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Is Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) working in Bangladesh?

The whole attempt of CLT has witnessed a mismatched situation.

The whole attempt of CLT has witnessed a mismatched situation.

With a view to enabling our students to use English in their practical life situation, Communicative Language Teaching was introduced in our education system in the year 1998-1999. Now ‘CLT has become a buzzword’ as has been said by Dr. Aria Rahman, professor of Dhaka University. All around us we hear the buzzing of ‘CLT’.  It buzzes in the English classroom, with English teachers, ELT professionals, in the English departments of both private and public universities. Teacher training both in the private and government sectors talks about CLT provides training in CLT. CLT roams in and around the educational vicinity. But how much change has it really brought for the learners to use English in real-life remains a big question? Of course, authentic research in this regard is also not available. Our observation, guess and practical experience with the students offer not an encouraging picture.

Yes, it is true that the students particularly in urban areas have become smarter than before in terms of using English in their conversation, it is broken English, structurally wrong English even then they have started using it in their practical life. But there is every reason to ask is it the impact of introducing CLT in our education system? Without any research, it can be said that it is the impact of their easy access to the internet, easily available English movies, and electronic and print media. In the classroom practical English or everyday use, English is hardly practiced. The major concern of the students, teachers, and guardians is to manage a good grade in English using a commercial or short-cut way which is tantamount to avoiding real learning.  Understanding the pulse of the English stockholders and the loophole of the examination system the commercial publishers are up and doing to satisfy their desired objectives and they are commercially successful. Real learning is still a far cry.

Professor Shahiddullah of Rajshahi University has been working in the line of CLT still he finds it difficult to deal with CLT comfortably. So he questions how is it possible to bring change giving only two-weeks or three weeks of training to the teachers as government and non-government sectors do. Of course, ELTIP is not so active in the field of training now. Professor Shahidullah has said ‘CLT does not mean using wrong English rather fluency leading to accuracy.’ The point makes sense. A wrong notion has developed with CLT professionals that wrong English is most welcome. Actually, it is only for those who have not yet opened their mouth. Only two or three weeks of training may not bring any significant change in the overall performance of the teachers but it definitely gives them some clues and tips to deal with EFT and teaching English. Any kind of training is just the beginning of professional development, not the ending.

In the English For Today of class six out of 106 lessons, there are 08 listening comprehension lessons, in seven EFT out of 80 lessons 10 listenings, in class eight out of 75 lessons 11 listening comprehensions, and nine-ten EFT out of 119 lessons 22 listening comprehensions. Again, in-class six EFT 80 speaking focused lessons in seven EFT 74, in eight EFT 69-, nine-ten EFT 63, eleven-twelve EFT there are 133 lessons out of 158 which focus speaking skill.  But these two important skills hardly receive any importance from the teachers in the classroom. A trained teacher can teach and practice all four skills through a particular lesson as all four skills are integrated into the CLT approach. But teachers were not given enough training to develop their confidence up that level.

However, some trained teachers try to practice all the skills in the classroom but they lose their motivation after a certain period as listening and speaking are not directly assessed in the public examinations and the students, guardians and the school authorities don’t encourage the point. Many don’t think that these two important skills, directly and indirectly, help develop the other two skills. It is very strange to think that 40 percent of the everyday communication we do through listening, 35 percent speaking, 16 percent reading, and only 9 percent through writing. But we put total emphasis on reading and writing which means we assess our students’ English performance only on 25 percent of skills. It clandestinely proves that our assessment in English is seriously faulty. The significant two skills remain ever neglected. A huge number of teachers were not trained well enough though under the umbrella of different government projects such as TQI, SEQAEP, SESIP, SESDP and non-government organizations like BRAC conducted training for the teachers to use CLT in the classroom. To continue their development process in this subject remains absent.

CLT and even the existing assessment system could have produced some quality students if the same kind of questions had not been set year after year. It no way it can assess the real progress of the students in English. The vocabulary test in the form of passage with clues and without clues should have been quite new every year but year after year the same clues have been set. Those who have memorized them can do well in the examination.  And those who did not meet them earlier cannot solve them. The question setters never think of this point. What they do just pick up the same passage from the Test Papers means in some schools and colleges these questions were set. Students practiced them and if any new passage is given, they become puzzled. At this teachers’ own creativity is lost and no scope lies to raise the capacity of the students. In 2010 Junior School Certificate examination was introduced and in the same year, the reading comprehension question for 40 marks was set from the listening comprehension. Listening comprehension was not practiced in the class rather it was set as a reading comprehension question in the public examination.  I doubt whether the question setter had an idea about it.

After 1998 the government is going to introduce the new books for English from 2013. The teaching community is in the dark about what kind of books or the same cut-copy-paste English text is going to be introduced. The existing books are not at all interesting, eye-catching, or user-friendly.  Languages used there are not so sound. It called for very expert teachers to make the contents interesting and lively highlighting the spirit of CLT which is actually not taking place. Besides, we don’t have subject-based English teachers at the secondary level that means the teachers who graduated in English are engaged in secondary level teaching.

At the higher secondary level, it is okay. As a result, the whole attempt of CLT has witnessed a mismatched situation. The students neither learn correct English nor can they communicate soundly using broken English even.  The highly liberal attitude of the government to make the students pass in English whatever they write in the script has further deteriorated the situation. The students have lost total interest to learn something new. They experience from their older brothers and sisters and learn from them that whatever they write in the scripts, they obtain a high grade in English. It’s a highly de-motivating factor for the learners to learn good English. The NCTB authorities should look into the matters and take lessons through the present outcome of English and devise and introduce English For Today accordingly.

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