnad, and many others. All the songs are sung by versatile singer Usha Uthup.
Teller of tales
Suganeshwaran J from Salem district, a teacher under the programme, claims that since they started using Karadi Path, the children have begun speaking on their own, learning words, and they have witnessed good progress in their performance. The company is also in collaboration with the Department of Social Defense for ‘Magic English Learning Buddy’ a programme directed at childcare centres across different districts of Tamil Nadu. This is an ongoing project that was launched early this year.
Karadi Path’s products are ever-evolving and are on par with the National Educational Policy. The company is also developing other language programmes and subjects in different languages, and is planning to expand its current programme to more schools.