English Language Education in Rural Schools of India:
The Situation, the Policy and the Curriculum
This paper attempts to bring in the issues related to English language education situation in rural schools in India, the state policy on language education, quality questions in second / foreign language education through an analysis of language policy practices and the curriculum and syllabi of five states (provinces) in the country. The language policy in school education emerged as a political and social consensus, though established equality among the languages in school education, is somehow heading for a competitive bi / multilingualism in which the English language is (perceived to be) over taking Indian languages. On the contrary the quality of English language education in majority of Indian schools presents a very appalling picture. Teacher’s language proficiency, exposure to language and materials are major concerns for quality English language learning. An analysis of curricular statements and syllabi of the states of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland reveals how planning for language in education is not looked at holistically in terms of basic assumptions about language learning / acquisition (how language learning takes place), learner profiles and the contexts in which learning takes place, and the recent developments in language learning-teaching. Most states refuse to move beyond the good old structural approach of the 1950s and the 60s, while they stress for communication skills to help the learner for an upward movement. This, in reality, reveals the paradoxical situations of an English language education which would further place the rural learner in a very disadvantaged situation. ---
The increasing demand for English – both as a language and as a medium driven by the instrumental motivation has compelled most governments at the state (provincial) level to introduce English as a language from class One. The recent curricular revision at the national level culminated in the framework for National Curriculum Framework – 2005 (NCF) records the half a century development very objectively when it says, “The level of introduction of English has now become a matter of political response to people’s aspirations rendering almost irrelevant an academic debate on the merits of very early introduction” (Position Paper Teaching of English 2005 - p1). English is an institutionalized subject in the school curriculum. Twenty six out of the thirty five states and union territories (the provinces and the specially created regions) introduce English as a language from class I and the remaining states introduce the language either from class three or five. There is every likelihood that these states (which do not introduce English in class I) would bring it down to class I with in a year or two. Resistance to spread of English language education is countered by genuine arguments which look at the English language as a tool for empowerment. English today is simultaneously sought after and suspected (Tickoo 1996) phenomenon. The motives, generally, are not only social-political and but academic too. While the demand increases on the one hand, the quality of English language education in our state run schools, more particularly in rural schools, presents an abysmal picture. The ‘divide’ between the urban and rural is further contributed by the way English language education is making its way as a medium of instruction. The paradox of demand and suspicion (Tickoo 1996) mentioned above could be further reflected through the paradox of access depicted by the report of the National Knowledge Commission (NKC 2007), India as it brings out rightly, “There is an irony in the situation. English has been part of our education system for more than a century. Yet English is beyond the reach of most of our young people, which makes for highly unequal access. ...
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