Why Upskilling Teachers In English Language Is Important

Just as students must keep up with the latest shifts in knowledge and industry, so too must teachers stay abreast of cutting-edge knowledge, skills, pedagogies and learning outcomes to stay relevant

Language is a vital thread in the cultural fabric of any society, and this is perhaps even truer in a country with as varied a cultural tapestry as India. The multilingual, multicultural, and pluralistic makeup of our nation is fascinating, to say the least. And given the sheer number of languages, mother tongues, and dialects that make up our cultural pot-pourri, it is only natural that young children think, dream, and speak in their mother tongue as their primary language.

The case for learning in the English language

India’s human capital is often spoken of as a massive demographic dividend, with more than 150 million children set to become young adults within a decade and a half. But to unleash its full potential, it is crucial that we equip these young learners with the foundational knowledge and skills (including linguistic skills) that give them every chance to enjoy long-term success.

As the Mahatma himself once said, “English is a language of international commerce, it is the language of diplomacy and it contains many a rich literary treasure.” The knowledge of English is essential for future success, given its global popularity and acceptance as a universal language, and young minds are best placed to learn a second language or receive critical instruction in it. This gives them the best opportunity to become native speakers of more than one language because adults rarely attain native-like fluency at a later stage of life. Hence, in order to create a more successful social order, we must get the foundations of learning right at an early age.

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 offers a flexible and creative vision for bridging any discord between learning in multiple languages by mandating a local language from one of three languages of instruction. While each Indian state has the freedom to choose the medium of instruction, English’s prevalence lends itself well to NEP’s guiding vision as well as the PM’s vision of moving from what we think, to how we think. A high-quality education will not only reinforce the educational quotient from a young age but also usher in a more inclusive and accessible growth model, with better life opportunities for all.

The need to upskill educators

Beyond the home environment, a classroom (be it virtual or physical) has the biggest influence in shaping the malleable minds of young learners. And as the custodians of these learning journeys, it is essential that teachers are upskilled to communicate effectively in the English language. By serving as the benchmark of the right pronunciation, grammar, and speech style, they can help students acquire stronger verbal and written proficiency that can be applied by them later in many walks of life.

This clearly puts the onus of driving the learning journey on the teacher. Keeping India’s linguistic diversity and the well-established benefits of the English language in mind, it is imperative that we upskill teachers so that their proficiency in the English language resonates with the demands of the 21st century. While English might be one of the many languages students use to engage with the curriculum, teachers will not be able to confidently convey meaning and knowledge without having a firm understanding of it themselves. Doing so will not just bolster their personal grasp of the language, but also enhance their pedagogical abilities.

As the needs of the industry have evolved, so have the skills demanded of learners, and concomitantly the expectations from educators. These are all interlinked; after all, you cannot interpret new ideas through the lens of established practices and approaches. Innovative thinking and upskilling is the need of the hour to build 21st century skills, such as communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration, for myriad reasons.

A deeper, more conceptual understanding of the English language will lead to a richer, more rewarding learning experience that sees the educational objectives of everyone realised. Educators will be able to guide children through the curriculum more comprehensively, and students can move from learning for exams, to learning for life.

Building proficiency in the English language will not just help students better master their curriculum, but also help them navigate the challenges of interconnected, dynamic, and multilingual social and work environments. Besides this, learning a language inspires greater cognitive development, and has a proven economic upside. Research shows a direct correlation between the English skills of a population and national economic performance, as reflected in indicators like Gross National Income and Gross Domestic Product. The latest edition of the World Economic Forum’s EF English Proficiency Index found that in almost every one of the 60 countries and territories surveyed, a rise in English proficiency was connected with a rise in per capita income.

Learning is a way of life, not just for students, but teachers as well. Educators cannot allow their knowledge and skill sets to stagnate, making teacher training programmes the perfect platform for them to enhance their abilities and ensure lifelong, continuous learning for themselves. While each of these programmes can be localised in the vernacular language, a broad-based knowledge of English will help the largest number of teachers to tap into the wealth of knowledge available to them.

Teachers that have learnt a language themselves will be more understanding and empathetic towards students looking to glean learnings in a language that they are not proficient in. By having a more holistic linguistic understanding and grasp of the English language, they can ably guide young students, by offering language support and explicit instruction in a language learners are more proficient in. In fact, upskilling initiatives will allow them to leverage their expertise to plan lessons in a manner that helps students confidently master the subject at hand in a progressive, incremental manner, with measurable improvements and outcomes.

The ways in which students learn has greatly evolved in the last decade, and even the last few years. It is hence essential that teachers stay abreast of these advancements and innovations, and upskill themselves to the fullest extent to ensure that they are best placed to help their young wards unlock a world of learning that is joyful and engaging.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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