ABC of Teaching

Now that it has been settled that the education system is going to impart English language skills in vernacular mediums too, the responsibility of teaching the language well and correctly lies squarely on the teachers of English.
Let us face facts! English has come to stay, at least in a multi-lingual country like India. Everybody, literate or illiterate invariably uses a smattering of this language left behind by our colonisers no matter how loyal they are to their regional tongues. Now that it has been settled that the education system is going to impart English language skills in vernacular mediums too, the responsibility of teaching the language well and correctly lies squarely on the teachers of English.

If you are a person who is familiar with the language and its intricate grammar you might often find that most others who use the language are not very chaste when it comes to grammar or spellings. Most of us overlook these irregularities out of sheer politeness or because we are too uppity in our attitude to correct the other person. While this reaction can be considered as an expression of one’s personal feelings on the issue, a conscientious teacher of English cannot and should not sit back and watch the fun.

Passionate teachers of English will agree that the language is arbitrary from every conceivable angle and only constant exposure to the language  like reading, writing, listening and speaking can help one develop the language. Unfortunately the number of such teachers is dwindling in number and is likely to become extinct if not sustained in the best possible manner with decent remuneration topped with acknowledgement and appreciation. 

A beat round the schools, even the ones that teach through English medium will reveal that many teachers themselves are not very strong in their subject both in terms of language and literature. Most of them happen to be young ladies just out of their teachers training courses. When enquired about the choice of their job, everyone unvaryingly pledged their affinity to teaching and their awe for the “noble’ profession. After some goading and persuasion many of them came up with answers that were startlingly candid and miles away from any kind of attachment to their jobs.

The teachers preferred teaching because the timings were far more comfortable than a regular desk job, much less exerting and they had the privilege of a month long vacation. This arrangement gave them the flexibility to tend to their families and enjoy the security of a job in which they could spend their time usefully.

Most of these teachers were graduates of the sciences with low scores; hence they decided to top their qualification with a post graduation in English and a degree in Education as many universities reputed or otherwise offered these courses in the correspondence mode. Some of them had also acquired M Phil degrees besides their post graduation to upgrade their qualification.

Several reputed professors of English who did not wish their names to be mentioned observed many teachers of English in the current scenario knew little or next to nothing about the nuances of literature making one conclude that the post graduate degree is no more than a postscript to their names to facilitate them to land a job. They said that teachers had not done any in-depth reading at all and had depended on some notes and their gut feeling to clear the papers.

However many heads of institutions said that it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to retain good and sincere teachers because they always leave after putting in a year or two of service for better opportunities. As a result managements have chosen to employ mediocre candidates for teachers who can be molded according to the needs of the institution. It has been observed that these candidates have improved   enormously learning from the experience they gain while on the job. They also pointed out that their teachers of English helped them out with their correspondence with the board and outside bodies besides helping their colleagues to bridge the gaps in their language skills whenever the need appeared.

Many teachers are encouraged to take up courses at CIEFL, RIE or similar institutions to hone their abilities and attend workshops that promote language skills. These measures have certainly helped the recipients to become more conversant with the language and its literature and they are realising that the onus of imparting right knowledge of the foreign language lies with them.

Admittedly language learning is a life long process but if a good teacher can inspire the prospective student by sowing the right seeds we can certainly have a good crop of future citizens who will not mangle their communication with bad language skills for is not language the vehicle of communication?

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