Before English in Action, students were taught reading, writing and how to answer questions in exams. It was all about hearing and memorising, rather than speaking. In truth, the classes were boring. We used to go to homes and invite the children to school. But it rarely worked. With the new songs and rhymes, the students are coming automatically. They think that school is a place of fun and enjoyment. They used to be inactive and stuck to their desks. Now they move about the classroom, playing games with English words. The faces of my little learners are glowing.
I teach a seven-year-old boy who climbs the hills and knows every part of his region. If he can learn English, he can become a tour guide and earn a livelihood. In remote schools this is making a big difference. English will give Bangladesh a great future in tourism.
My little learners are gaining the confidence to speak. This is such a pleasing thing for me. As teachers, we are growing in confidence too. We always share ideas together, discussing them in English and improving our fluency.
Parents are also happy to let their girls go to school. Obviously, this is a big change. We still have a culture of early marriage, which is a tremendous problem in our society.
After girls finished class five [end of primary school], they sat on the marriage chair. Now, they sit behind a desk with their friends. They have an opportunity to learn about life before they get married. They have more freedom and choice. I must say, from my heart, that English in Action is responsible for these things.
I love listening to international English, such as the cricket commentary on the radio, pop songs or science fiction movies. I watch YouTube as much as possible, as it helps me to see a different world. My parents are so excited for me. My dad brings back English newspapers and asks me to read them to him. If he doesn’t understand a word, I’ll often Google it for him.
My friends all want to be doctors or engineers, but I dream of becoming a barrister. I wish to travel to England in the future to study as a barrister there. That’s why I am so focused in my studies. I need English for my designs in life. I can see a better future for Bangladesh if I can get into law and help my society grow. There are many lawyers who don’t use their powers correctly. I want to make Bangladesh a developed country and make sure everybody follows the law. That’s very important to me.
Social inclusion is a big part of English in Action. With some friends, I hold free classes in my house where boys and girls of any age from my local community are welcome. Even parents.
Before we start, we always sing: ‘Good morning, good morning, how are you today?’ It immediately creates a good atmosphere and makes everybody smile. Even the slow learners are doing well because it is fun. My teachers encourage us to speak more. We get the chance to come up with our own games, and then teach the teachers!
This was my first time speaking to a foreign person. I got such shaky legs before the call! What will people think of me? But maybe I shouldn’t worry what people think. I just need to do what I think is right.
Before the project, teachers and students were learning to read and write English only. They were not able to speak the language. Now they can apply English in their daily life. Children can follow audio and listen to it being spoken. This wasn’t possible before. Students and also teachers were scared about talking. You can see the confidence growing.
This will make a big impact on school as well as society. We are becoming familiar with English and are already seeing the benefits. Children who speak English are getting better jobs than those who don’t. They are getting more pay and becoming more prosperous. This is a big opportunity for them.
Bangladesh is now better equipped for jobs in technology and the business world. Now we can put our abilities on show.
English in Action will sustain education in Bangladesh for a long time. The materials we have will continue to help us grow, even after the project leaders have left. We have created a group of teachers who can continue teaching students with training from the programme. There is a permanent impact.
I am proud to be part of this. Students who are involved in English in Action feel the same. They are proud of what they are achieving. Because of that, I am confident the momentum will continue.