“In any average classroom in India, if you ask any student how many languages he or she speaks, it will be three or more. We have a culture of multilingualism; everyone speaks at least three languages. Why then, do many students find it difficult to speak even two lines of English after learning it for at least six years in the classroom?” asks C P Viswanath, and one is left searching for an answer.
Thankfully, Viswanath has it figured out and has been working to implement the solution for the past decade.
The co-founder of one of India’s best-loved children’s entities Karadi Tales laid the foundation of Karadi Path Education Company in order to facilitate organic learning of languages among students. He has also invented the unique Karadi Path methodology, a 100% derivative formal language-learning process that delivers language proficiency without teaching vocabulary, meanings or grammar.
It started after the literature created by Karadi Tales started getting popular among kids, parents and teachers equally and many teachers started using the audio books of Karadi Path as an English learning tool in their classrooms. An NGO volunteer invited Viswanath to a Dharavi slum school to see how the audio books were being used as language-teaching tools.
“When I interacted with the children, I realized that they had not learnt to speak English with the help of the book exactly, but were enjoying the storytelling, audio and music. However, I also noticed that these children of migrants from across the country had picked up each other’s languages seemingly easily. A Tamil kid had picked up his neighbour’s mother tongue Gujarati as well as the colloquial Hindi and Marathi and such was the case with almost every kid there. I was simply amazed,” he says.
He realised that since the children had learnt the language organically from non-verbal cues and gestures, mostly while having fun and playing games, the language learning had occurred at a subconscious level, making a lasting impact. After more research, he set up Karadi Path Education Company in 2012 with the aim of bringing the same environment to the classrooms so that children can naturally derive English.
The methodology focuses more on intuitive intelligence than logical and doesn’t hold linearity at the utmost importance like our traditional education system does.
“Look how a baby learns the language. We keep on talking to the baby even when it doesn’t understand a thing. But it soon begins to understand with the help of the context and slowly starts speaking a word or two and then more. Then finally gets to know the alphabets and starts writing. Look at the classroom method — first thing we learn is the alphabet. Doesn’t make sense, does it?” asks Viswanath.
In a country obsessed with the English language, an increasing number of children are being admitted to English-medium schools. In a school where English is the medium of learning, one learns all the subjects in English. And if the understanding of English is inadequate, it affects the understanding of every subject. Karadi Path tries to tackle this problem by enhancing linguistic skills at a very young age.
Started as a social enterprise, Karadi Path currently provides language-learning programs to over 2,600 schools across India. It has reached nearly 6,00,000 students through over 21,000 teachers till date.
“Rather than the usual textbook lessons, Karadi Path relies on visuals and music to make non-native speakers pick up the language. We acquire our mother tongue from what we hear around us- through non-verbal cues, body language, gesture, tones and most importantly, the context! So, at Karadi Path, we have developed a system where we don’t approach the language through vocabulary or grammar,” he informs.
Karadi Path has created audio-visual books where music and background score are used in the classroom as natural stimuli to teach English. The approach uses examples from the Indian context to teach through stories and songs that the students can relate to. The experiential method enables children to derive the meaning of words rather than learn them.
While there’s an overhaul happening in the teaching methodology with initiatives like Karadi Path, what remains static across the country is the examination process.
Agreeing to the negative effects of an assessment system that judges a fish by his ability to climb a tree, he also highlights the hurdles in the process of changing the examination system.
“See, the thing is that there has to be an evaluation system in place in schools. It cannot be completely laisez faire! However, just as we are starting to consider every student’s aptitude and learning style while teaching, we’d have to consider every student’s mode of expression while setting the assessment process. Not all students respond to the assessment in the same way – so there’s a need of a multifaceted assessment system that can allow each child to express in his or her own way. Hopefully, we’ll get there,” he says.
To know more about Karadi Path Education Company, visit its website here.