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Teaching-learning situation of English in Bengali and English medium schools

A different culture of practicing English has developed in the English medium schools. Cambridge, EdExel, IB curriculums are followed in English medium schools and curriculum and assessment system of global standard are practiced here.
Masum Billah
Teaching-learning situation of English in Bengali and English medium schools

We have been in debate since we achieved independence whether we should learn English or not. If we learn, which grade we are to start it from? Who will learn it? How to learn it? Where we will learn it? Without finding out a sound solution we still have been debating over these questions and its outcome surfaces well before us.

We inherited English as second language as a historical cause. However, we could not have put it on a strong footing and could not have used it successfully for serving our real purpose and we hardly have any debate over this issue. We forget that now-a-days English is not a language only; it is not an academic subject. It has in fact become an integral part of global cultural process and globalization is one of the most important phenomenon we will need to survive. In this connection, we cannot afford to ignore English  in any way though some people raise arguments against it citing the examples of China, Japan and Russia, where, they say, English is not taught. Still these nations are advancing. I want to draw their attention that we are not China, Japan and Russia who are almost independent in many aspects that we are not and it is not true that English is not taught in those countries. English is taught in those countries though it may not be exactly the same way we do.
An established fact surfaces clearly that we have dearth of teachers to teach English effectively. Most teachers think teaching English means changing voice, learning the definition of different grammatical items and changing narration and simple, complex and compound sentences. This practice and tradition has not changed even though many efforts have been made. Practicing grammar in an isolated way does not promise forming or increasing linguistic proficiency of the learners. We need not go far to see its proof. Our graduates cannot use English in their practical purposes even though they had to study it till intermediate class. Grammar to be taught contextually and language skills to be developed through repeated language practice not by teaching or learning some grammar rules in isolated ways. Our assessment for English and selection of teachers are also made on the basis of their grammatical knowledge, not on the language skills they have acquired.  When will it change and how to change remains uncertain and unresolved till today. One teacher has written in his facebook that at almost all stages only writing paragraphs on ‘traffic jam’, ‘load-shedding’ and ‘tree plantation’ are common. These items seem rather difficult but students memorize them from note books or some known sources. However, to test students’ linguistic ability easier and more known topics can be set in the examination but very craftily it is not being done. He has continued ‘the items of grammar such as tense, voice and article have been taught year after year. Is it necessary? Students are taught the Bengali meaning of English words, the rules of ‘preposition’ and different kinds of verb are taught. All this stands in the way of real barrier to develop the real communicative ability of the learners.
Our public universities usually offer degrees in English literature. Of course, some universities have both language and literature streams and private universities mostly give language certificates. And language stream dominates in some private universities. Our observation and experience says that graduates coming out of private universities hardly take teaching as a profession in the primary or secondary level where English stands as a prime subject. Unfortunately our learners of these two levels have been deprived of meeting qualified teachers particularly to teach this language effectively. Even though, some graduates of English department of private universities take teaching usually, they start doing it in English medium schools. All the private universities, however, cannot produce graduates with sound knowledge in English language. One student of English department of a private university outside of Dhaka says, “One of our English teachers teaches us English absolutely in Bengali. He is the production of the same university where I study. Another teacher passed from public university gives us lecture only following his notes stored in his diary and he does not go beyond it. I feel boring. I will rather try to go to Dhaka and enroll in another private university.” More students who study in government university colleges under National University have more frustrating experience. Some of them say, “Our English teachers have passed the BCS examination but they teach us English absolutely in Bengali. They don’t even speak a full sentence in English. How can we acquire speaking skill which is significantly important?” This surely reflects the real situation of English teaching-learning situation even in the English honours classes, let alone general English classes. Whatever subject or discipline our students study in, their communicative skill in English is a must in this globalized village that we have ignored for long.  
A different culture of practicing English has developed in the English medium schools. Cambridge, EdExel, IB curriculums are followed in English medium schools and curriculum and assessment system of global standard are practiced here. Every country follows its own curriculum that reflects its culture, history and practices. If we cannot keep pace with the global standard curriculum, we will be segregated and separated from the pace of globalization. If our curriculum does not promise to be aligned with globalization process, we have ample reason to think over it and embark on this debate. We must consider the fact that how many graduates our small country can accommodate in its job sectors. Many graduates go abroad for earning bread as our small countries cannot accommodate growing number of graduates. They seek their fortune outside of the country that calls for a standard global language first for their survival and secondly for flourishing their career. This of course contributes to the economy of the country. In the Bengali medium schools practicing creativity has become a remote or no-practice matter. Only putting common questions in the examination and memorizing those questions are the main concern. This does not promise at all to enhance the linguistic ability and creativity of the learners. But we need to enhance the skills of the students in English even though they study in Bengali medium schools. Having common questions and following the common items from guide books and repeated questions don’t happen in English medium education. Here assessment is also creative and the students acquire ‘speaking skills’ as a by-product which is very important   in terms of acquiring a foreign language. The opposite scene we see in Bengali medium schools as the practice of creativity and analytical skills don’t happen here. Assessment is the principal thought here evading the way of developing critical analytical skills of the students.

Our policy hardly sees a well defined position of English medium schools that contributes to develop a group of students equipped with creative education and communicative English to face the challenges of the century. English medium school launched its journey in our country with the establishment of Green Hearld International School in 1912. Today the number of such schools has increased but its exact size is not available from any reliable sources that primarily tells our negligence towards this medium of education. One source says that we have 115 English medium schools, another one says it is 145 while the Board says 159 and it is learnt from English Medium School Association that it is more than four hundred. We think a particular cell need to be developed in the ministry of education to look after the English medium schools. We don’t want excessive controlling over these schools as it may harm the free flow of schools but a soft and sound controlling can give this medium a good shape. Several lakhs English teachers are engaged in teaching English to the students of primary and secondary level and these two levels are the basic places to put students into a good footing of English. How they receive English teaching remains a big concern as students miserably fail to show their competency in English either in written or speaking English. And not an iota of change has taken place even though a huge number of training sessions and programmes have been going on in the country under different government projects and in the non-government sectors as well.  However, a good news lurks before us that the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education has taken a laudable step to train the primary school English teachers under an MOU developed between the ministry and British Council. Currently teachers have been receiving a TMTE ( Training of Master Trainers of English) training under  global English experts that we appreciate.

President- English Teachers’ Association of Bangladesh (ETAB) and is an education expert in BRAC Education.
Cell: 01714-091431
Email: [email protected]

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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