School kids in Uruguay are being taught English live from London, thanks to a unique videoconferencing project from the British Council and Plan Ceibal.
Despite the two countries being over 6,000 miles apart, the tech-savvy initiative is using HD communications equipment to effectively link-up the classrooms across their two different continents.
Currently in its pilot phase in the UK, the British arm of the project is seeing 47 classes being taught each week from Wandstead House, a community house based in the London borough of Redbridge.
Led by five teachers and a specialist videoconferencing consultant from Video Conferencing for Global Learning Ltd (VCfGL), the London-based teachers engage with 1,000 primary school children in Uruguay on a weekly basis with the Uruguayan class teachers often learning English alongside their pupils.
The UK component forms part of a wider drive by the Uruguayan National Public Education Administration (ANEP) and Plan Ceibal to deliver remote teaching to every child in the country’s state school system over the next three years.
Initially starting with a small-scale pilot in just 20 schools back in 2012, the overall project has since expanded dramatically and now comprises over 2,000 remote lessons being delivered each week from countries including the Philippines and Argentina. The ultimate aim is to reach 120,000 young learners via 4,000 remote lessons each week by March 2015.
Sara Pierson, Head of English for Education Systems at the British Council, said: “Connecting people around the world forms the basis of much of our work at the British Council and this work with Plan Ceibal is a fantastic example of how that can be achieved successfully.
“For teachers in London to be able to reach and engage with learners over 6,000 miles away is not just a great technological feat but showcases the vast experience and expertise of the English language professionals involved in this project. In addition to providing a beneficial teaching offer for young people in Uruguay, we have received strong interest in the project from countries across the world which represents a major opportunity for UK companies to start remote teaching in emerging markets. We are keen to share our experiences for the wider benefit of the sector here in the UK as well as to help ensure more young people across the world are able to benefit from such projects in the future.”
Mina Patel, Director of Video Conferencing for Global Learning Ltd, the organisation that manages and delivers the lessons being taught from London to Uruguay, added: “This is the first time the UK has been able to deliver regular lessons which are timetabled in full HD quality video and audio to support an international curriculum programme. The organisational planning and teaching material from the British Council and Plan Ceibal has been outstanding.
“Our teachers are qualified language practitioners with degrees in teaching or PGCE qualifications. This makes our remote teachers, the next generation of language teachers, they are our global workforce of the future. Not only can they teach face to face in schools across London but now they have the skills and technological capability to teach English using VC into any country in the world. This is the future for the delivery of content into classrooms.”
Analysis of the project so far has revealed measurable improvements in the English skills of the young people involved. Claudia Brovetto of Plan Ceibal, explains: “The data is consistent and very robust. We tested children who started the programme in March 2013 and July 2013 and found there were improvements in all grades and in all social contexts. There are also marked differences in the test results in July and December, for the groups which began in July. All analyses were carried out excluding children who claim to study English outside of school. All differences are statistically significant.”