The other day I was talking to some students who belong to various colleges of the city of Dhaka. My focus was to know how they receive English teaching from their teachers in the classroom. One of the students told me with examples in her script that they are taught parts of speech in detail. At present they are dwelling on conjunction. I checked her script out of curiosity. To my utter surprise, I saw that what conjunction means written in Bengali, its functions and different kinds of conjunctions and what not. I don’t understand what is the necessity of learning how many kinds of conjunctions are without learning how and when they are used in sentences. In some colleges they are asked to memorize the rules of tense. Various rules of prepositions they are to memorize. They are to undergo a tough test to show that they have memorized the rules of preposition and parts of speech. The way of teaching English has undergone a tremendous change with which many of our teachers have very little acquaintance. They like to stick to the old fashion and way of teaching English. Students are not encouraged to use language, rather they are taught various sorts of rules to make English learning boring to the students. Students will learn grammar very contextually and practically, not a set of rules impractically. Any new move hardly invites their smiling attention.
Learning a language means getting involved in various sorts of practices and the teachers will act as facilitator in that learning process. The outworn and old-fashioned idea must be avoided by the teachers. But it’s a matter of regret that they neither bother about change nor invite the ways of change.
The way of teaching English in some famous English Medium schools in the city of Dhaka also made me astonished. The books selected for different classes deserve appreciation but the way of teaching seems rather boggling. I came to learn from my daughter who goes to an English Medium school in Dhaka city. She is instructed to write the answers of many questions without looking at the text means she will have to memorize a lot of answers. Whereas, modern teaching technique discourages memorization. The number distribution of each question also shows absurd picture. Each question bears five marks but she will not be allowed to read the text while writing the answers. The story is quite long for junior class students. Teachers show their un-acquaintance with the new ways of teaching English and how to disseminate the effective teaching without putting unnecessary pressure on the young learners who really get afraid of learning in this way. Students will have to remain busy with different kinds of activities prepared by the teachers. This is not the case that students will be given undue pressure which will definitely create repugnance in him/her to learn something new.
Teachers teaching in Bengali Medium schools show their obsession with teaching only grammatical rules. They actually remain far away from the reality and real life situation. Learning grammatical rules does in no way ensure learning effective use of English in their practical life situations. These teachers spend much time to teach the rules of grammar and the exceptional and more exceptional rules which they think the better way of teaching English and they feel proud of teaching these items. They never think that it goes beyond practicality. We are to use language for communicating our ideas and satisfying our individual and social purposes where learning and teaching the rules of grammar stand as impractical. We say “How are you, what are you doing?” etc. not how many kinds of prepositions are there in English when we communicate with each other. The way of communication must be made very effective. How many kinds of voices are there etc. again we spend much time on teaching active and passive voice actually we don’t know its purpose of teaching? Do we normally say ‘rice is eaten by me’ or newspapers are not read by me everyday?’ But we kill much time throughout the school life to teach the students how to change the active voice into passive or passive into active. What’s the real purpose of it? When the learners cannot write and speak for themselves in English after graduating from college and universities, they are spending much time on changing voice and narration. What is the necessity of it when the chief objective of leaning English stand far beyond the practical life?
The objectives behind introducing Communicative Language Teaching are stated in the NCTB document, which says “English need to be recognized as an essential work-oriented skill that is needed if the employment, development and educational needs of the country are to be met successfully–English should there to be taught as something to be used rather than as something to be talked about.” Who will make our teachers known to this idea? Definitely training is a must for teachers belonging to all levels. Generally the schools do not have any teaching materials other than the text books of NCTB.CLT is a hybrid approach to language teaching essentially progressive than traditional whose origins can be traced to the UK in the 1960’s. CLT aims at integration of skills rather than isolation. The goal of communicative teachings is to develop an ever-improving capability to use English to comminute with others. Modern English teachers must have intercourse with these principles and mainly training can make them embrace these phenomena of teaching English.
The emphasis is given on comprehension in respect of developing students’ reading skill. Their internal grammar matures with this practice and their capacity to generate language of their own strengthens. Grammar is linked to skills and sometimes tasks linked to topics or functions. Since language is a participatory activity a successful language teacher will have a close–personal rapport with his her students both as a group and as individuals. In language learning based on communication, therefore, good classroom relationships are of particular importance.
In every seminar or symposium regarding the states of English in Bangladesh several common phenomena appear and reappear again and again. The presenters present and explain the same causes. Their suggestion to develop the status of English remain within some common points such as–to increase the salary of English teachers, to make the class size reasonable with 25 to 30 students, to change the syllabus, to change the assessment system etc. To me all these suggestions seem impractical and utopian. These suggestions remain to be implemented by the government. If and when the government can afford to give handsome and a different salary structure to the English teachers, the standard of English will automatically develop and this thing is not unknown to the government. To suggest this thing, no seminar is needed. Rather the seminar or symposium attaches importance only when it suggests some pragmatic ideas and ways within the existing resource capacity and situation. This is innovation. English teaching calls for innovation always.
MASUM BILLAH: Program Manager, BRAC Education Program and Vice-President, Bangladesh English Language Teachers Association (BELTA), Dhaka, Bangladesh.