English in Schools (EIS), a joint initiative by The Daily Star and AKTEL, is a very positive and timely initiative; it will open up a new horizon for English learners, said educationists yesterday.
This will help students know the world better and face the present global challenges, they observed at an EIS orientation session for schoolteachers.
At least 250 teachers from 118 secondary schools in Rajshahi from eight districts - Joypurhat, Bogra, Pabna, Sirajganj, Chapainawabganj, Naogaon, Natore and Rajshahi participated in the event at Nanking Darbar Hall in the city yesterday.
Under the EIS, around 1,000 schools across the country will get three copies of The Daily Star each five days a week for free. The distribution already began in 479 schools in Dhaka, Mymensingh, Comilla and Rajshahi zones. More schools in Barishal zone will be brought under the programme on July 4.
The Daily Star will bring out an extra page featuring helpful materials and discussions every week to help students learn English language. The page will also include organising contests on spelling, vocabulary and book reading, among others.
Lauding the initiative, Prof Dr M Fazlul Bari, vice chancellor of Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology who attended the programme as the chief guest said, "Students in the country are brilliant but still they are lagging behind for lack of opportunities."
"It is a very positive and timely initiative. It will have far-reaching impacts on both teachers and students," said Dr Bari.
He criticised frequent changes of curriculum and textbooks and called upon secondary level schoolteachers to develop enjoyable teaching methods and avoid dependency on notebooks.
Rajshahi Education Board chairman Dr Dipakendra Nath Das said, "Most of the students fail in the Secondary School Certificate Examination only for English."
"This happens because of problems in the teaching method; students can not follow the teachers for their typical complicated method of teaching," he said, adding that many school lack competent English teachers.
The Daily Star Senior Assistant Editor Shahnoor Wahid said, "We are committed to our initiative; now it depends on teachers and students. If you can influence and inspire students, they can really do well in English."
AKTEL's Acting Managing Director and Chief Strategy Officer Koji Ono described English as a very good tool to look at the world as well as a gate to information and communication technology.
AKTEL Chief Commercial Officer Bidyut Kumar Basu said, "We have talented students but the main problem lies with the resources which are not accessible."
Prof Shaheen Kabir of Jahangir Nagar University delivered a presentation on the special page on English language, which will be distributed once a week along with The Daily Star.
She suggested inspiring students to engage in extra curricular activities as much as they can along with their regular study.
Upazila Nirbahi Officer of Shingra upazila Ataul Gani in Natore stressed the need for learning English through entertainment.
Participating teachers lauded the initiative by the mobile operator and the national daily in association with the education ministry.
"It is a rare opportunity for me, my teachers and students to read an English newspaper regularly going nowhere else but sitting at my school," said Abdul Mannan Talukhdar, headmaster of Kalai MU High School in Joypurhat.
Mannan's school like many others in the country is struggling to provide better education. It saw 73 percent pass rate in the last SSC examination while 60 percent of the unsuccessful students failed only because of English.
Speakers at the orientation said the EIS programme would reduce the number of failed students and help students improve fluency in English.