*Article first published in FORTELL 2011
The teaching of English in schools in India is in a pathetic state. I also contend that the status of English is similar to a “foreign language” in a non-metropolitan/non-urban domain and a “second language” in urban/metropolitan domain. We can perceive India as a Janus with double facets– one, the urban India and the second, rural India. In the urban areas, the teaching of English starts from the primary level. On the other hand, in the semi-urban and rural India, the government schools start teaching English from class 3, 6 or 8, depending on the policy of the individual state.
Moreover, more often than not ill-equipped/untrained teachers in a foreign language situation, abound in rural/semi-urban India. An urgent need is a training in methodology and ELT for these teachers. The syllabi designed are also based on outdated knowledge of pedagogy and perception. Furthermore, the teacher has to teach English, a foreign language, in a negative environment like large class, pupils without texts, lack of motivation among the students towards learning English, traditional and ineffective teaching methods and the only teaching aid available is the blackboard. In non-urban schools, the exposure to English language is limited to classrooms and that for an hour a day at the most. It is important to note that language acquisition or learning is a gradual process and very different from the study of subjects like History, Political Science, Physics or Chemistry. In these subjects the students have to understand the concept, whereas in language learning one has to learn how to use it to communicate in a variety of forms like letter, essay, story, poem, memo, report or interact/transact with people in different situations in daily life. There is no shortcut method to learn a language, it is a gradual process, so a graded syllabus is required from class one onward.