Teach English in ShigezhuAng Zhen - Tianjin

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Teaching of english in indian schoolsThe British colonized India for about 200 years and though India became independent in 1947, the english language has come to be an integral part of indian life. India is a vast and very diverse country where people speak more than 20 languages and they are so different from one another. english is broadly understood right across the country and has acted like a binding force. Till the early 1990s, most of the private schools (schools run by the government do not have english as the medium of instruction) in semi-urban and rural areas had been conducting instruction in native language. But with the advent of liberalization and globalization, a perception began to emerge(with good reason) that students with good english communicative skills have better chances of employment in the private sector and as a result, most of the schools switched to english as the medium of instruction. Parents too were pleased that unlike they who did not have access to english, their children would equip themselves with the english skills from a fairly young age. These schools began to charge heftier fee compared with those whose medium of instruction was not english. Everything looked rosy and promising but one critical aspect was overlooked. Schools began to treat english as a subject like other subjects rather than as a language. The whole curriculum was designed in such a way that the student does not have to use all the aspects of language and instead writing (read merely copying) and rote learning began to get prominence. Unfortunately the situation remains pretty much the same even today. Most of the teachers who teach english are themselves very poor in many aspects of the language and the situation is compounded by the fact that they are either poorly-trained or untrained. The examination system that is followed in schools also does not promote language learning and in fact actively encourages rote learning. Students are asked to mug up the contents from the course book and reproduce in tests. In many cases, students do not even understand what they learn and write in the tests. The high scores they get in the tests give them a false sense of pride about their proficiency. One of the reasons why students find english difficult is that there is an excessive and over the top stress on the rules of the language i.e.grammar.There is a widely held misconception that english can be mastered by learning grammar in full. This is dismaying considering the fact that language learning calls for inculcating receptive skills i.e. reading and listening so that productive skills i.e. writing and speaking prosper. Grammar is important but it is not the panacea. Teachers hardly use activities/games that stimulate curiosity in children which can create a conducive environment for language learning. Instead they resort to the monotonous lecture method which does not create any kind of interest or zeal in children to explore and experiment with the language.Pronunciation, perhaps is the biggest casualty. Most children are not exposed to english outside classroom and though other subjects like science and math are taught in english, the subject teachers themselves are quite poor in aspects like pronunciation. english class is the only opportunity they have to listen to authentic and quality english. Unfortunately majority of the english teachers? pronunciation is inadequate and they show heavy first language influence in their pronunciation. As a result, students get used to a flawed system of pronouncing vocabulary and invariably reproduce the same. Though it is not desirable for an indian student to speak like a native speaker, the objective of english language learning ought to be to minimize the influence of mother tongue in pronunciation. Since students learn only grammatical rules and hardly any productive skills during their schooling years, they find it very difficult to clear english assessment tests like TOEFL/IELTS.Of late, centers claiming to be Spoken english training institutes have mushroomed in every nook and corner of the country. They give a false hope to gullible students that english language can be learnt in a fixed period of time say in about 60 days. They even guarantee that they would turn students into flawless speakers using modern and scientific methods. They even brazenly advertise that in the event of this not happening, their course fee would be returned. These kinds of dishonest practices, unfortunately find many takers and these unscrupulous centers make a fast buck. The only way this whole tamasha, if I may call it, be stopped in its tracks, there should be a fundamental shift in the way english is taught in schools. It should be understood that it is a language and has got to be taught and treated that way. Take care of the receptive skills and they would take care of the productive skills. Only then can aspiring Indians from all backgrounds take their rightful place in today?s globalized world where usage of english is not a choice but a necessity.