TEFL International has been providing teacher education and language training in Calcutta, the only centre in South Asia, for over a year now. They offer a one-month TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certificate course to any fluent English speaker, so far more popular with foreigners, after which you are qualified to teach anywhere in the world. TESOL-certified teachers specialise in teaching in countries where the first language is not English.
“In India, you have the BEd and the TTC (teachers training certificate) for primary school teachers but it’s just not the same as TESOL. Here, you specialise in one language,” says Sangeeta Banerjee, lead TESOL trainer and academic head for India. “I did the BEd too, and found it lacking. It takes you through the entire history of child learning and education but doesn’t teach you how to teach. TESOL equips you with all the practical skills and tools you need to face a classroom.”
As part of the one-month intensive training, TESOL trainees conduct actual English lessons at various schools in the city, both private and government. Some of the lucky regulars include the Army Public School, DAV Public School, National High School, JJ Ajmera, Khidderpore Balika Vidyatan and Netajinagar Boys among others. The organisation’s style of teaching English is different from anything these students have ever been exposed to and they love it.
TEFL sticks to its belief that students of any language learn much more when they do not know they are learning. In other words, making each lesson fun and helping students break away from the rigidity of set reading texts and by-the-book answers is probably what TEFL does best.
The course prepares aspiring teachers to stand confidently in front of a classroom full of eager faces and take them through an entire lesson in just a month. “Sangeeta is a brilliant trainer and definitely made the course worth it,” says Kevin Major, one of many who come in from the US just for the course.
“I’m really happy I did the course because it took me out of my comfort zone and made me do things I wouldn’t otherwise do,” says Thangamma Cariappa, a young graduate of the TESOL certificate programme. “Teachers have high regard for a TESOL certificate, and it trains you well on how to teach first-generation language learners.” She’s already well into completing her first year as class teacher at Christel House, a school for underprivileged children in Bangalore.
Any teacher would see that there’s a huge difference between the English levels of a student in an English-medium school versus one who studies in a Bengali-medium, but does that mean the English-mediums are teaching the language the way it should be?
TEFL doesn’t think so. “If students who have been studying the language since their first year in school find it hard to hold a conversation in English, something must be going wrong somewhere,” says Banerjee. “The problem lies with the teachers, not the students. Most of them are literature teachers and they need to be trained,” she says. “Students learn lots of grammar and how to read and write but they’re not taught speaking or listening skills, both of which form the most natural way of learning a language.” Take the language you’re most comfortable in — if you hadn’t spoken it and heard it around you ever since you can remember, you probably wouldn’t know it at all.
As a gesture of their appreciation to English teachers who’ve always welcomed TESOL trainees into their classrooms and shifted around slots to fit them in, the TEFL team is organising a free workshop for them on June 2 and 3. The workshop will focus on incorporating listening, speaking and writing skills as well as bringing a bit of theatre and music into the classroom to capture young, restless minds.What makes a teacher’s day? “When trainees come and tell her they want to be a teacher like her,” smiles Banerjee.
WHAT IS IT? It is a non-profit international teacher-training organisation based in Calcutta.
WHO’S THE BOSS? Sangeeta Banerjee is the academic head and lead trainer.
what is the course fee? Fees: $1,590 (including accommodation) or $1,490 (excluding accommodation).
Where is it? 385/1, Keyatala Lane, second floor,