Competence in English: Struggles and Alternatives

National Curriculum Framework (2005) quotes, ‘English in India is a global language in a multilingual country’ (p. 38). Today no one can deny the reality of this statement. Whether it is the corporate world or the government sector, the value and importance of English language is widely acknowledged. Due to its increasing importance every person aspires to be fluent in English.

English for Rural Development: Providing Proficiency in English to Rural Youth

India is one of the developing countries that has been contributing in large measure to migration of people to foreign countries, particularly the developed West, and Punjab is one of the States that stands ahead of others in this respect. It is estimated that there are about 1.5 million Punjabis in Europe and North America from Punjab’s Doaba region alone. Among these, many are now well-off in business and other professions and have earned a name for themselves in the host country. A large majority of these migrants is from the rural areas. In fact, migration from rural areas of Punjab to West goes on vigorously if the number of candidates from rural areas appearing in International English Language Testing System (IELTS), and in similar other tests of English, is any indication.1 Cambridge IELTS is conducted by the British Council and the IDP Australia for the benefit of those seeking to go abroad. As proficiency in English happens to be an essential requirement for issue of visa, even a student visa, a large number of candidates appear in these tests of English with a view of going abroad.

Teacher Development from Materials to Method

The Indian ELT picture

Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) was made mandatory in all CBSE schools in 2009 to ensure a diagnostic focus on learning. Teachers unequipped for the prescribed corrective action, however, impair the implementation of CCE. This problem is correlated with the professional development of elementary and secondary teachers through learner-centric ‘pedagogies that develop reflective teachers with adequate skills’ (NCF, 2005, p.25), and ‘improved curriculum and materials’(NCFTE, 2009, p.6).Teacher education for CCE in Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) requires ‘critically engaging with theory’ to ‘bring practice within its perspective’ (NCFTE, 2009, p.9). The role of the teacher is envisaged as ‘…developing capacities to think with educational theories and applying concepts in concrete teaching-learning situations’ (NCFTE, 2009, p.41). Teacher Education in CLT, hence,is focused primarily on method. This emphasis on pedagogical theory to improve teaching methods as the guiding policy of teacher education, however, has not bridged the perceived hiatus between theory and its classroom application.

Interdisciplinary Teaching in English Literature: Old Hat or New Perspectives?

In recent times, there has been a lot of academic brouhaha about interdisciplinarity. Interdisciplinary pedagogical practice allows the teacher to cross the traditional boundaries of discipline centred teaching by drawing from two or more academic disciplines to approach the text. Though the term has been in currency for a long time, in the Indian context it has gained popularity only recently.  

The very discipline of English literature demands an active awareness of other disciplines. Fiction, however removed from the real world, takes its basis from the author’s background and sensibilities. No study of literature can be done in isolation and relies heavily on other disciplines, especially social sciences to heighten the understanding of the text. So even before the concept and theories of interdisciplinarity gained currency, literature teaching meant integrating academic disciplines.

Interdisciplinarity in Research

As comparative literature once was, it is currently ‘fashionable’ to delve into interdisciplinary areas of study in teaching and research by exploring and pushing at boundaries. Despite the fact that it is quite difficult to do justice without the required expertise of different disciplines, more and more people are getting attracted to such an approach. This essay is an attempt at self exploration with regard to interdisciplinary studies wherein I try to enumerate the reasons why there is a love-hate relationship with interdisciplinarity, especially in spheres of language and literature.

Widens the horizon: Interdsiciplinarity is liberating as it widens our horizon and allows us to experiment with techniques that were earlier ‘taboo’. By breaking the stereotypical expectations of a disciplinary approach, right from the selection of study area to the methodology of research, the output can be the most original concoction. However this extraordinary freedom requires constant self-checks so as to maintain depth of study.  

Promise of some new findings: What attracts a researcher the most to this approach is the end of the tunnel, a search towards creation of new knowledge. For the literature scholar, analyzing and critiquing texts is not the easiest of tasks and yet parting with one’s grounding is not easy.  Most interdisciplinary studies require a departure from one’s training to self groom towards the vision of a new territory.