In a bid to improve the quality of English taught across state-aided schools, the education department has given an in-principle approval for conducting Reading Skill Development (RSD) workshops for teachers.

Anupma Diddi
Anupma Diddi

Pioneering the initiative is Anupma Diddi, a former vice-principal and English teacher, with over three decades of experience in the field. It was Diddi who approached the education department and pitched the idea of conducting workshops at state-aided schools to train teachers in spoken English.

Since December 2014, Diddi has conducted a series of workshops to help teachers get better at phonetics, which, according to her, is neglected at the pre-primary and primary levels. “I’ve been a teacher for many years and have also spent a few years training corporates.

During those years, I noticed that very few teachers are actually teaching children to read well at the pre-primary and primary levels. This affects their (students’) basic understanding of the language,” said Diddi. One of her first workshops, after she took voluntary retirement from Billabong school last year, was held for principals of various Kendriya Vidyalaya schools across Mumbai.

“The Kendriya Vidyalaya authorities liked the training session so much that they asked me to conduct similar sessions for all their principals and resource persons at their head office in the city,” said Diddi. A few have questioned Diddi’s choice of topic for training, especially when most schools do have English as their medium of instruction.

However, the veteran claims basic skills and understanding of the language is missing from the city schools. “In classrooms, teachers ask one student to read what is printed in the textbook, but there is no focus on pronunciation and enunciation. During my workshops, I’ve come across teachers, even those who handle Std IX and X students, who are clueless about these concepts.

It’s sad that the existing education system has not highlighted these basics,” she said. Currently, Diddi is interacting with Maharashtra International Schools’ Association (MISA) authorities and the city head for the Indian Certificate in Secondary Education (ICSE) Board to conduct similar workshops for their teachers.

Simultaneously, she is also trying to get in touch with the BMC’s education department to allow her to conduct workshops across civic schools. “Civic-run schools, where English language is not taken very seriously, should be our priority. My aim is to reach out to every teacher, regardless of which subject s/he teaches, in order to boost their skills and confidence,” said Diddi.

Recent activities
Diddi recently conducted an RSD workshop for teachers of a Malwani school, following which the school requested teachers from six other schools from the locality to undergo the same training. “I hope, this way, I can reach out to more teachers and help teach them the right reading skills, which they can then pass on to their students,” said Diddi.