What is Project Bolo English?
Launched in July 2020, Project Bolo English is a unique initiative of the Centre for Civil Society that aims to equip children from low income families with much aspired Spoken English skills. Leveraging the role of Teachers, Schools and Parents as influencers, this project aims to provide children a free, year-long access to renowned Mobile Applications. One of the core elements of this project is its structured engagement with teachers & parents to provide them high quality language-learning resources, regular updates on students’ progress together aimed at driving students’ engagement and retention on the mobile applications.
- Students studying in Grades 3 to 8 in low cost private schools
- Spoken English skills mapped to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)
- Structured engagement with teachers, schools and students through nudges, progress update, capacity building of teachers
- Rewards and Incentives for students, teachers and schools to bridge the intent to action gap in terms of practicing Spoken English skills using the mobile applications
How do we plan on achieving our goal?
Bolo English aims to empower 1 million children by giving them an opportunity to practice Spoken English skills using premium versions of mobile applications. The Bolo English Project is primarily focused on 4 stages to achieve our goal of reaching 1 million students, namingly:
1. Access: Providing free access to english speaking premium applications, completely free of cost, that are aimed at enhancing the english speaking skills of students through interactive sessions, gamification and language practices.
2. Retention: Ensuring year long, structure engagement with students by sharing their progress with parents and teachers, involving them in various activities etc.
3. Engagement: Providing additional support and feedback through weekly reports, Level Completion Tests, Webinars, and Rewards and Recognition
4. Evaluation: Ongoing evaluations in addition to baseline and endline assessments of all students
High aspiration for English language among parents from low-income families is now a known phenomenon. Parents from low-income communities have turned to budget private schools for aspirational English medium education however English language achievement levels of children from low-income families have remained abysmally low.
ENGLISH LANGUAGE ASPIRATION AND LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES GAP AMONG CHILDREN FROM LOW-INCOME FAMILIES
- English Language holds a wage premium: Studies estimate that fluency in English increases hourly wages by upto 34% and a little English contributes to a 13% increase in hourly wages . The returns on fluent English are as large as the returns on completing secondary school and half as large as completing a bachelor's degree. 
- Parents are willing to pay for this: Parents from low-income families in India recognize this value and aspire for ‘English-medium-education’ for children. In the absence of English medium instruction in public schools, they turn to Budget Private Schools (BPS), which offer aspirational English medium education at fees ranging from INR 50 to INR 500 per month. BPS account for over 70% enrollments in urban areas and 30% in rural areas.
- BPS struggle to teach English well: BPS run as low margin businesses, recruiting untrained teachers, paying low teacher salaries (Rs 2000-6000 per month) and making limited investments in value addition such as teacher training, learning resources, engaging experts etc. School owners hesitate to incur any costs they cannot pass on to parents. Teachers working in BPS are not proficient in English, let alone having expertise in language pedagogy.
- The home is not conducive to learning English either: Research on second language acquisition identifies exposure to the language (eg listening, reading, watching) and opportunities to practice (eg following, speaking, writing) as key elements of language learning. In low-income households, exposure and opportunities to practice English are limited. English is not the language of communication at home or in the environs. Parents are unable to support children in learning English, hence place all their hopes on schools for this contribution.
- Children remain woefully deficient in speaking and using English: ASER Report has repeatedly observed that children are not developing foundational skills in reading and writing English. National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) in its National Employability Report-Graduates, 2013 observes that nearly 47% of graduates in India are found not employable in any sector, given their lack of English language skills.
In our recent survey with 25 school leaders, 8 BPS associations and 42 BPS and government teachers, 100% of respondents reported that despite being English medium schools, teachers and students prefer using the local language when in school. Principal of a BPS in Delhi says “It has taken a firm mandate and 6 years of nagging on my part for my teachers and students to start speaking in English at least during the assembly hour. Most of my teachers switch to Hindi even when I start the conversation in English.”
 CXOtoday News Desk, “The Future of India’s $2 Bn Edtech Opportunity Report 2020,” CXOtoday.com, February 2020 Link to full article here (accessed March, 2020).
Since its launch in July 2020, Bolo English project has reached over 2 lakh children from low income families studying in over 1000 Budget Private Schools across India. Currently, 30,000 + students and 400 teachers from 9 states have received access to the mobile applications. Over 6000 students and 200 teachers from 130 schools are actively using the mobile applications and demonstrating improvement in their Spoken English skills
Meet our students as they share their excitement about their journey towards English Speaking!
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