By Tarun Patel
English Language Teaching in Rural Area
by Nutan Yadav, Lecturer Govt. College, Nalwa(Hisar) Haryana
Teaching of English over ages
Even after 40 to 50 years of teaching of English, learners in India lack competence in this language. The teaching of English in India at all three levels i.e. primary, secondary &tertiary level is still fraught with a multitude of difficulties &obstacles. Realizing the demand &importance of English, in almost all the states of India, English is taught as a compulsory language &from the very first standard, even then the outcome is unsatisfactory. Here I am not questioning on the intelligibility of our learners, they are intelligent enough as showing good result in other subjects, but feel uncomfortable with English language &those who show excellent result, is totally based on cramming &rote learning.
Reasons are many. I am channeling some to portrait a picture how English is being taught in India basically in Haryana where I belong to. When a child enters in school at primary level, he is taught English language as a subject not a language. Stress remains on formation of alphabets not on speaking or listening. To enhance vocabulary they are forced to crème a long list of words. When these learners enters at secondary level they are competent enough in writing & understanding English language but this is cramming based not on creativity At tertiary level situation becomes more pathetic
Apart from a lack of instructional resources-a general problem in a numbers of developing countries -many more has often been the bane of the Indian education system. Class size is most often very large comprising with a wide range of initial proficiency &learning needs. Over centralization of educational policies, academic inflexibility of the system not only stifle innovative &pragmatic deviation but also create a flow with the current, pacifistic resignation among resourceful &well motivated educator. Teachers have very little to say in designing the curriculum, choosing the materials &textbooks or developing assessment technique. The only assessment that matters is the year end examination &students typically study forint by cramming answers to likely questions. Such questions &answers can be readily found in guidebooks or crib schools for which there has been a flourishing market, or the answers are abstracted from notes dictated by teachers in classes. Some students especially the ones from vernacular medium schools, insists that they find the study guides more useful on tests &exams than the class room instructions or studying their text books.
The English was introduced in colonies like India basically for the study of the literature and culture, the market value for literally study has gone down steeply in the present day world. English for professional purposes like facing interviews, writing resumes, writing reports, conduction campaigns, writing letters, participation in meetings, seminars, conferences and discussions is demanded; English for communication is the mantra everywhere. English literature which was once centering of the cultural enterprise of the empire has lost its hold on English as a technology-oriented communicative tool. But unfortunately the university system of India is not sensitive to the changing needs of the society outside. Departments in English in Universities and colleges have not cashed in on the changes that are taking place in the world. When the outside world is using English for international and intercultural communication and technology purpose, universities and college in India still follow the Macaulayan syllabus and teach texts like The Spanish Tragedy (16th Century) Everyman in His Humour (1596) The Alchemist (1610) or some ancient texts that neither the teachers nor the students understand or are interested in. What shall we say? Is a tragical or comical?
Overall English teaching situation is not much different from what it was 40 years ago. A very few teachers can fully understand or mentally related to what they teach or even wax eloquent about. A cursory examination of the literary college students reveals that they are still studying many of the same authors popular in post colonial time : Oscar Wilde, H. G. Wells , Somerset Maugham, O’ Henry, A G. Gardner, Milton, Shakespeare, Shelley and so on. The randomly chosen questions from some of the recent university examination demonstrate how English syllabi are still dominated by selections from literary classics universally taught in the days of yore.
1. What is Shelley’s message in his Ode to the West Wind?
2. How does Emily Dickenson present death?
3. Justify the title Great Expectations?
Both Ramanathan (1999) and Lukmani (1992) comments that
” … the content of the literature based text books is often unrelated to the lives and experiences of the students studying them , resulting in ‘ students ‘ feeling of cultural dissonance between themselves and the topics portrait in the literature [and ] feelings of alienation from text with overly western theme”.
( Ramanathan page 225 )
The lake of any significant changes in the English language curricula, teaching methodology, examination system, persistence of the Herculean task of teaching English in very large classes is truly saddening. The overall picture in the post modern India of today seems hardly any different from the post colonial yesterday. There seems to be three strands of student in higher education sector.
1. A majority of students graduate regional – language – medium school with some books or rote knowledge, but little communicative ability in English. They then enter English medium institution of higher education and struggle with varying degrees of success to cope with the English language requirement of higher education.. Most managed to develop English largely formulaic and cliché – ridden, to meet the English related demands of their education and of the career they have been forced to choose.
2. A small segment, having graduated from English medium school (in Indian jargon “convent schools or expansive public schools ” ) enter in colleges with a glib fluency in English and enjoy an initial advantage as well as some social power over their peer group. Most of these students have acquired their English proficiency at the cost of alienation from their native language and culture &to dissociate themselves from their native language is even a matter of perverse pleasure &social self importance for some of them.
