Teaching Soft Skills in India (by Shrishti Choudhary)

I am Shrishti Choudhary. Professionally, I’m an IT engineer, but the job I relate to more is teaching English to government school kids. With my technical academic background, you might be wondering what compelled me to go for teaching English. Well! It’s a story of a school girl who actually generated the passion in me to want to do something of worth, not only for her but for other students like her. Would you like to know her story? If yes, here we go…..

Shrishti and students

This is the story of a school girl named Guddi. She was simple enough in her appearance but not in her beliefs; she was determined to prove that she could be the part of the English speaking Indian society.

Speaking English in India is considered somewhat inevitable, if you want to succeed in life.

  •  School leavers who are not adequately trained in English are always at a handicap in the world of higher education
  • Proficiency in English is widely perceived as an important avenue for employment and upward mobility, which also greatly facilitates the pursuit of higher education.
  • This reality is not lost on our people, who recognize that the English language is a critical determinant of access to higher living status, and opportunities for a better life.

Shirshti working with a studentGuddi had studied in a government school for almost a decade. Most students of the same age in private schools were fluent enough in English to flaunt their skills in various state level talent search competitions. While she was very good in conceptual and logical knowledge, Guddi always felt weak when it came to English communication. Gradually she became aware of the gap between her and her private school peers; she was unable to stand in front of people and speak English. She always felt hesitant to speak in English. Her parents wanted to help Guddi in any way they could so they accompanied her to a ‘Spoken English Institute’. It was considered to be the most prestigious language institute in New Delhi (India).

So what do you think? Did the language institute help?

Guddi was the only one of her kind in her new spoken English class – a government school kid hesitant to speak even a single sentence in English. The language school was way beyond anything Guddi had imagined; it betrayed her by giving an illusion that was beyond her reach. She came to realize that instead of developing confidence, she was actually losing it gradually. Most of Guddi’s course mates belonged to private schools; they loved to show off their communication skills which made her feel even more inferior. Guddi usually spent her classes watching her trainer encourage those kids and speaking with them joyfully. The trainer praised the fluent students for every answer and cherished their self-proclaimed achievements. Those students were proud of their accomplishments, felt successful, and had a blast in class. Her teacher did not show the same concern toward her, and Guddi remained in class with almost no sense of existence in a very hectic, complex and profusely confused state of mind. She kept on trying to search for a reason to be in the class. She wanted to give it her best shot, she wanted to survive as her parents spent quite a considerable amount of money for that course ($100, which was really a huge amount in comparison to her school fees which were a mere $1).

Shrishti and a student

One day during her spoken English class Guddi decided to speak up, to prove her dedication towards the most precious language for her as she knew it was the only medium to get recognition among her peers and her teacher. She collected all her courage, infused it into her soul, gulped down a whole bottle of water, gave herself a most required boost, inhaled very quickly all possible air she could and suddenly she was standing in hope of conquering almost the whole world war without any weapon, helplessly surrounded by the critical eyes of  her flaunting class mates and her trainer. When Guddi tried to answer one of the questions in her cracked English, enormous predictions of error began revolving to and fro in her mind, continuously obstructing her ability to speak any word at all. Finally, she did speak and did give an answer. The very next moment everyone, including her trainer, laughed and made fun of her attempt and Guddi was ordered to sit down. The conflict between Guddi’s self-respect and her class’s ridicule was more discouragement than she could handle and Guddi passed out on the stage.

But as the phoenix emerges out of the ashes Guddi decided to take this as a challenge and started working toward her goal very hard.

Her synopsis got selected for a national level talent search discovery fair and Guddi was chosen to represent her city with her project at the national level. Guddi was confronted with many hurdles but at last her hard work paid off. She gave presentations in “English”, sorted out queries of the judges in “English”, had successful conversations with large audiences as well as her fellow competitors in “English” and gathered those most precious communication skills which meant the world to her. The icing on the cake was when she won the best of subject category award in botany and was congratulated by everyone. That was the day she was flying without wings. She conquered her fear and won the world war in her own very incredible way.

