Should English be introduced as a medium of instruction in Class I? May be not, suggests a study on the teaching of English in government-run primary schools. Reason being that teaching of English in most government primary schools is no more than a teacher reading aloud from a textbook with no effort to develop listening or speaking skills in children, familiarising them with the rhythm and joy of poetry, contextualise grammar, or pay attention to learning gaps.
Policy planners need to ‘rethink’ about introduction of English as a medium of instruction from Class I, the study commissioned by the Union Human Resource Development Ministry said.
English has been introduced at the primary level in 27 states, it is a subject in Class I in 18 states, and the medium of instruction in Nagaland, Jammu and Kashmir, and government model schools of Chandigarh and Maharashtra. While the early introduction of the language is in response to people’s aspirations for quality education, experts opine that the language must be introduced at a relatively later stage and the mother tongue must be the medium of learning at primary level.
Conducted by the National Council of Educational Research & Training (NCERT), the study says, “Teachers in all the states/UT have fallen into what is called ‘the textbook trap’. The teachers and students were entirely dependent on the books.”
Most teachers begin their lessons by reading from textbooks, finish lessons abruptly, do not teach word/sentence patterns, resort to local languages and offer no opportunity to children to listen to spoken English or speak in the language. In classrooms, the participation of students in the learning process was less in all states except Tamil Nadu.
At Level I — classes I and II — children only knew a few English words and phrases, could not read, write or speak simple and short sentences in English or narrate experiences, exchange ideas in the language even though they could recite poems and songs.
The study, covering J&K, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Union territory of Chandigarh notes the ‘dismal picture’. It recommends correctives, including training teachers to teach English as a language, usage of multi-media for training to avoid transmission loss, certificate programmes, focus on phonetics by teacher trainers and creative usage of textbooks, among other things.