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Concept for Grade 1 English Textbook

Winner at Jugaad 2018 by The Walking School Bus. 

Funded and implemented by Simbi Foundation.



What is the concept?

Redesign of a grade 1 English textbook that emphasizes self-revision for students in rural India by the creative use of storyboarding and textless comics.



The Indian Education system comprises of private and state public schools. It is often observed that the students in the govt. schools in rural India are demotivated to study and underperform when compared to their counterparts in the cities.


Observation during field visits

Telephonic interview with experts

Conversation with teachers and kids

Looking at existing curriculum


My team made field visits to Gadheri upper primary school in Jabalpur. We observed & talked to children before the school started as well as during the schedule started. We talked to experts in curriculum design to enrich our knowledge. We also looked at and scrutinized the existing books.


1. The children are shy when talking about the English language.

2. Children were motivated to study if someone in their family is educated and thus respected in the village. Some children's parents were employed as guards at a college and knew the importance.

3. Teachers, as well as children, had less motivation to teach or study.

4. Teachers stayed in the city and would often get late in the commute to the village.

5. Government schools are often understaffed and one teacher has to teach multiple classes together. 

6. The ideal way to teach English as a second language is to introduce sounds first - Expert.

Design Direction

1. Various system-level problems of culture and teachers' attitude should be taken as constraints to the solution.

2. The solution should be low-cost (no change in infra etc), as such changes are prone to be delayed or not implemented.  

3. Create a sense of joy with English.

Journey Map

Life of the primary stakeholder Ram, a 7 yr old.



Design Challenge

How might we solve the various system-level problems present in the Indian Rural Education System through a redesign in Grade 1 English textbooks?



Choices explained

Why textbooks ? It reaches every school in India.

Why English ? Most resources (digital, text) are available in English.

Why Grade 1 ? That is when RTE begins.


The textbook has the chapters in form of a TEXTLESS COMIC. It emphasizes SELF-REPETITION. The exercise designed can be tutored or performed with the teacher, a senior student, or even a classmate.

Proposed Journey of the Solution

The teacher teaches the student a particular object is called a 'bat'

At home, he narrates the story in Hindi to his younger sibling but the particular word in English.

After several repetitions, he memorizes the word.



User Testing

Four user-testing exercises were conducted to design the solution.

1. Understanding the drawings in the frame

We took a comic strip with objects starting from 'a'. We wanted to understand which frames were understandable to the students.

Result - It was observed that students failed to understand the frames where the character was showing a thought/emotion. They could understand frames where an 'action' was happening



2. Layout of the frames

Top to bottom vs side by side.

Result - The frames arranged from top to bottom were naturally understood. The majority failed to understand when the comic frames were arranged left to right.



3. Illustration style 

Result - The students did not prefer minimalist styles.



4. English words already present in their vocabulary

To avoid intimidation by a new language, we decided to teach them the alphabet sounds through English words already familiar to them (words they already know or objects present in their surroundings). We jotted down a list and took consensus from 16 students. (ref. chart for the list)


1. Attractive book with comics & stories

2. Indianized content- Objects and words used are prevalent in rural households

3. Comic frames kept in a vertical order- Natural scanning pattern easy for the kids

4. More focus on actions in the comic story - Research findings kids could understand actions more easily than emotions

5. A teacher can teach more than one class - Students will do this activity on their own

6. Untrained teachers can also teach - Govt. does employ untrained teachers

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