With a single-minded focus on promoting employability, the Pehlay Akshar program revolves around English as the gateway to the future.
It is the language of the internet:
The internet and the smartphone have opened up a world of opportunity – for those who understand and speak English. With 80% of data sent electronically being in English, it would be safe to say that it’s the language of the internet. Knowledge of English, therefore, is the gateway for youth from low-income families to participate in the global digital world economy, to progress and to create a brighter future.
It is the language of higher education:
Across the world, English is the mode of instruction for those pursuing higher education in virtually every field. It is essential to access sources of information and research.
It is the language of skill enhancement:
In the workplace, people need to update their capabilities to remain employable, by availing of online re-skilling courses. Even these are usually in English.
It is the language of business:
Today, approximately one in every four persons speaks English, with non-native speakers outnumbering native speakers. English is therefore the language of business in India and around the world and a critical element in the workplace of the future.
Why Functional English
Pehlay Akshar focuses on equipping children with spoken and written English skills, to the extent needed to accomplish specific goals, such as higher education or career development. Termed Functional English, our program empowers the children with the essential knowledge, skills and understanding they need to function more confidently and effectively, in life and in their studies and career.
We believe our concept of Functional English is employment focused, helping our children to access the world of opportunities more easily.
Besides, our approach overcomes the issues created by traditional English teaching methods: the emphasis on rote learning and assessing knowledge, with a limited focus on practical application abilities; the scarce opportunities for students to practise and actually use the language to communicate; and the complex grammar rules and terminology like pronouns, tenses etc., that are not usually needed to communicate.
As the future workforce of India, we believe children need to be schooled and trained differently, to meet the future demand for application-oriented professionals.
What We Do
The Pehlay Akshar program taps into the natural curiosity of children, using interactive methods to teach English and stimulate the children to think.
We believe that it is easier to learn English through conversation and reading. Therefore, our unique curriculum exposes children to concepts through local and global literature. We also simplify learning goals to help children grasp new concepts and ways of thinking, at their own pace.
Within school hours program
At the start of the academic year, we work persistently to acquire permission from the Education Department to conduct the Pehlay Akshar program during school hours. This is a unique feature of the program, which ensures that we have maximum exposure to the children and can teach them in a familiar environment.
One Pehlay Akshar class extending for 2.5 hours is conducted per week; it comprises 1.5 hours of the customised curriculum and 1 hour of the regular state curriculum.
Teachers recruited and trained in-house
Pehlay Akshar’s teaching methodology is unusual; therefore we have full-time teachers, recruited by us and trained in our techniques, to ensure the efficacy of our program.
As we invest in training them to teach Functional English through curiosity, application, analysis and creativity, we also measure the performance of the teachers regularly and give them feedback to improve.
A curriculum developed in-house
We know that children learn a language best when it is taught in an immersive and interactive way. Our curriculum is especially designed for children from marginalised backgrounds, to help them acquire essential skills and also start them on what we hope will be a lifelong journey of learning. It incorporates global interactive methodologies (like Glenn Doman Flash Cards, Phonics and Topic discussions) along with relevant local content. We also teach the mandated state curriculum.
Pehlay Akshar has laid down concrete desired learning outcomes extending across six levels. Every year we conduct rigorous baseline and end line evaluations to measure the outcomes and improve the program.
A Glimpse Into Our Classroom
Gibberish Action song:
We start our day with a gibberish song, creating a happy, comfortable ambience in which the children feel that they’re having fun. This helps to break down the perceived hierarchy between the child and the teacher.
Glenn Doman Technique:
We use flash cards to familiarise students with difficult words that they will encounter in the stories they read. This reaches the child’s subconscious mind and prepare him/her to look out for the words.
Theme of the month:
There is a specific theme every month. The children are encouraged to think and voice their ideas on the theme through an interactive discussion. E.g. The word ‘Earth’ is written on the board and children are invited to say whatever comes to their mind in relation to the word.
Reading with phonetics:
Every class is equipped with a computer and a projector. A story is read out using a visual approach, pointing to key words on the screen. It helps the child read with phonics – a tried and tested approach.
We promote learning through experience. E.g. The teacher puts up a map of the world, hands out slips of paper with names of countries and asks the children to find the countries on the map.
We re-display the flash cards shown before, to help children grasp the information, understand better and improve their visual memory.
Connect at home:
The children are given a home activity, to increase their exposure to the language and involve their family in their learning, if possible. E.g. They are asked to watch a TV show or explain a concept to their mother.
We measure our impact through the number of students reached. We also conduct yearly baseline and end line evaluations to measure outcomes, based on which we modify the curriculum if required.
Another measure of our impact is the support provided by the government. While we have usually been awarded permissions to hold the program only for a year, our track record has convinced governments to award us 5-year permissions in some locations, like Nagpur, Vasai and Nashik
*Impact till 09.09.2019
In the words of our students
Hi, my name is Trivika. I am going to Std. 9. I had gone to meet my relatives in my hometown, Benaras. I really enjoyed meeting them and spending time with them. The next day, my father and relatives were talking about my studies. My father called me and asked me what I want to become when I grow up. I replied in English that I hadn’t decided. My relatives were astonished that I could express myself so well in English, and my grandmother wanted to know where I had learnt to speak. I told them that I had learnt English from my Pehlay Akshar Didi, who teaches us, talks to us and tells us stories in English.
I am Siddhi Kadam. I had once gone with my mother to her workplace. Everyone there spoke among themselves in English, but they spoke to me in Hindi. They thought I didn’t know how to speak English. But when they asked me questions in Hindi, I surprised them by answering in English. I was very happy to explain to them that I had been learning English from my Pehlay Akshar teacher since Std. 4. Now I’m going to Std. 8 and I will keep learning.