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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Teaching, learning Engslish

I attended a seminar on General English teaching at Loyola College on 15 and 16 March.

I wish to present some of the points that came up in the seminar. Here they are. Of course, I have left out all those boring, clich├ęd ideas which I do not approve of myself.

  • Different colleges need to come together to create Collaborative content creation on the net which could be used depending on their needs. A common pool of resources.
  • One size does not fit all. A common curriculum may not meet the needs and learning abilities of all the students
  • Need to localizing institutional curriculum (One person passingly mentioned it but no one seemed to understand either. Looked as if everyone thought there was one great way of teaching English and developing curriculum that will fit all the institutions across the country.
  • Analyzing perceived and real needs of students and society
  • The term Language lab is changed to ‘Multimedia Resource Centre’ or ‘Language Resource Centre’ in some colleges. I think the shift is important p
  • Peer learning needs to be stressed as it can be far more effective in classroom pedagogy.
  • Is there a possibility to fall back upon pre British ways of teaching? Example Persian, Prakrit were taught before the British brought English education. (This was sth new to me. Although I am not sure if there were such systems in India, because universal education was never there in India before the British came. However, I strongly feel we need to make inquiries into it. I met the person who made the comment. But he did not give me any reference to pursue this point. I have email to him. But doubt if will reply. The comment was made by one Prof Elango
  • Why has India not evolved any new theory after 60 years of teaching English in Independent India?
  • We need to shift from native speakers framework of teaching English to globally intelligible English
  • Can Language teaching be shifted to subject teachers. Because, the students get far more exposure and their profession specific language exposure from their subject teachers than us. Can we co opt other subject teachers to teach English? (I know it sounds like a death knell to us language teachers. But I feel it’s worth engaging.)
  • Most UK-originating classroom methodologies fail as they evolve from a particular classroom situation. E.g. Pair work does not work in India. It evolved in British lower classes where only two students sit on row. (My own experiments in my previous college have shown it is possible. But need to make major modifications. But I agree, direct implementation as well modified implementation are difficult.
  • Why should we depend completely on teacher and material. Can’t we make students learn on their own and from their peers.
  • Even the Cambridge Business English Certificate programmes do not meet industry needs. This was told by a person who is one of the three organizers of this exam for Cambridge University in India. Shocking. The English corporate world uses and what the Cambridge BEC certificate demands have huge gap between them
  • In its language text books Oriental Longman keeps 80% of the old curriculum and methodology and adds 20% new.
  • From the Corporate interaction session I came to know that they also expect skill like thinking differently, contextual thinking etc. And not just communicative skills.

My thoughts

  • In assessment we need to ensure as much transparency as possible if not objectivity. As it is not possible to be completely objective.
  • We need to look at new themes for perspectives.
  • Need to integrate some more objectives into our curriculum design like- building self confidence, community outlook, critical thinking, creativity, communication, decision making, team work, negotiation, collaborative learning.
  • Tamilnadu needs or experience at best can be applied only to Tamilnadu as long it caters to Tamilians and cannot be generalized.
  • I find we need to engage with Vellore Institute of Technology experiments.
  • Corporate needs and social needs are not different.
  • Autonomy has brought up need for continuous updating and emphasis on research. How do we balance between clerical needs of the subject with our and subject related intellectual needs?
  • Arent’ the needs we thought while framing the syllabus assumed needs? What is the basis of such needs? Shouldn’t we need to do structured research?
  • Where should our dept go from where we are now?
  • I think we now need to prepare ourselves to developing e and digital content. The shift also needs to made to customized learning.
  • I realized that our dept is far ahead of all prominent instutions in Tamilnadu namely Loyola, WCC, MCC, St Joseph’s Trichy, Lady Vaishav, etc in conceptual framework, classroom pedagogy, use of ICT. One of the major problems for these intuitions is their own past baggage which does not allow to see or think beyond and pushes them into binary debates which does not take them anywhere.

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