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A student in India uses edtech to learn English

English as a road to a better future in India

It is no secret that the ability to speak English is a marketable skill in India. 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, yet only four percent of men and two percent of women in wage employment in India report speaking fluent English. That makes it especially important that youth from low-income families have the opportunity to learn to speak English.

Question: How do we provide quality English training in a country as large as India where learners far outnumber qualified trainers?

Answer: While the answer seems simple – technology – it’s a bit more complicated than that. While we know that technology can reach millions of people, there have been a proliferation of language learning apps with limited evidence on what solutions work. We set out to understand what types of learning apps and models actually impact learners through a controlled pilot that spanned 14,000 students across the country.

Here are a few key takeaways from the report.

Technology solutions help improve spoken English skills for youth.

Across all the intervention models, blended models show better overall outcomes, and pure technology models demonstrate a higher ROI in terms of impact. Most importantly, beginners show the highest levels of improvement in their end scores, indicating that these models are effective interventions for those starting with the ability to speak little to no English.

There is not one specific feature that creates the highest impact.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach as different people need different interventions. It became clear very early on that technology solutions need to be customized to the needs of the people they are serving.

Family income does not affect learning patterns.

It is a level playing field when it comes to learning how to speak English. The results from the study indicate that there is no difference in learning outcomes for youth from varying economic backgrounds.

The ability to speak English results in a better chance of prosperity.

Students in our cohort who are more proficient in English command 23 percent higher salaries than those who do not speak English at all.

These findings are even more relevant in today’s COVID-19 environment where we rely on digital learning solutions more than we ever have before. Spoken English ed-tech solutions have the potential to improve employability at scale for low-income youth throughout India, helping them find meaningful employment and serving as a pathway out of poverty.

Read the full report here.