Online technology platforms for Spoken English improve learning outcomes

Students showed 2.1 times improvement over students who have no English-language training 

Bangalore: The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and Sattva Consulting today announced the results of a two and half year pan-India study that showed an increase of 2.1 times improvement for college students using technology-based models in improving Spoken English over students who have no English-language training. This study was conducted January 2017 to July 2019 for 14,000 final year college students. The focus of the study was the urban youth job-seeker population, with a focus on Tier III and IV colleges with otherwise no access to job readiness coaching.

In the last decade, the importance of English has risen with an increase in the number of jobs that require fluency in spoken English. In a 2012 survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit, 70 percent of executives said their workforce will need to master English to realise corporate expansion plans, and a quarter said more than 50 percent of their total workforce would need English ability. Yet only four percent of men and two percent of women in wage employment in India report speaking fluently in English.

The multi-year study conclusively shows that ed-tech is an effective, affordable, and scalable English-language learning tool that can improve employability for low-income, aspirational Indian youth at scale. The results of this study have even greater relevance in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Given the economic impact of the crisis, there will be a stronger need for students to improve their chances of employability and their readiness to the market. In addition, the continued risk of the pandemic and the emerging reality of social distancing would mean the role of technology in education will continue to grow.

 

“We are excited about the results of this study as it establishes proof points for democratizing access to effective spoken English courses,” said Geeta Goel, Country Director – India, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation said. “We have a strong commitment to ensuring low-income youth find meaningful employment, and this study demonstrates that technology is an effective tool for helping students learn to speak English at scale. This can translate into more aspirational jobs opening up for low-income students graduating from college.”

The study concluded in July 2019 and the following are the key insights:

  1. While pure online learning worked well for advanced students, blended models with offline content was most effective for beginner students.
  2. ALL types of students improved, but beginners showed 6 times improvement over advanced level students.
  3. Background factors like family income and parents’ education influenced starting levels but did not affect learning patterns and improvement.
  4. Students who signed up on their own, voluntarily, improved 36 percent more than students who were mandated by their colleges and schools.
  5. Specific mobile application features, such as leader boards, demonstrated an increase in effectiveness and adoption among students.
  6. Students with better English proficiencies earned 23 percent higher salaries
  7. Factors such as semester of intervention, college support, type of cities were critical to the success of the intervention.
  8. Fully on-line models had the lowest cost of delivery and were most suitable for scale

The multi-year study conclusively shows ed-tech is an effective, affordable and scalable English-language learning tool that can improve employability for low-income, aspirational Indian youth at scale. The results of this study gain greater relevance in the light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Given the economic impact of the crisis, there will be a stronger need for students to improve their chances of employability and their readiness to the market.

Rathish Balakrishnan, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Sattva said, “We hope practitioners take these recommendations in helping implement and improve their programmes. We hope that the evidence from this study builds confidence among donors to fund more technology interventions to improve Spoken English Skills. Most importantly, we see this study and this report as an ongoing engagement in driving impact.”

These insights provide relevant answers when such technology solutions gain increased attention and adoption among colleges, skill development institutions, and other social impact programmes. The time for ed-tech has arrived.

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