Awards 2002 The British Council Award for the Effective Transfer of English Language Skills

The British Council Award for the Effective Transfer of English Language Skills

This award is given to a not-for-profit organisation for its contribution to sustainable development through the effective transfer of English language skills and knowledge.

Specially commended: Gujarati Vichar Manch

Gujarati Vichar Manch is a Gujarati cultural organisation based in Mumbai (Bombay), a city where most people speak Marathi. It is not a wealthy organisation - it relies entirely on membership fees. But it soon decided that, to keep the Gujarati language thriving in Mumbai, it needed to encourage the teaching of English in Gujarati schools. Parents saw English as the key to wider opportunity.

In 1998 GVM carried out a survey and talked to parents in Mulund, a district of Mumbai. The parents pointed out that teaching of English did not start till year five in Gujarati schools. They feared their children would never catch up with those who started English earlier.

GVM set up a four-day workshop for 63 teachers from 27 schools, encouraging them first to get pupils to listen to English, then speak it, then read it and write it. A second workshop followed. Teachers from the workshops formed a core group to continue meeting and learning. A third workshop in 2001 covered English pronunciation problems and the planning of lessons. It also looked at two wider problems: child abuse and the difficulties of slow learners.

To get younger, standard I and II pupils started in English, GVM prepared a course which strove to make learning fun. When the state government decided to introduce English in standard I from 2000/1, GVM put four experts into three Gujarati schools in Mulund. Thirty-five pupils from the three schools were the first in the region to pass the Cambridge Young Learners English Test, arranged by the British Council. In December 2000, GVM took English teaching out of the classroom and into a fair, with video and a puppet show, attended by 140 pupils. The following year it held a fair for 300 mothers, who decided that they wanted to learn English, too.

The judges say

GVM is making an outstanding contribution to the transfer of English language skills. It is rare to see such achievement with so little funding in such a challenging environment. The fundamental belief that all pupils should have the opportunity to learn English regardless of background is commendable and has been translated into success with very disadvantaged communities, offering real hope of economic development. An important ingredient in GVM's success has been its strong development focus, using activities to enhance pride in traditions while maintaining the importance of enabling all pupils to learn English. We are in no doubt that GVM is a most valuable asset to its communities, and we have decided to offer it a special commendation.

Gujarati Vichar Manch, 11 'Shree', 84a Ganesh Gavade Road, Mulund (West), Mumbai 400080, India;
Tel: +91 22 5684936; Fax 6693583