Teaching English at Upper Primary Level
Vijay Kumar Agrahari
M A (Eng) (Alld.), M Ed. (Himachal),
PG Certificate in Teaching of Eng. (CIEFL-Hydra.),
PG Diploma in Edl. Management (UPRTOU-Alld.)
TGT (Eng.), KENDRIYA VIDYALAYA 2ND SHIFT,
AMC CANTT.LUCKNOW (UP)
Out of 28 years of my services as Trained Graduate Teacher of English so far, I spent more than 20 years working in remote places of Bihar and Eastern Part of UP. While working there, I found students making silly grammatical mistakes in their write-ups. These mistakes were generally related to subject verb concord, mixing past with present and vice versa. I was of the opinion that students at New Delhi, Lucknow or other metropolis would be more refined and grammatical. But my assumption proved wrong. At Lucknow we have students coming on transfer from different parts of the country (Lucknow being capital city, is an aspiration for many). But sparing some exceptional cases, here also situation is the same. Hence, the problem of wrong English is more of system oriented than geographical, racial or otherwise.
If I compare present scenario with the one, when we were students (I was taught in a rural hindi medium school of Allahabad), I find that we had been more grammatical though less comfortable in expression. Question is where lies the lacuna? Why are our efforts not that successful? Answer lies in the curricula and teaching methodology that we are sticking to. Class VI to VIII English lessons are lexically inappropriate to their age group. Lesson on Kalpana Chawla in Class VI and ‘Summit Within’ and ‘The Great Stone Face’ in Class VIII are only a few examples. At this stage we are teaching them a language with its basics. Teaching Rhetoric comes next. At the present scenario when more than 60% of the class strength at these stages is below average, talking of advance rhetoric and abstract topics makes lessons bore and difficult for a student who is studying English as a Second Language. Moreover lessons should be of more Indian origin as far as its characters and geographical locations are concerned. I am not talking about the lesson on Stephen Hawkins- ‘A Visit to Cambidge’ but I do talk about ‘The Best Christmas Present in the World’ the very first lesson in class VIII.
Besides, the quantum of the course need to be minimized if authorities really want activity based CCE to be implemented in these classes. 2 or 3 poems, five story-based or narrative-based prose lessons and a long story book of not more than 80 pages written in simple language with lexica and construction (structures) of their register can be introduced, so that the teacher can get time to engage students in activities like simulation, dramatization, recitation, word games, extempore and debates based on the lessons taught. Besides these, there can be a practice book of functional grammar also.
I remember the CIEFL text books and their workbooks of 80s. I still admire them not because I had been a student of CIEFL but because of its real worth. The teachers of English Language of my age will appreciate if I say that these were written very scientifically. The lexical items, the vocabulary registry were as per target students, and the approach in designing exercises in Workbook was fruitfully compensating the absence of grammar book.
Lastly, language is caught not taught hence it can be only imbibed through activities where they get a chance to listen, speak, read and write the language to be studied. We have great expectations from present government who is trying to improve the situation amending the things which have gone dormant. I hope they would look in this direction as well.