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Learning English in India: Overcoming the barriers

Download our case study on English Duniya.

Too lengthy, too animated, too text-heavy, too incomprehensible, too unstructured – all adjectives that at some point or the other have been used to describe English content created for our school children in India.

For the thousands of children studying in low-income or municipal schools today, learning English is a real challenge.

The problem

Students in India are not performing at grade level in basic subjects. This has been proven almost every year in the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) tests conducted country-wide, showing that STD V students are unable to read a STD II textbook.

Furthermore, English textbooks created by the system are ridden with errors that are responsible for students speaking incorrect English. Students are not sufficiently trained in conversational english which requires a mixture of vocabulary, grammar, listening and reading skills.

What are we doing to address the issue?

The team at Zaya quickly realised that while there was a lot of content created for learning English, most of it did not cater to the Indian market or more specifically to children from low-income areas. Most e-learning content was highly unstructured and did not adapt to the learning of the child at all.

Children who haven’t been exposed to smartphones and ipads, need content that is tailored to their specific challenges. Many children in the schools we support are first generation learners whose parents don’t speak English either. Such children are overwhelmed by 10-minute animated educational videos. In addition, most need first language support – the purely English content that most programs contain leaves them disoriented and unable to learn.

Effective learning can only take place when the child is exposed to content in their own language, challenges them in all key skill areas and systematically circles through these different skills.

Zaya’s English Language Learning Program: An adaptive platform that responds to the skills of a child

Our understanding of the present challenges led us to the creation of the English Language learning program, made to address issues faced by children who have not been previously exposed to English or e-learning platforms.

The content on the program is minimal, focused, divided into small pieces for easy consumption and is available in seven Indian languages, allowing children to learn English in their mother-tongue. It systematically covers four key focal areas of language learning – reading, vocabulary, listening and grammar and tracks a child’s performance through detailed knowledge maps.

The platform adapts to a child’s learning – keeping detailed records of what skills have been mastered and suggesting new topics based on previous learning.

The mobile version of the platform allows children to connect to the internet and learn English for free. There are currently more than 12,000 students who have completed more than 4.8 million activities on the app.


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Through the program, children can learn English in a comprehensive manner, with teachers acting as facilitators to help guide them in problem areas. The personalised learning approach of the platform allows children to learn at their own pace, tackling subjects and mastering them according to their own abilities – ensuring that students understand a topic thoroughly before moving on to the next level.

Click here for a case study on our results in schools across India.