The British Council delivers the Ceibal English project, which forms part of the Uruguayan government's long-term strategy to improve English teaching in primary schools, focusing on grades 4-6.
The Ceibal English project began as a small-scale pilot (proof of concept) in July 2012, when we started teaching 50 remote lessons each week in 20 urban schools outside Montevideo, using teachers based in Argentina, Colombia and Mexico, delivering interactive lessons in real time using videoconferencing technology.
In 2013 we signed a three year contract with Plan Ceibal to progressively expand the project, first to 500 remote lessons per week. By July 2013 the number of lessons had doubled to 1000 per week, including lessons taught from The Philippines.
How does it work?
Specially written lesson plans guide remote and class teachers in the content of lessons, using games, songs, videos and other digital materials.
A key element of the project is the close partnership needed between the remote teacher, who teaches one 45-minute lesson each week via video-conference, and the class teacher, who often only has a very limited knowledge of English. Class teachers are responsible for delivering two 45 minute practice lessons each week, making use of digital materials downloaded onto the pupils’ One Laptop per Child (OLPC) laptops. Class teachers are improving their own English by delivering the lessons and through an online self-access course, LearnEnglish Pathways, which takes them at their own pace through eight levels up to approximately B2 level on the Common European Framework scale.
Success so far
An evaluation of impact carried out by the Plan Ceibal evaluation team in November 2013 revealed that children had made good progress between July 2013 and November 2013.
One of the greatest achievements of the program has been maintaining students' motivation to learn, which has been helped by the way technology has been incorporated into the classroom.
There are plans to retest the pupils again in November 2014 and November 2015, which will give a clear indication of progress over a three year period, by which time the majority of pupils should reach between A1 and A2 level on the CEFR framework.
At the beginning of the 2014 school year, the number of remote lessons reached over 2000 each week, with just under half the remote lessons being taught from The Philippines. By early 2015, our target is over 4000 remote lessons each week, reaching around 90% of schools in the country.