Thoughts on economics and liberty

Suggestions received so far to improve Ramji Mishra’s children’s English

Thanks to the five commentators who provided me with inputs to date on how we can improve Ramji Mishra’s children’s English.

I’m de-identifying the comments I’ve received so far. Please continue to write to me either via email at or on Facebook  (including this).


I’m informed that the local Bhadohi team of SBP has requested someone to provide pro-bono tutoring in English. That’s a great start. However, we need to do much more.


I can help for English subject and English Grammar, literature [Sanjeev: it is unclear how this help will be provided – I need to explore separately, further]


I would be more than happy to help out. My 2 cents here.

1. Can they afford to buy a Wren and Martin grammar book? That would help them to sort out the grammatical errors. [Sanjeev: that’s a goood suggestion – I’m more inclined to provide them with Strunk and White straightaway, since learning grammar is not critical to English]

2. Secondly its about narration. For that they will need to watch some English TV programmes, say BBC or TED talks. I am hoping they have a television, else someone has to load the videos on their phones. [Sanjeev: they have a small outdated TV but no access to such programs. They also don’t have any sophisticated smartphone, but one can find out how to get them access to such English programs. ] This is an important step. The sub steps to this are
a. Write sentences in a particular sequence like time/place/context/cause -> content/effect. Like ‘In a land not so far away, lived a man’ etc.
b. Describe the idea in short sentences using idioms, appropriate words, simple phrases, phrasal verbs etc. to express meaning, instead of complicated phrases and sentences. Here are some example phrases which are used very often everywhere. I keep noting these down as I come across them, this is far from complete.
.Took Away
.As it turns out
.Conscious of
.And yet
.With that done
.A set of ideas emerge(emphasis on emerge)
. Finds himself or herself
.At the dawn of
.No more than
.Speaking of which
I have more, I’m just sending these as a sample. I can send you the rest of the list if you want [Sanjeev: let’s stick to Strunk and White on this for now]

Once they are able to grasp the pattern of the sentences and the narration, they should be good. Do not focus on pronunciation right away, that will waste the time of learning. Let them grasp the logic of the language first.


Regarding the TV programmes, what we can do is also to send them printed transcripts of a TED talk or BBC programmes. Also If they have Whatsapp on their phone, I am sure it could play videos too, all phones are capable of that.

We should be looking at some volunteer who could download some YouTube videos and load it on their phone. If they have a provision for a SD card in the phone of the child, and they do not have additional memory, we could buy them an SD card, a 32 GB SD card would cost 500 rupees

So I see a cost of about 750 Rupees right away plus someones benevolence to download good videos load it on the SD card and give to them. The cost is not that high. I will add about 200 rupees more for other stationery like pens and papers.

So here is what needs to be done  in my opinion.

  1. Buy the Strunk and White Book and start reading up on it immediately.
  2. Buy exercise books and pens.
  3. Buy the SD card if they do not have one. Let someone download videos and transfer to this SD card and hand them over.
  4. The student needs to repeatedly watch the videos and try to grasp the flow of the language. Then may be write down or repeat the sentences even if they do not comprehend it yet. There is another important step here, let them log their thoughts on what they understood about the programs. It is more like a process of introspection. I figure it is more of a tacit process as the mind subconsciously learns as well. So by reading Strunk and White and following step ‘1’ , the mind will unconsciously start linking what was learned and whats there in the videos.
  5. Then start conversing with compassionate English speaking people who will not make fun of them. Very important step. The speaker has to be kind and understanding.
  6. PCs could be arranged, but I feel if they do not have a decent internet connection, it would be tough as it would have a recurring cost of about 500 rupees a month for a decently fast internet connection.

Also someone will have to monitor their activity on the PC in that case and train them on what should and should not be watched and surfed etc.

But I am assuming here that they have access to computers in college at least. So we should try to see if a mobile, and hard copies of books help, if they do, PCs could be brought in at a later stage. Its a fully adaptive approach, depending on their learning styles. Someone needs to evaluate them for this. An initial investment of about 1000 rupees for buying stuff for points ‘1’ through ‘4’ should be enough for now but thats my opinion.

Update: I’ve procured the following pics of the electronic systems the family has:

8gb memory card, Sansui, Rs 359 plan for free data for 86 days, Per day 1 GB free data



You know that it is “exposure” to something that can bring about the change required – in whichever area or field.

So I’m not going to waste your or my time writing suggestions on this issue. Let’s simply do it.

I must however say that, yes, in a globalized world – English is important; otherwise it should not have made a damned difference to anyone not knowing it.

If they agree then you may provide me their phone number .

I have a BSNL landline and the scheme allows me to make uncharged calls to any network on Sunday.

I propose to converse with them ,whoever is interested (from only this family), for about an hour, every Sunday besides telling them what to do. [Sanjeev: this is a truly positive suggestion – let’s action it]

My preferred time of calling them would be between 1100 -1230 hrs(daylight) on Sunday. Perhaps we can begin next week not tomorrow.

If above is not convenient to them then we can work out a mutually convenient time liaising through you . I do not use any social media networks and I’m also not a “mobile phone” guy. My main mode of comm. is email.

I do not pretend to be Shashi Tharoor and would most likely fail any grammar test but English is the language I have been communicating in for the last 48 years, so perhaps I have a little more exposure to it than them.

And, yes, we will have to give it at least 1 year to see any sort of improvement, if at all, unless they prove me wrong and do better than I expect.

If they have someone right in their hometown who is willing to help then that would be preferable to my reaching out.


No point relying on volunteers for ongoing support that may span years. They wont do as good a job as paid staff. Best to approach charities in the area to take up their cause, or alternatively raise the money yourself (or as a party cause to garner good publicity) directly and pay it directly to the best private school so the funds are used properly.

It costs at most $2000 for a one year enrolment. The oldest kid in the family can be sent and he can lead the others. General advice is fine via watsapp but daily work on english is best done in person by teachers or tutors. [Sanjeev: this is not practical – $2000 is more than the family can save in ten years]

Also in india companies are required to donate a certain percentage to charity by law. Businesses can be approached to channel the money as a tied grant to a particular charity. [Sanjeev: this is not practical, since you’ve not said that you would approach companies and tie up with a charity]

They can email me for general advice about course selection, studying abroad etc. But no point trying to help with study over the internet or phone. [Sanjeev: that’s a positive suggestion but they are not yet into course selection or studying abroad]


Any person who reads and writes decent English in the present day would have started off by reading comic books when he/she was younger. I personally believe that entertainment is the biggest incentive for a person to do anything. The children of Mishra family might not be little children anymore, but they need incentive to read English. My suggestion: English Comics and English Dictionary. When some of my students ask me how to learn and talk in English, I tell them the same thing: read comics, watch English movies and tv series, talk to your friends only in English even if they make fun of you, there are no shortcuts to learn English.


  1. I’ll set up a Whatsapp group with commentator 3 and the Bhadohi SBP team leader + another person who is interested. We’ll work out the phone call timing issue and other details on this group. I’ll discuss some other details with others before including in this group. – ACTIONED
  2. Can anyone in India send an old PC/ laptop to the family?
  3. Can anyone in India send old English books that you don’t read, to the family?

Happy to receive any further inputs.

Other suggestions received:

Add Udemy class content or courseera classes

Amar Chitra Katha subscription:

listening to the English news(max. 15-20mins) everyday on DD

[Sanjeev: I had a look and these are hopeless classes. Too pedantic. I don’t think anyone can learn English well using such “courses”. Instead, English must be picked up while listening to something interesting, like an English movie, or a documentary.

I’ve asked Renu to start with]

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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