3. As for the much large group of students from regional language schools who enroll in colleges where all subjects are taught in the regional language &where English is only one of the subjects, they can &often do, go through college with very little use of English & end up pursuing career which requires only a minimal use of the language.
Teaching in rural area
Rural students are very much affected by this diseased ELT system. There is great mismatch between urban &rural students. Urban students somehow manage to learn &use English quite well in the context in which the language is used in India in spite of this deconstructing English language teaching. They are third generation learner having spot &co-operation from parents, environment &atmosphere. But rural students are first generation learner who takes English as foster language &through out life not able to cope with it in spite of their best efforts. However they might be able to write as per requirement but speaking remains out of their range. They learn without knowing what they are learning. Linguistic research says this is why a feeling of backwardness itself embosses among these learners. Most students find it difficult to understand the substance of the prescribed literary selection. The typical method of teaching consists of the teachers reading of the text in the small portion, explaining its meaning &allusions &figure of speech in simplified English or in regional language &an occasional discussion of grammar points with a question or throw in. The teaching is rarely student centered &most students have neither the chance nor the motivation to actively participate. English is taught as an academic subject ¬ as a medium or mode of active, constructive communicational intellectualization.
Many other factors make the learning of ELT more diverse in rural area
- Rural students are deprived of technology as enjoyed by urban or university students. Lack of technology, books &other things become an obstacle in their learning process. In urban colleges there are language labs, computers, LCD projector, CD players’ tape recorders, microphones &many more instruments that create an atmosphere of learning but in rural areas they lake even classrooms for proper teaching &the proper supply of electricity. . If somehow some colleges manage to get, they do not have regular staff for maintenance. More over teachers are not so competent to handle these instruments as they don’t have any such training.
- At the name of audio visual they have only chalk &blackboard, centuries old method of teaching. No doubt a teacher can teach more effectively &creatively with chalk &duster as research says but with such a big class of hundred to one fifty students she/he feels him/her self handicap.
- Haryana Government has started EDUSET with Soft Skill program to provide an atmosphere of learning English &communication skills but all these effort are fruitless until &unless something innovative should be done in class room teaching.
- Rural students do not get the opportunity to interact with other renowned personality or peer groups The other reason is that other subjects are taught in Hindi or in vernacular languages. So like other subjects, students take English as a subject not a language. They don’t put their effort to learn it as a language. The problem is not with tertiary level but from the primary &secondary level. The fact is that the roots are rotten. That’s way so many policies are made but all are failure. A teacher has to use mother tongue to make them understand. A language teacher is well aware that their students bring to the language classroom a variety of attitude, experiences &strategies as well as variety of beliefs &he/she has to handle them. But he/she feels him/her self helpless without teaching aids. He ultimately has to adopt translation method to handle this unwilling crowd.
Mother tongue influence can also be seen in the students with rural area background because they were not given proper pronunciation drill from the primary level. So what ever they speak, vernacular effect can be observed very easily. For e.g. School-/sku:l/ Book /bu:k/ Student /setu:dent/ etc. At tertiary level it’s impossible to correct these learners
In ELT we wish to train our students
1. To hear & understand English
2. To speak in the language & be understood
3. To read in the language& understand what they read
4. To write in the language &to understand.
The four aims of teaching English correspond to four language skills or language ability. These are Listing, Reading, Speaking &writing
The purpose of all language teaching is communication in the language being taught whether receptive oral (Listening), productive oral (speech) receptive written (reading) &productive written (writing). These four skills are the foundation on which language learning is built. If this foundation is strong, then the structure erected on this will be safe &useful. These language skills are to be developed in sequential order. These are interdependent in the sense that failure to acquire one will lead to a general failure in learning the language.
But the curriculum at tertiary level in Indian does not develop these skills. More over the method by which this syllabus is being taught, don’t develop these skills in students in sequential order. In our classroom teaching stress remains on writing as our evaluation system is writing based. Whatever students write in their annual exam is the assessment of their whole year learning. Our classroom teaching only enhance our students listening ability as the maximum time is spent in teacher’s lectures and students participation remain almost zero. Maximum teachers adopt translation method so students do not have the drill of listening, speaking, writing and reading as teachers use vernacular language considering the level of learner.
One can not fail to notice that the advantages &the power inherent in English literacy are enjoyed primarily by the urban middle &upper class& remain inaccessible to those who are educationally disadvantaged because of their economic situation.
