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Transforming English language teaching in Bangladesh

Researchers in The Open University’s School of Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport are transforming the teaching of English language in schools in Bangladesh, helping more than six million children improve their prospects in life.

Key impacts include:

Improving the English Language competence of 6.4 million school students in Bangladesh.

Making innovative use of low-cost technology to change the classroom practice of 47,000 teachers.

Influencing English Language teaching policy and teacher development programmes at national level.

What this research does

In Bangladesh job applicants with good English language skills are 30-50% more likely find employment than those without a proficiency in English. English language skills, however, are in short supply in Bangladesh with English being the most commonly failed school subject. This has created a barrier to national economic growth and individual opportunity.

The Open University-led research programme English in Action has developed and put into practice new, effective English language teaching methodologies which are being rolled out in schools across Bangladesh, using locally available technology. Professional development material and resources for classroom teaching are supplied to teachers via memory cards on low-cost mobile phones, so the programme can reach difficult-to-access regions and is not dependent on good internet connections.

Over a 10-year period, the schools’ component of the English in Action programme, working with local and international partners, has demonstrably improved teaching and learning for tens of thousands of teachers and millions of school students across Bangladesh. We are just completing the final phase to institutionalise the teacher support model within national teacher development programmes, so that it will be sustainable by the government of Bangladesh in the future.

Tom Power, The Open University

The programme, which is run in partnership with the Bangladeshi government, is introducing teachers to ‘communicative’ language teaching methods which give students more practice in speaking English in the classroom.

Independent assessors evaluated more than 1,000 students who had been on the new programme for a year and found substantial improvements in their English language competence. Tested against a standard international framework, pass-rates rose from 74.5 per cent to 82.8 per cent for secondary students, and from 35.2 per cent to 69.6 per cent for primary students.

Monitoring and observation of classes showed that the time students spend speaking has risen from almost zero to over 25 per cent of lesson time, and over 90 per cent of this speech is in English.

Following extensive trials and a pilot phase, the teacher development model has now been rolled out to more than 40,000 English teachers in Bangladesh primary and secondary schools, teaching some 6.4 million students.

Research publications