I would like to state a simple equation which I believe is very true in terms of education, at least in India. The quality of education is directly proportional to the amount of money which is being spent in acquiring that education.

  • Usually students studying in government schools belong to service class families where they hardly have anyone to communicate with in English in order to get rid of their hesitation. They feel helpless and restless for not having familiarity with English, which is why these students generally lack in confidence and don’t answer questions in class even when they know the answer.
  •  A survey conducted with various government school students showed that when their teachers ask a question, out of a class of 40 students, 20 students know the answer but only 4-5 end up answering the question, which clearly shows that most of these students have knowledge but they hesitate while speaking.
  • These students can’t afford to go to ELT (English language teaching) institutes because the courses offered there are very expensive and beyond their parents’ budget.

Shrishti working with government school students

This is where I come in. I encourage leadership among youths via personality development classes. I work mostly with students studying in government schools. Basically, when they come to me their basic understanding of concepts and knowledge about a subject is already incredible, but when it comes to public speaking stuff like explaining things in English or making presentations in front of people, they lack confidence and hesitate a lot. This is because they don’t usually get support in their schooling for this kind of skill development and growth. I work to give them experience with the kind of exposure that can bring about excellence in their overall personality and behavior.

Please do give your precious comments to encourage me to keep writing about these students, and so I can develop the bonds of relationship with all the incredible readers over here. I would like to heartily thank my dearest friend Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto for inviting me to write about my work in India, and for introducing me to her work with iTDi, and for providing me with a platform to discuss my experiences with like-minded people.

With your encouragement, I hope to write more about critical issues pertaining to the existing education system in India, my student’s experiences – why do they feel helpless? Why do they feel inferior? What needs to be done? How can an individual can act as a catalyst to bring about change?

I believe that if we all try to do even a little, the results can bring about a revolution in education, THE NEXT BIG CHANGE…….

Shrishti ChoudharyShrishti Choudhary is an IT Engineering Scholar and a Social Entrepreneur. She has great inclination towards Soft Skill Development in youths as she considers lack of soft skills one of the major reasons for global youth unemployment. She considers one of her greatest achievements to be helping her students become assertive. A confident smile on her student’s face makes her day. You can follow Shrishti on Facebook.

Note: This article by Shrishti Choudhary originally appeared as a guest post on Teaching Village and is licensed under a Creative Commons, Attribution-Non Commercial, No Derivatives 3.0 License. If you wish to share it you must re-publish it “as is”, and retain any credits, acknowledgements, and hyperlinks within it.

 

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  1. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this, Shrishti! I know I’m fascinated with English education in India, and appreciate the opportunity to learn more about it, and the challenges that teachers and students face.

    Are government schools generally considered to provide inferior education compared to private schools? Do parents who can afford the tuition usually send their children to private schools?

    Was Guddi a student in your program? She shows amazing resilience! I’m not sure I could have risen from those ashes as determined as she did.

    I hope you will write more about the work you’re doing with soft skills. I look forward to learning more from your experience!

    • Dear Barb!
      Thanks a lot for your comment. I admire your curiosity to know more about the challenges pertaining to the Indian English scenario.
      Govt. school do not provide inferior education, they do follow the same curriculum which is followed by private schools. What I am trying to emphasize over here is something teaching beyond textbooks. In Govt. schools teachers believe in just following curriculum and by doing so they forget about one of the most important facets of students’ character; their overall personality development which include all the skills like communication skills, coordination skills, leadership skills etc. Teachers teaching in Govt. schools have job security which makes them lethargic. In fact they are being paid very handsome salaries in comparison to their private counterparts. At the end of the day what matters to them is completing the task at hand (amount of syllabus covered), it’s like worrying about the quantity instead of the quality. This affects students in a more adverse way, what all they care about is mugging up the things instead of understanding. I am not saying every teacher has the same attitude but I can certainly say most of them have as most o f the students go to private coaching or home tuitions after their school in order to seek that very attention from which they have been deprived.
      Parents’ obvious choice is private schools if they can afford. Getting admission in private schools is considered such a daunting task and these schools don’t left even a single opportunity to grab all the monetary benefits whatever they could in the form of donations. That’s why most of the students in these schools belong to upper class. Since couple of years private schools have started following point based system for admissions but I still doubt its transparency.
      Most of our Govt. schools provide education in English Medium. But neither anyone (from respective govt. authority), takes the pain of actually analyzing the acquaintance of these students with English language, nor anyone takes the initiative to improve the current scenario.
      Guddi was indeed a student of great resilience and exquisite determination.

