Sunday, 26 March, 2023

English Teaching Learning Situation in New Curriculum

Masum Billah

English Teaching Learning Situation in New Curriculum
Masum Billah

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The next textbooks of grade six and seven have seen for the first time the full Bengali translation of each and every instruction that surprised me as it goes against the basic principles of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) approach. Even if we don’t think of CLT approach, we must take into consideration that our students get a very negligible amount of time for English practice and without practice and direct listening and participating in relevant language activities a foreign language other than mother tongue cannot be acquired by the learners. The instructions in English, orally and written, contributes to developing  their listening, speaking as well as writing skills as they pick up the language from classroom situation. When these are in Bengali, usually neither the teachers nor students will look at the English instruction which is quite natural. The children in our country can easily understand Hindi and can speak Hindi even though they have not visited India, did not participate in any Hindi class, joined any Hindi coaching centers, have not appeared at any examinations. On the contrary, our learners  learn English as a compulsory subject for twelve years, attend not only classes but also go to coaching centers, private tutors, sit for examinations and earn a certificate from the education board; nevertheless they cannot express themselves in English, either in written or in spoken as it happens in case of Hindi. Why, they don’t have much practice in English and things are not so interestingly discussed or placed before them. Hindi movies attract them and enjoy the movie and its bi-product is acquiring Hindi language. 

The use of classroom English is a good beginning step for encouraging students to feel comfortable in a foreign language. The fastest-spreading language is English which is spoken at a useful level by some 1.75 billion people worldwide—that’s one in every four of us.  In another way we can say English is the language of the world with around 146 countries speaking it. These 146 countries take English as a mandatory subject, while 41 others have it as a possible elective subject and only 5 countries do not teach it. One of the main reasons for the high number of people learning English is that it is the easiest language to learn in the world. Unlike other languages, it has neither gender nor word agreement and arguably has rather simple grammar in comparison to other languages. There are also many resources to learn English from films, music, podcasts, documentaries, YouTube, and books. However, we make it much more complicated to teach it and it has been a commercial subject to many teachers and institutes. To ease these anomalies the new curriculum promised to do something. But going deep into the book, not so exciting elements lie to address the areas cited in this paragraph.

I talked to many teachers from several geographical areas who received English training to use the new textbooks and how to deal with it. They responded that the four competencies such as ability to communicate with relevance to a given context, ability to use appropriate vocabularies (in forms of synonyms, antonyms, phrase, structure according to contents),   ability to appreciate a democratic atmosphere in communication and participate and ability to comprehend and connect to a literary text using contextual clues were discusses in Bengali in the training. They also received the elements and competencies such as (i) knowledge (ii) skills (iii) values (iv) attitude knowledge indicates –(i)subject wise knowledge  (ii)subject special knowledge (iii) inter subject knowledge  and (iv) system of knowledge. Skills – (i) critical thinking skill (ii) creative thinking skill (iii) problem solving skill (iv) self-management skill (v) decision making skill (vi) communicative skill (vii) life and livelihood skill (viii) cooperative skill (ix) global citizenship (x) literacy and numeracy skill  (xi) digital literacy—they heard from the training manual. In the training they also had discussion on Values—(i) patriotism (ii) Harmony (iii) Tolerance (iv) respect (v) solidarity (vi) Integrity (vii) sympathy. How these things will be bridged or amalgamated while teaching English remained quite absent from the training and some trainees’ queries remained unanswered.  Of course, these abilities and competencies students are expected to achieve in the overall curriculum, not by reading English. Whatever subject they learn, the curriculum envisages that learners will develop competencies in these areas. 

In the first chapter of grade six textbook ‘Talking to People’ formal and informal greetings have been discussed. The language focus: Every day we talk to many people. Some of them are very close like our friends and family. We have an informal relationship with them. Also, some of them are not so close to use and some of them could be our new acquaintances. We have a formal relationship with them. While talking to the close ones we use informal language and while talking to unknown or elderly people we usually use formal language.  The background of using formal and informal language and examples seems to be very nice describing five situations. The chapter has tried to make clear where students need to use formal and informal language.

In chapter 2, Little Things, students are given a little idea about ‘stanza’ and ‘rhyme’ which is good. There is an exercise on rhyming words which is also very good. It will give fun and pleasure to the students removing their monotony. It will keep them busy as well while trying to match the rhyming words and it will help develop their vocabulary. Teachers can ask them to find new rhyming words from their text that will indirectly make them read the text

In chapter 3, ‘Future Lies in Present’ the direct definition of Noun, Pronoun, Article, Definite Article, and Indefinite Article seem to be very traditional. Our principal objective will be to enable the students to use these grammatical items in their language, make them familiar with these items through a text or lesson, not just defining grammar points like the books in the market. In chapter 4 also the definition of interrogative sentence, assertive sentence does not seem to be very communicative. However, the conversation between Monir and his Mom to welcome Monir’s uncle who is coming from America is good.

In class seven textbook ‘In the Dream School’ a list has been developed where 18 facilities have been mentioned. Students will identity how many of them exist in their own school. That’s good but all the 18 questions have started with ‘Do you’. It could have been started with other auxiliary verbs to bring novelty and different taste for the learners  and it could make them familiar with several kinds of interrogative sentences and accordingly the scope of practice would widen further.

The second chapter ‘Playing with the words’ the name ‘play’ has been used but there lies no pleasure. In the most traditional way ‘suffixes’ and ‘prefixes’ have been discussed that can hardly differentiate the traditional grammar translation method and the new way of teaching grammatical items. However, the sentences like (a) Do you like or dislike cricket? (b) Are the players spirited or spiritless? (c) Are the two teams friendly or unfriendly? (d) Are the audience happy or unhappy?  (e) Are they supportive or unsupportive? (f) Are the seats comfortable or uncomfortable? (g) Do you agree or disagree that playing cricket is helpful for making friends? If yes, how? - sounds good and from these sentences ‘suffix’ and ‘prefixes’ could have been taught without traditionally describing the definitions. As per the spirit of CLT, grammatical items should be practiced in such as way as students can easily acquire the techniques and use the sentences in their own language. They need to well understand the facts and definitions need to be prepared by them, not by the teachers and books initially. They will just see and practice how things are changing.

In grade seven new textbook’s chapter 12, ‘Subha’s Promise’ exercises on ‘present continuous’ and ‘past continuous’ tense really upholds the communicative spirit of language teaching. E.g. Today I am having breakfast with my little sister but yesterday I was having my breakfast with my grandparents. Today I am making my bed but yesterday my father was making my bed. It will help students understand the differences between the two forms of tenses, develop their sentence making abilities and make them confident as they themselves will be able to make sentences. Three different situations have been mentioned to make the differences clear to the learners that also seem to be more communicative.

In 12.9 activities the definition of present perfect tense has been perfectly mentioned with three good examples like ‘an action or situation which began in the past and is continuing to the present. Examples- I have lived in this small town all my life. It means that I started living in this small town many years ago and still I am living here. That’s a suitable example and quite different from the grammar book’s example that does not help students understand the basic points of present perfect tense. Other two conditions of present perfect tense have also been explained nicely and students are asked to identify the differences between present perfect and past perfect. That’s also a nice activity. Ultimately we can say, teachers’ innovative ideas, hard work and genuine love for language teaching can make these new textbooks suitable teaching materials for the learners.


The writer is President, English Teachers’ Association of Bangladesh. Email: [email protected]