Learning English through Digital Labs Station-e as a Model

Dr Haresh Tank,
Director, Station-eLanguage Lab. 

India is poised to assume its rightful place in the world and the Indian youth is teeming with confidence to make a mark on things at the national and international levels. In such a scenario, English is of paramount significance for India as it is the medium of global discourse and  international dialogue. Education as a domain can no longer operate without ICT-centric and sooner rather than later, English will have to be integrated at all levels. Sensing the urgency of offering an alternative forum for learning English defined by the extensive use of ICT, Station-e Language Labs was conceptualised as a mode of national empowerment of the youth. Transacted through ABL (Activity Based Learning) and tools, English language learning at Station-e is an accomplishment which calls for due recognition. In a country where all parents want to put their children into English medium schools and as we know that it is impossible, alternative platforms such Station-e should not only be recognised but also be encouraged and strengthened. This paper wishes to throw light on the state of language learning and the value of Station-e as an alternative model for the state and the country.

Education and employability
English has a strange history in India because it is less a language and more a tool of upward mobility. Education has had interesting tryst with it. English medium schools blazed a new trail in India and created a new breed of students who can work at the national and international levels through their proficiency in English. Colleges that offer English medium education throb with an urban, cosmopolitan culture that was unhear. This led to the mass obsession of English medium education in India and a country which is largely made of villages and small towns began to dream of development via English medium schools in rustic, remote and interior places.

Conundrum called English
“I believe English is about access, it is one of the tools of access that we need to provide all our people. I have always advocated the  reaching of English to everybody so that they get access to modern society. English has been limited to a few people, and people who have not learned English have been denied a chance to participate in society, because a lot of our education, a lot of our jobs, are in this English-speaking world. If you really want inclusive growth, part of inclusive growth is making English access ubiquitous.”
Mainstream system of education has not found the answer for the conundrum called English. Policy makers have found contentment in drafting papers with a thrust on English and allocating grants, however, meager it may be.

Establishing language labs
Station-e is a chain of language labs, spread across the country and scientifically designed and customised to the core for proficiency in English at all levels. Station-e language lab is different as it is not 25PCs stationed in cubicles but a cozy lab with flexi tools for listening and recording, playing back the audio video files on the plasma TV and a host of technology-defined ways of learning. The course material provided to learners is designed by nationally acclaimed experts in the field and advanced technology is integrated into the activity-based and learner-centric modules of language learning.
In the language labs at Station-e, we have evolved a technology based model of language learning to address the diverse requirements of the scores of people who aspire to communicate in fluent English. Till now, Station-e has lent material shape to the dream of attaining communication proficiency of over 10,000 learners. As regards the learners located at far-off places from the premises of Station-e, we have envisaged a way of reaching out to them by way of the replica model of language labs in existence at Station-e. This model is called BOT.

Build, operate and transfer
 With Station-e model, the difference is that our BOT model means build, observe and transfer. To define it in concrete terms, Station-e carries out the BUILD part of it by meticulously establishing a language lab on the premises of the concerned institution, to be fol-lowed by OBSERVE, which means that we keep the language lab of the concerned institution on the observation mode and continue to contribute to the effective and efficient functioning of the lab for the period of one year. At the end of one year, we carry out the last part of the process- Transfer.
There are some additional advantages of our BOT model compared to the traditional one. We keep it openended and flexible enough for the concerned institution in many respects. For instance, although we do provide salient training programs along with our BOT model, we do not make it mandatory to run only those training programs which are designed by station-e; the concerned institution can also run courses evolved by their own team. Thus, they can operate in both waysthey are free to use or not to use training modules devised by us.
In addition to the establishing the language lab in the form of BOT, Station-e provides service to the concerned institution for one year in various capacities. To cater to any technical concerns regarding running a language lab, a technical expert from Station-e will pay at least one visit every month. On the academic front, Station-e will also provide the requisite training to the staff of the concerned institution whenever needed, especially whenever there is fresh recruitment. Moreover, Station-e will always be ready to design any training program which the concerned institution may require at any given point of time.
For the concerned institution, there is one more advantageous dimension to this association. If the concerned institution so desires, they can continue the association after one year also and avail  of the benefits of service and expertise of Station-e for the following year at nominal charges.
Installation procedure will take merely one month’s time to set the language lab in motion.

Smart class and language lab
We have conceptualised a model of a smart class cum language lab wherein ICT in education can take material shape in every school affiliated with CBSE. It will serve as a space for the audio- visual learning resources designed to ensure that the learners remain on par with their global counterparts. In the smart class, the teacher will have no traditional role to play but will need to assume a new role of the facilitator of the knowledge acquisition. It will serve as to connect the learner with the information revolution being  layed out in the world. Moreover, it will ensure that the process of teaching is rendered extremely learner-centric with a thrust on customised mode of learning.
In terms of actual operation, we propose to establish smart class cum language lab in one of the  classrooms in each one of CBSE schools. We propose that the use of smart class should  be initiated from Standard 6 as the students will be at the proper age to grasp the knowledge offered to them through the ICT resources. There should be two lectures (45 minutes each) on the time-table of the students of Standard 6. Each lecture will deal with one unit. All the units form the part of a larger training program which we have devised keeping all the sessions of the year in mind. There are, as per our reasoning,  approximately thirty five working weeks in a year, which means students will learn seventy units in a year. This should go on in  standard 7, 8, 9 and 11. We propose to exclude Standard 10 and 12 as they are very crucial years for students and they may not be able to spare time. The entire Station-e product of smart class would mean a transformation in the skills set of students and they will be able to operate in the 21st century with confidence and ease. As we are aware, graduates and postgraduates in India today are found unemployable, pointed out by many agencies including World Bank, we believe that if we initiate the Smart Class initiative in each school affiliated with CBSE, we will create young minds that will be competent enough to pursue successful careers in their  hosen field of endeavour.

Station-e is a chain of language labs, spread across the country and scientifically designed and customised to the core for proficiency in English at all levels

Lead Out: Station-e as a model
Station-e marks a new beginning in the realm of English training because it is a non-government initiative but effective nonetheless. It is a new window that opens to the world of corporatisation  and professionalisation of training  and teaching of English. Station-e is a phenomenon, a landmark and a model of how to go about it. In this world increasingly defined and redefined soft skills such as  communication skills, Station-e is a model of language training, designed in a customised way, devised with the ICT tools at their sophisticated best and delivered with human excellence. As long as there is a debate on language training in India, Statione will serve as a model of excellence in English training.




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