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Kerala village panchayat frames its own English curriculum

By Jeevan Matthew, IANS

Kasaragod (Kerala) : Struggling to retain students in the face of competition from private schools, a village panchayat in Kerala has taken the initiative to introduce English right from Class 1 in state-run schools and framed its own syllabus and study material.

While other schools, run by the state government or aided by it, teach the language only from Class 3 onwards, about 600 children in the nine schools under the Padne village panchayat in Kasaragod district now have English lessons two years ahead, thanks to the ‘Sweet English’ project. Kasaragod is Kerala’s northernmost district.

In Kerala private schools are attracting students, despite their charging exorbitant fees. One of their major attractions is the English education they impart.

“People are so keen on English training for their children that even those residing near government schools are seen sending their kids to private schools that are some distance away,” said C. Jagadeeshan, president of the panchayat ruled by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

“In the last two-three years, we did deliberate on the issue at the Panchayat Education Committee on many occasions. We decided to implement the plan this year, using the plan fund provided by the government,” he said.

Under the now two-weeks-old project called ‘Sweet English’, the panchayat has provided free study materials to the children and handbooks to teachers. “And this innovative education drive will cost the panchayat only Rs.40,000,” noted Manoj N, panchayat secretary.

“There was already a proposal from the Kerala Curriculum Framework to introduce English from Class 1. And a revision of textbooks is also on the cards next year. This may introduce English from Class 1, but we are doing it ahead of others as the parent-teachers associations are persistent with their demand to start teaching English right from Class 1,” said Santhosh A.V., a teacher at Udinur Central Upper Primary School in the panchayat.

Santhosh, a committee member in the state curriculum framework, is also the editor of the study materials prepared by the panchayat.

“A unit of study materials for children consists of colour picture cards and a worksheet. Teaching follows a ‘code switching’ methodology, where the teacher subtly introduces English to children during a story telling session, which is essentially done in the mother tongue,” Santhosh said detailing the features of the novel scheme.

The classes will help familiarise children with the language through expressive phrases and picture cards, which convey the image of English alphabets, he explained.

“The classes are expected to provide a good foundation in the language before children are formally introduced to English from Class 3 as per the state government syllabus. The Panchayat Education Committee has already allocated one session a week for the English classes and it will constantly monitor the progress of the ‘Sweet English’ project,” said Jagadeeshan.