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English lessons for madarsa teachers in Calcutta

Workshops offer interactive learning module

Debraj Mitra Calcutta Published 21.02.19, 11:40 AM
Participants in the workshop at the American Center on Wednesday.

Participants in the workshop at the American Center on Wednesday. Bishwarup Dutta

Rafia Ansari, 24, teaches at a madarsa in Ahmedabad. Most of her students are from poor families, some of them first-generation learners. Rafia, who has done a master’s in Urdu from Aligarh Muslim University, wants her students to learn and interact in English.

She was at Lincoln Room of the American Center in Calcutta on Wednesday to attend a session to improve her English skills.


The workshop, part of the year-long Madrassa English Language Teacher (MELT) programme that aims to improve English language and communication skills and teaching style, was attended by young madarsa teachers from across the country. The sessions, on till February 23, are dealing with a range of subjects from how to greet students while entering a classroom to proper evaluation of students.

Wednesday’s participants were split into smaller teams. With Rafia was Sadiya Anjum, 26, also from Ahmedabad.

Sadiya has completed her master’s — the first woman in her family to do so — in counselling and family therapy from the Indira Gandhi National Open University.

Apart from teaching, she mentors children with learning disabilities.

“We are being given a lot of group activities by the trainers. I am loving the sessions,” said Sadiya.

The lead trainer, Lois Scott-Conley, moved from one group to another, overseeing the work. “Teaching will be enhanced when teachers gain the confidence and skills to use English as the language of instruction and employ modern, active learning methods,” Scott-Conley told Metro on the sidelines of the programme.

The content of the course has been designed by National Geographic Learning.

The participants were selected on the basis of an assessment conducted last September. Once inducted, they started taking online tutorials. Each participant is also mentoring five madarsa teachers from their peer group who are also undergoing a similar course online.

“Through the online tutorials, the teachers have already learnt a lot of things. The workshops are meant to help them use these skills in the classroom. The objective of the programme is to make learning interesting and get more students into the mainstream academic scenario,” said Ghazala Siddiqi, one of the trainers. Siddiqui, who teaches at the Jamia Millia Islamia in the capital, is freelancing in the MELT project.

There will be a set of culminating workshops in September this year with 100 participants — all 20 in the current lot will come with their peers.

Ananya Dam, 28, a Kasba-resident who works with an NGO, was among the participants. Dam is involved in a teaching programme at a madarsa in Basirhat. “From taking proper feedback from students to time-management, everything we are learning is activity-based,” said Dam.

Sarah Brandt, programme manager from World Learning, the international non-profit implementing the project in India, said the earlier editions of the programme were held in Delhi in 2017 and Hyderabad in 2018.

“This year’s edition covers three cities. After Calcutta, similar workshops will be held simultaneously in Mumbai and Chennai,” she said.

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