Thursday, August 23, 2012

 Dr. K.N.  Anandan

Let me reiterate the point I was trying to make in the previous post: If at all we are serious about empowering English teachers  we have to resist the spread of linguistic imperialism in our country. I would like to illustrate the point with the help of a few cases:

Case 1
Several states in the country have entrusted the British Council (BC) to train teachers in English. To begin with, a team of master trainers will be trained by the BC who in turn will be cascading the training down the line to the practising teachers. The module for these trainings is developed by the BC.

Case 2
In Kerala, six native speakers of English were deployed as special English teachers at the Government Vocational Higher Secondary School at Nilambur, under ‘Sadgamaya’, a project jointly implemented by the Department of Education and the Nilambur municipal body, with UNICEF association. The authorities placed an advertisement in a leading travel magazine in the UK to get English teachers from Britain who could teach a correct and uniform accent. They avoided applications from German and French citizens living in the UK. The six teachers were selected after interviewing 10 shortlisted applicants. Seeing the level of interest from both sides, officials have planned to implement the project in 70-odd schools in the region next. 

Case 3
The Government of AP have decided to open 355 model schools in the State with classes 6 to 12 in conformity with the KV template where the medium of English will be English. In the first year of their launching the model schools will have classes 6, 7, 8 and 11 will be subsequently up-scaled to classes 9 and 12. These schools are located in villages and the learners who are going to be enrolled in these schools will be from the primary schools in the locality. Since the learners will be hailing from households around the school they will be residing at their own homes. However, hostel facilities will be provided to girls. These learners will have undergone lower primary education at the schools in the locality where the medium of instruction is Telugu. 

Case 4
I found the following advertisement (it is one, isn’t it?) painted on the compound wall of a Government Lower Primary school which has been serving the society for more than five decades.

Quality Education to All
GLP School,@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
English Medium divisions in Class 1 in June 2010
Admission started
Classes taken by expert teachers

Case 5
Short term courses conducted by state level and national level institutions and agencies for the development of proficiency in English happen to be within the framework of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) which target a certain variety of English designated as Standard English.

Case 6
The media report that across the country there has been a consistent increase in the flow of students from the government schools where the medium of instruction is English to English medium schools in the private sector.

These are apparently independent cases but they are in fact the reflections of certain common belief systems that have been got deeply instilled in the minds of people through several decades. The opening of parallel English medium divisions in government schools, the mushrooming of English medium schools in the private sector and the opening of English medium schools in the government sector, introducing English from class 1 onwards, entrusting the British council for training teachers of English in the country, deploying native speakers of English in schools to teach English, the clamour for correct pronunciation and the fragmentary and skill-based approach to the teaching of English as is followed in teacher  training programmes are all in fact reflections of certain belief systems which have been deeply instilled in the minds of the people. These belief systems constitute what Phillipson has formulated as linguistic imperialism which has five unmistakably identifiable tenets namely,
  1.  English is best taught monolingually.
  2. The ideal teacher of English is  a native speaker.
  3. The earlier English is taught, the better the results.
  4. The more English is taught, the better the results.
  5.  If other languages are used much, standards of English will drop.
(Phillipson, R. (2009) Linguistic Imperialism Continues; Orient BlaskSwan; pp 12)

(to be continued)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Empowering Teachers in English: Issues and Challenges in the Context of Resisting Linguistic Imperialism


                                                   Dr. K.N. Anandan

Empowering teachers in English has always been a challenge to English Language Teaching (ELT) centres and teacher training institutions and the various state level and national level agencies such as Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). Every year our country witnesses seminars on various aspects of ELT organised by state level or national level agencies and institutions where deliberations after deliberations take place all focusing on the multifaceted issues related to the teaching of English in the country. Notions such as activity based learning, experiential learning, child centred classrooms have gained much currency in our own times and course books and method books in English that are supposedly in tune with these have proliferated during the past two decades.  This is all good. Nevertheless, issues remain the same which obviously is an unhappy state of affairs. Why is it that most of our teachers who stand at the cutting edge of the ELT methodology and the classroom practices continue to do what they have been doing for ages? Is it because the academic standards that have been conceived for teaching and learning English are inaccessible for the majority of teachers and learners? Have the curriculum designers have gone wrong in setting the standards?  Are teachers entrusted with a mission impossible? Is it because what the ELT schools have been giving them as tools for  teaching English have not been fine tuned enough to suit to their local needs? 
In the forthcoming posts I will argue that a major reason for the deplorable state of affairs prevailing in the English classrooms of our country is a natural consequence of certain belief systems created and sustained by institutions, agencies and individuals through the intentional or sometimes unintentional propagation of linguistic imperialism. Unless this is prevented no matter whatever efforts we take to empower teachers in English will have practically no effect at all.