Monday, December 20, 2010

The Colonial Ghost - 5

The Sky is not Blue

We observed the classroom processes in class IV. There are 3 divisions in this class with one of the divisions as English medium. Children in this class are following NCERT English textbook and textbooks in other subjects prepared by some private publishers who claim that they are made as per NCERT syllabus.
We saw portfolios kept in files which were disappointing. They contained imperfect write ups in Malayalam some of which reminded us of how beginners in class 1 or 2 would write. There wasn’t much evidence of written work undertaken by children.
‘This is very queer,’ I thought. My face must have communicated what was there in mind to Kala. Through his silence he endorsed my view.
There was hardly any evidence of creative writing in English.
Show me your English textbook. I asked one of the girls. She gave me her copy of Marigold English textbook, a book loaded with lots and lots of information.
‘Children, can’t you write conversations, poems and stories in English?
‘Yes, Sir!’
‘Then please write what happened in the morning assembly today.’
‘We found clouds shading their smiling faces.’
‘Do we have to write in English?’
Children found to be thoroughly disturbed and insecure.
‘Can’t you write about what happened in the morning assembly?’
Quite reluctantly they stared writing. The starting trouble was visible. Some of them tore a sheet of paper from the notebook and started drawing margins.
‘Don’t worry about the margin. Just start writing,’ said Kala
We waited for more than 6 minutes. Moving round the class we noticed that most of them had written only one word, ‘assembly’ that too with different spellings.
For a moment we stood perplexed. This was something that we didn’t expect. The releasing of the magazines and news papers in the morning had created in our minds very high expectations on their creative and linguistic abilities.
‘All right. You have written in English about the morning assembly, haven’t you. Now you may write about the same in Malayalam. You can use the other side of the sheet.
Children started writing again.
We collected all the written work. The class strength was around 50. Most of them wrote just one word (the word ‘assembly’ with all imaginable spellings); three of them wrote one sentence. There were only readable scripts which easily may be perceived as the best ones in the class. See the pictures below:

The pictures I have given above are of the best specimens I got from the children. Most of them wrote only the title (that too with various spellings). These children were learning English as their medium of instruction for the last six years 9starting from the LKG classes. They may be good at scoring marks because the NCERT books they have been learning do not demand anything else other than answering the 'comprehension' questions. Learning by heart in an alien language for six years has not taken them anywhere!

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