Atkinson 1999, who has also studied this situation in India ,observed that students from rural area are typically excluded from the kind of access to enjoyed by their urban social-middle class counterpart; consequently, they are in effect, denied important benefits of English known students. These students who are not sufficiently literate in English are essentially unable to participate in a number of domains such as global business. English proficiency &access to English may also be a strong factor in the polarization between urban &rural communities. It’s not that students from rural area don’t realize the importance of knowing English. As Krishnaswami and Sriraman(1994) point out
“Indian students’ have figured out that knowing English opens up opportunities not only for pan-Indian mobility, but also for more lucrative &satisfying careers overseas.”
College students when interviewed were well aware that knowledge of English can help them gain access to educational opportunities &careers abroad in English speaking countries.
No doubt urban students also have same syllabus, methods of teaching and evaluation system but they manage somehow by parental support, extra classes and with their peer group but rural students are not able to cop with them and that’s why they remain backward. This curriculum, pedagogy and evaluation system have negative effect on students and that’s why they don’t attract towards this language as they are not able to grasp with it.
No doubt there’re lots of drawbacks in our present education system. It is not in tune with current scenario Even then we cannot be stand still. System of teaching can not change overnight. Hard work is the requirement of time. Teacher’s positive attitude & their use of innovative method of teaching can provide a reliable bridge to the process of learning English in rural area. Taking in consideration the learning background of the learner, if a teacher designs his/her method & she may get in implemented more successfully.
Ø Modern requirement seems to get satisfied by following the learner centered approach which view language learning acquisition as a process of acquiring skills rather than a body of knowledge.
Here teacher is a facilitator -a person who manages the environment &material which will help the students becomes autonomous learner.
A learner centered approach facilitates learning through techniques involving in activities. A learner has to be given some mind engaging task. This allow greater peer interaction, which is more effective in acquiring features of information use in language; which are often not available in a formal teacher centered class. This generates the ability to manipulate language in social context which is an important feature of communicative competence. .
English teachers can not confine themselves with centuries old translation methods or text books they themselves have to be very creative to save the degrading standard of ELT in India. This we can do by adopting situational method of teaching. In the way learner get involve &they do not feel bore. For example
Ø To improve student’s vocabulary we can ask them same sounding words as Mat, Rat, Cat, Pat, Bat, and Hat etc.
Reward, Award, Sword etc.
Hut, Cut, But, Nut, etc
Ø With in groups we can ask them to tell the words related to classroom, hospital, Post office, Bank, Kitchen, etc.
Ø Fill the blanks as
N o_ o _ n
N o _ u_ n
Ø Certain games as
Group A Group B
There are many more ways.
Ø Same sounding words but different meaning as
Allusion , illusion, accepted, excepted, Our Hour, very, vary etc
Ø In spite of telling word to word meaning to the literary part prescribed in the text book teacher can involve learners in certain activities related to it. As dividing the class in four groups’ one group may be asked to collect information about writer, other to about the period when it was written, third to write summary &the last one to compile the matter of all three groups & prepare a presentation.
Ø While teaching stories a can write difficult words on the blackboard &describe them when they come in the context .Later on teacher can ask learners to narrator same story in past time or in future later on teacher may highlight nouns, pronoun adjective ,adverbs etc. in the same story.
Ø Time to time a teacher may give small tests to the students based on all four drills as speaking, listening, reading, writing, as project works ,reciting competition, spelling competition. For e.g. Rat, Telephone, Enough, House, Examination, Nation, Number etc.
Ø English language can be divided in different sections as poetry, prose, communication English, grammar phonetics etc. each teacher may be asked for about his/her interest before giving him the section to teach. A teacher can do justices if he is interested in the matter &more over if have mastery in it because teaching English is skill based not knowledge based. Here purpose is to hone four skills of the language not providing the learner knowledge about the language.
Ø Again an English language teacher has to be innovative &be receptive to adopt new technology or method to make the teaching process effective. It is clear that computer can not be the supplant of the language teacher but the role of language teacher has been changed &they have to transform themselves to meet the challenges at global level. They can not confine themselves with centuries old translation methods or text books they themselves have to be very creative to save the degrading standard of ELT in India &particularly in Haryana.
In order to bring revaluation in English language teaching, reoriented program &updated knowledge is the requirement of time. More &more technology should be used while teaching language to create the interest of students. Teaching of English has to be views as mastering of language skills ¬ as a portion to be covered.
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Ellis, Rad. Understanding Second Language Acquisition : Oxford University Press.
Gupta, R. S. English in India , Issues and Problem : Academic Foundation
Stern, H. H. Fundamental Concept of Language Teaching : Oxford University Press.
P. G. Certificate Course Material from the English and the Foreign Language University, Hyderabad.
Stevick. W. Earl, Teaching and Learning Language : Cambridge Publication
Gatenby : English Language as a Foreign Language : London Publication.
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