Friday, October 2, 2015



(Dr. M. Prabu)

I have long held that English Language Teaching in the State of Tamil Nadu does not serve the purpose of any of the stakeholders involved. It is probably the only the State in India that has allowed multiple systems of educational streams to have their own jurisdiction and each of them had different view and scope of ELT. This has done irreparable damage to large sections of the student populace as they are catered by the State in its schools. The political think-tanks have been in support of Tamil as the medium of instruction while the private bodies are allowed to be affiliated to Matriculation board and other boards whose medium of instruction was English.

Power scales have been turned completely in favour of English in the country since the advent of LPG [1991] and it has come to a stage where one's employability is very much pinned on one's proficiency in English. Those who could afford to go to premium English medium schools could garner plump jobs whereas the ones who were at government-run schools could end up only either as manual laborers or lowly-paid clerks in governmental/non-governmental offices and firms.

Here comes the question of what should be done to improve the quality of ELT in government schools. We have been laying emphasis on textbooks and methods for long. Instead, it is high time that we started looking at our teachers in the subject. Dedicated teachers for the subject of English have been appointed since 2002. Thousands of such teachers are working in government-run schools imparting English language to the students from Standard VI to Standard X. But, what has been achieved in the last 11 years is far from satisfactory.

I personally hold the strategy adopted responsible for this abysmal standard. The impetus should be attached with Capacity Building of Teachers in English rather than trying something out with regard to methods and textbooks. Teachers - both Trained Graduate Teachers and Post Graduate Teachers - are to be made to undergo rigorous in-service training programs at regular intervals to hone up their language skills. There are thousands of teachers who claim to be teaching English but cannot utter a single word in English. There are hundreds of them who have undergone their graduate studies through correspondence courses and could manage to clear recruitment tests like TRB or TET by hook or crook. The ability to clear these tests does not confer upon them any linguistic proficiency and competency to promote the cause of English in the State.

Every one of us has forgotten the fact that language learning is, first and last, an imitative process. The children should be adequately exposed to English sounds, words, sentences and speech. Every other effort would surely prove futile. There are certain avenues we can surely look at. Every district could have a dedicated ELT center where in-service training programs would be run all through the year. Every teacher in English should be made to attend this training program for a stipulated number of days every year. This program should carry different levels of certificates. And these certificates should be their mandatory passport to avail further career benefit. Also, a fourth-generation language laboratory must be installed in every district with a capacity of 120 units at the least. This lab must be attached with the ELT training center. The purpose of this training is to build the capacity of the teachers and, very definitely, not to assist them in their classroom teaching practices. The program should be so demanding and intellectually challenging to the teachers that a successful completion of this would naturally mean their tangibly increased mastery over the language. To run the ELT center and the lab, the best talent among the teachers must be identified and deployed. And, they too need to undergo training at some premier institutes like ASRC, EFLU or other private agencies regularly. One other option is that fresh unique talents could be recruited purely for this purpose. If this is not urgently done, the purpose of having appointed thousands of dedicated English teachers in the State would not yield the result desired.

The State of Tamil Nadu could take its inspiration from organizations like Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan where it is necessary for the teachers to undergo training for a specific period of time to be eligible for next annual increment. It is not the method, not the textbook, not the infrastructure where the key is hidden. It is with the teachers. Teachers must be polished and equipped before they are redeployed. They should be made to "speak English." Let us be honest in that. Ninety per cent of our teachers in English do not have even the basic language competency. We should be courageous enough to face this very fact. Only then, things will start falling in place. Till then, even one English medium section in each Standard in each school would serve no purpose and it would only add complications that are aplenty already.

Somewhere, sometime, someone should make the first move. Who would move the cheese?

1 comment:

  1. Prabu sir ur post sounds harsh while reading but its the fact which can't be neglected.we teachers should sharp our skills and equip ourselves with available resources