The BLISS project
For the British Council in Bihar, in the BLISS (Bihar Language Initiative in Secondary Schools) project, I was head of a team of Indian writers for a many-layered materials writing project. The project was supported and funded by the British Department for International Development, and its aim was to improve the English language level of people living in Bihar, in order to improve their social economic position. English is seen as an important key to a employment. My brief was to coordinate the writing team in developing a training course for secondary school teachers working in contexts with very few resources – which usually consisted of a crowded classroom with a blackboard, chalk and a rather outdated course book. The classes were large and mixed ability.
The team wrote a teachers’ workbook and teacher educators’ notes for the trainers, and the course was piloted and delivered. There were huge challenges: the teachers’ own English level was low, and the teacher educators delivering the course had had little teacher training themselves. The materials needed to be written in simple English but also be challenging enough for teachers to learn something from them. Another product was a set of master trainers’ notes for the master trainers who trained the teacher educators. We also created instruments to monitor and evaluate how well the materials were working: questionnaires for teachers and teacher educators, set of questions for focus groups of teachers and trainers and an observation scheme.
It was a great project to be involved in, mainly because the teacher educators and writers were all extremely motivated to work to help teachers improve.