First in-depth analysis of English in Indian primary schools

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

A new report released today (20 November 2013) provides the first in-depth analysis of English teaching and skills of primary aged children in India.

The joint study between the British Council and Pratham, India’s largest NGO working on primary education, analyses data on basic English abilities of children collected in the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER). The analysis gives unparalleled insight into the role of English in the country’s primary school sector. 

As a piece of research useful in terms of cultural relations and its ability to inform the UK knowledge economy, key findings and suggestions include:

• Being multilingual has considerable social, educational and long-term cognitive/medical benefits for a child;

• English should be seen as a ‘key language’ in India but the importance of other languages should not be overlooked;

• The methodology and pedagogy of teaching English in India should use general guiding principles which allow language teaching to be implemented according to local needs and resources;

• A strong positive relationship seems to exist between the level of reading performance in the language of school instruction and a student’s English language performance.

The report also details the ASER tools used to conduct the research and looks to future ways in which further understanding of Indian education can help inform policy recommendations in this area.

Commenting on the report, Alison Barrett, Director, English for Education Systems, South Asia at the British Council said: “As perhaps the United Kingdom’s greatest international asset, understanding the role of the English language and how it is taught across the world is vital for the work we do.

”Innovative research such as this gives us important insight into the Indian education system and allows us to better understand how we can progress English Language Teaching in the region. The British Council is committed to improving access to English in India and we hope that our aim to work with up to 1.5 million teachers of English in the country will continue to positively build the growing relationship between the UK and India.”

Rukmini Banerji, who leads on the ASER report at Pratham, added: “In reaching over 600,000 children each year, ASER is the largest annual data set in India that collects information on children's basic reading ability and arithmetic. Undoubtedly, it is the largest source of data on basic English for children in India. 

“Looking at the evidence it is essential that we review and rework our expectations and our teaching-learning practices to fit with what children can do and what, as a country, we want them to learn. 

“We believe that in a multi-lingual country like India we should think about reading in the broadest sense - reading in the regional or local language is as important as the ability to read in an international language like English. The evidence also shows that children's competence and confidence in one language strongly influences their capability in other languages so it is vital that the power of these links is considered within the context of language teaching.” 

A full copy of the report is available here.

For media queries, please contact Angeles Micah in the British Council Communications Team on +91 11 4149 7240 or

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We work in over 100 countries worldwide to build engagement and trust for the UK through the exchange of knowledge and ideas between people. We work in the arts, education, science, sport and governance and last year we reached over 128 million people. 

The British Council is recognised across India for its network of 9 libraries and cultural centres. We offer a range of specialised projects in arts, education, exams, English language and society to audiences across India and more than 100,000 members. We also provide access to English language training and learning for both students and teachers, offer UK qualifications in India and enable opportunities to study in the UK.