  2. Of course you should keep writing about these students. Education is about changing things, about making dreams come true. Teachers like you make this possible.

    Thank you for sharing and working so hard for these kids.

    • I will certainly keep writing about such students who show that very exquisite determination. Education is all about making oneself confident enough to help himself/herself, to make someone independent, to provide that medium by the virtue of which one could express and communicate globally.
      And believe me Virginia, you don’t even come to know, when someone else’s dreams become yours and that’s the point when you want to put every effort to make those dreams come true in real sense.
      Thanks for all your kind words and appreciation. People like you, inspire teachers like me and make this possible. So credit goes to you… 

  3. Shrishti,
    You have discovered some critical pieces missing in children’s education in India. A teacher who sincerely believes in a student can take that student to new levels. Giving students public speaking experience–and there are so many interesting ways to do this–will help your students with their speaking skills and confidence.

    Thanks for sharing your stories about education in India. Fascinating!

    Keep up the amazing work . . . you never know where your kindness and influence will end.

    • Dear Kathy,
      There are certainly some aspects which need to be rectified; there are some broken pieces which need to be mended. I have discussed them in reply to Barbara. I do agree strongly with each of your statements. You are such an incredibly optimistic person. I respect that attitude. I believe people like you are my strength in real sense.

  4. Thanks Shrishti for giving everyone the opportunity to know and think about the challenges in English Language Education in India. Through your engaging writing style and Guddi you’d outlined how those who work hard can always smile at the end.

    This is something that I used to tell to my students when I find them struggling with their English. People have this bad habit of laughing at people when they fail and many take such failures to heart and recede to their cocoons. I often tell my students that others have every right to laugh; but what matters at then end is who has the last laugh. Many a times I’d noticed this inspires them to take up challenges and be a little more adventurous with language learning.

    I liked Guddi’s success story; however, I’d like to know more about what she did to succeed because her success can be replicated in many cases if her path is revealed. Hope you’ll tell us more about what all Guddi did to be what she eventually became.

    Keep writing – I often feel that India has a very unique English Language Teaching scenario and very often that goes undocumented. Efforts like yours stand out in such a context and opens up a window to the Indian ELT scenario.

    All the best.

    • Dear Cherry!

      There is no secret path which leads to success. There is no predefined formula for success. It is basically the determination which is quite unique in its own way. Circumstances vary with each student you encounter. Each student has his\her own way of analyzing the things and as far as I have seen no two students ever have exactly same perspective about the same thing. Sometimes you need to work a bit intense in order to understand the psychology of the student. But I will certainly discuss more about Guddi in my upcoming post.

      India indeed has a very unique English Language Teaching scenario but I doubt in a good way. I have seen engineering students who have excellent technical skills but not able to qualify even a simple interview due to the lack of soft skills. They are not able to express their ideas, they have scarcity of eloquent communication skills. Ultimately they are cursed with unemployment. We need to create an educational infrastructure which could actually cater to the need of the current demand pool. What all we need to do is to take an initiative, an initiative in the right direction.

