The educational system in India can be likened to a melting pot of different systems and values. It gained a new constitution with the coming of the British. Lord Macaulay introduced the British education system into the Indian sub-continent wreaking a sea of change in the mental make-up and attitude of Indians towards the concept of education, which had already experienced different systems of education due to several invasions (apart from the traditional Guru Kula system).
The introduction of the new educational system not only brought new possibilities to the lives of Indians but also ingrained a very deep rooted feeling that they must gain an English education either to survive or thrive in life.
English may not be the medium of instruction all over the country in India, but it is certainly learned as one of the languages in every school. One simply cannot deny the fact that English has come to stay in the educational scene of India.
While there are certain sections of urban students who take to learning English like a duck takes to water, the vast majority of learners find learning the language a Herculean task.
It is a proven fact that constant exposure to the language in terms of reading, writing, listening and speaking is the best recipe. Yet most learners never really work on all four areas. The reading habit has almost become extinct in the student community with the exception of academic studies.
The coming of mobile phones has promoted the SMS language with spellings sans any resemblance to the written language. As far as listening and speaking are concerned, politeness or sheer ignorance coupled with ego prevent both of them from correcting their mistakes most of the time. As a result, language limps along and sometimes gets convoluted beyond recognition.
Recently, I received a forward which gives us a hilarious insight into the usage of the language and the level of the local language’s influence on the queen’s language.
Principal to student: “I saw you yesterday rotating near girls hostel pulling cigarette?” Another time he was caught saying, “Pick up the paper and fall in the dustbin.”
An excited Hindi teacher once announced, “I’m going out of the world to America.” Later that day another pearl fell from her mouth, “Don’t try to talk in front of my back.”
Jokes apart, it is high time we realised that this is the way most people speak English. Though the sentences can be condoned as instances of having been spoken in a fit of anger or emotions riding a high tide, when grammar naturally takes a back seat, one cannot discount the fact that English has been practically transliterated by its vernacular counterparts.
By now, Indianisms in English have been accepted, especially those words and phrases that capture the Indian mood, culture or ethos. Nevertheless the basic form of the language is expected to be maintained in terms of grammar and vocabulary. Such being the case, it is noteworthy that the excerpts used as examples have been gleaned from educational institutions.
If this is the state of learning in the seats of learning we must keep our fingers crossed for the new manifestation of the language in quarter century from now.
The responsibility of teaching the language adequately lies squarely on the shoulders of English teachers. A talk with the senior educators and professors of English revealed that a very low percentage of the new generation of teachers are themselves well-equipped with their subject.
Most post graduates of English literature have completed their courses through correspondence after completing their under-graduate in a different stream.
Many teachers lack a passion for the subject and have hardly dome any extra reading beyond the prescribed text books. In such a scenario, it is unreasonable to expect spectacular performances from them.
On the other hand, teachers with a flair and passion for the subject do not appear to be a happy lot as many of them are not paid well. Many a time, managements of their educational institutions hesitate to spend on books that can be put to use in the general reading section.
However, the same management does not mind spending on state-of-the-art laboratories, new furniture and infrastructure.
Too many students
Just about every teacher spoke about the perennial problem of large number of students in their classes which makes it very difficult for them to teach, correct and evaluate students. Many teachers remarked that just about every school has a grand agenda in the beginning of the academic year, but as the work scene unfolds, most of the aspects on the itinerary are axed or dwarfed with little or no semblance to the original plan.
As a result classes reserved for using the library, story-telling, dictation, calligraphy and practical lessons to be conducted in the language laboratory never get to see the light of the day after one or two sessions, as the emphasis is on completion of the prescribed syllabus on time.
If communication happens to be the only priority, then one can overlook the language, but if language learning happens to be the agenda, it is high time we take a serious view of the matter before English loses its identity beyond recognition. Let us not miss the trees for the woods.