English in Action (EIA) is a programme of collaboration between the UK and Bangladesh governments. Through EIA, low-cost mobile phones, battery-powered speakers, audio-visual print-based materials and television dramas are being used to help a sixth of Bangladesh’s 160M population improve their English. This is to provide them with better economic opportunities.
EIA’s work in schools aims to reach 51,000 teachers and 7 million students by 2017. Over 80% of districts in Bangladesh were reached by the end of 2014, with EIA working in all seven divisions.
Opportunities to learn
EIA equips some of the poorest people in Bangladesh with language skills, providing access to jobs and helping them engage in entrepreneurial activities to improve their standard of living. The programme has developed ways to help school children and adults learn better English through use of innovative, low-cost, easy-to-use technology.
In schools, EIA is introducing new communicative English language activities to teachers and students across Bangladesh. Audio-visual professional development materials and classroom resources are made available to teachers through low-cost memory cards which work with teachers’ mobile phones, supporting print materials. Ongoing support is also provided through paired teachers in schools, teacher meetings and launch workshops.
All EIA’s resources are linked to the national textbook, English for Today, making it easy for teachers to incorporate activities into their lessons.
For adults, EIA introduced BBC Janala ('window' in Bangla) – an award-winning, multi-platform service enabling millions of Bangladeshis to learn English affordably through their mobile phones, the web, television programmes, print media and peer-to-peer learning.
BBC Janala’s mobile phone service transforms a simple handset into a low-cost learning device. Anyone can learn and practise English by calling a mobile short-code from any Bangladeshi mobile operator.
Innovative use of television lies at the heart of the success of BBC Janala. The programme’s two biggest series – the drama Bishaash and accompanying educational gameshow BBC Janala – Mojay Mojay Shekha (‘Learning with fun’) – has enabled millions of local TV viewers to learn English together, reaching 20 and 18 million people, respectively.
EIA works within the government and private sector systems.
- The schools programme involves sub-district government staff in field-level monitoring, and many EIA lead teachers are master trainers from the formal government teacher development programmes.
- BBC Janala partners with local NGOs and agencies in the private sector to establish platforms which improve access to English learning opportunies.
- 44 million Bangladeshis are aware of at least one EIA media product
- Over 10 million people in Bangladesh have been highly exposed to EIA media products, up 50% from 2011.
- In 2014 a further 8,000 teachers started participating in the EIA schools programme. In total, 12,500 teachers have been reached so far.
- 98% of teachers surveyed said EIA helped them improve their own language skills and over 90% felt EIA had an impact on the way they teach.
- After a year of the programme, 90% of student’s talk in the classroom is in English (from near zero levels before).
- After participating in EIA for one year, students’ communicative English language skills were tested using an international 12-grade scale: 70% of primary students passed the test (compared to 36% before) and 60% of secondary students achieved a Grade 2 or above (compared to 46% before).