  5. Hi Shrishti,
    I am so glad to know you :)
    Thank you so much for sharing your blog link. That’s an amazing real-life story that reminds me to my very own experience in learning English as a foreign language back in the first year of my secondary school. I was the “Guddi” in your story and you know what..all the things you wrote there was exactly what I was feeling. :(
    It was so terribly embarrassing to me that the frustration almost made me hate English for the rest of my life. Luckily, I had someone like you who brought me back and said to me ” if you want to ‘beat’ your teacher and your friends, master English quickly and show them that your English is much better than your friends, even than your teacher. Luckily, it then became my turning point in my life!
    You brought an excellent point there about the needs of changing ‘the academically and socially unfair’ education system that only take sides on the students who, fortunately and unfortunately, are in better financial and social conditions.
    Therefore, I think that the role of an inspiring teacher is paramount in education! A teacher who can make everyone in the class feels that he/she is getting equal help, attention, and support from the teacher. I would say that actually every student needs exactly someone like you who can uplift the students’ confidence and joy in learning, which unfortunately it doesn’t come automatic as a package of being a teacher, probably it would the teacher has had some kind of ‘personality development training’, either formally or informally. However, I always believe “If there is a will, there is always a way”.
    So, let’s inspire our students so that they feel the joy in learning and making achievement in every single day of their life. Hopefully, ‘Guddi’s teacher there in your story’ would be inspired by what you are doing with the students and start doing what you are doing. Keep the faith and keep inspiring, Shrishti! :)

    • Dear Adi!

      I am blessed to know you indeed.

      Student like you suppose to be an apple of teacher’s eye. Firm determination is the key to success, and you got it at very right time. The way you struggled and gained your success, you are such an amazing inspiration.

      Your incredible words will certainly work as a catalyst for me and my work. I would like to thank you for getting so much engrossed in the blog and relate yourself to guddi. Getting your kind of reader is more than an inspiration. I would like to say your incredible words are my real strength.

  6. Hello Shrishti,
    Thanks to Barbara I have started reading your Blog ‘Teaching Soft Skills in India’ . Very nice and motivating. I just wanted to say ‘ Keep Up the good job and All The best’
    Cheers
    Angela :)

  7. Thanks so much Shrishti for sharing this with us. It is really inspiring to read/listen to real life stories like this.

    I love the work of Feuerstein and I thought you may like this short talk from him. Believe is the starting point. :)

    http://youtu.be/uXopVpQwivY

    I look forward to your next post.

  8. Hi there, seems funny to me as I am an IT engineer with the qualification in English Philology as well and currently a teacher of English in a high school! Regards from Central Europe!

    • Hi Astheart!

      I guess! We have lots of stuff in common to share and talk about. Looking forward to catch you up on Skype sometime. Have a great success ahead in your teaching endeavors.

  9. Shrishti, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts in this post! It is a terrific blog! You have touched on what I consider to be one of the key issues in developing successful students. Teachers can, and do, make such a difference in the self-confidence of students. It is this self-confidence, combined with skills, that makes a student successful. Our job is to teach so that we are guiding our students to be independent and confident in using the skills we teach them. It’s more than just teaching the knowledge and techniques. We need to help our students know that we believe in each one of them. No matter what level each student is at, we need to encourage and help him or her, in whatever way we can, so that every student can become confident about speaking and using English. Teachers can inspire students to reach to new levels!

    Guddi’s story is amazing! She certainly had great determination!

    Looking forward to reading more of your ideas about soft skills! :-)

  10. well shrishtiji, indeed, really your experience is inspiring for everyone. you have done great job.

  11. Shrishti Choudhary
    I want your inputs regarding the soft skill training program , A Head Madam has asked me to take up soft skill training for the government boys high school .
    A brief idea about the school:
    1)Only high school (no co.ed,only boys ,i.e 8,9,10th standard)
    2)The students currently studying are from financially poor back ground and lack studying skills
    3)The students are highly irregular and the result percentage is very less
    4)lacks discipline
    these are the precise details given by their Head Madam and has asked me to take up training classes every Saturday for their students, please give your valuable inputs ASAP

  12. Dear Shrishti,
    This is an incredible story! I’m truly amazed and inspired by your courage. Keep the good work. I believe what is most important is not just one’s professional inclination, but how that impacts on humanity. Congrats!

  13. Dear Shrishti ji,

    This is an admirable thing that you have done, this is also need of this New Technological Era for Educational Development.On the basis of these valuable points a teacher or an Educational Institute can develop new and hidden skill among the students.

    I thanks to you for doing this value able work , I think on the basis of these project a teacher can do ” All round Development” among the students.

    Again Congrats!