POST TIME: 13 December, 2019 11:21:35 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 13 December, 2019 05:08:26 PM
Learning the lingua franca of the world
In Bangladesh most of the English teachers teach English through Bangla. As a result, the students are being deprived of the opportunity of practising listening and speaking in English in the classroom

Learning the lingua franca of the world

English language is the linguistic tool to open the door of the globalised world. Consequently, how to master this language more effectively has become a serious cause for concern nowadays. As English is the most used international language and the fourth most widely spoken language in the world, it has achieved the status of official language for international communication, trade and commerce, sports, international civil aviation and so on. If anyone wants to obtain higher degree, there is no alternative way to have in depth knowledge in English language.
Taking into consideration of the importance of English as the most used international language, the education system of Bangladesh has included it as a compulsory subject in the primary, secondary and higher secondary curriculum. Students learn English as a compulsory subject from class one to twelve. But their English language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) are not up to the mark. They cannot communicate with others even after learning it for a longer period of time as, practically I see, most of the students of our country do not have good command over English. For an instance, a student obtaining A+ in SSC Examination writes: ‘He go’ instead of ‘He goes’.  Student studying at graduation level of English writes in his answer script: ‘I am emotion in this sentence’.

In these circumstances, the frequently asking question: Why cannot most of the students show good performance in English communication after learning English   for 12 or more years?

Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) approach has brought a wider perspective on English language learning and teaching to cope with the modern civilized world. It has become effective both in learning and teaching English breaking the traditional memorizing system. Therefore, the education system of Bangladesh needs to give more emphasis on CLT to improve the English language teaching and learning quality in the country. But only Communicative system is not suitable for the students of second language country like ours. Question pattern of HSC level English question including MCQ for 5 marks and re-ordering sentence bearing 10 marks are totally without grammar as it can be done sometimes easily on the basis of assumption. If MCQ system is cut out from class one to twelve and writing system is introduced, the student will be forced to learn grammar. This grammatical base enables students to be good at English in our second language country like ours.

Another reality our students face is that most of the students have no scope of practicing listening and speaking outside the classroom as English is our second language. The assigned textbooks English For Today at secondary and higher secondary level are written in simple language using easy words, syntaxes, sentences, grammars, dialogues, and rhymes providing the students with opportunities for practising the four skills of English in the classrooms. Exercises are given at the end of the lessons. Language learning activities like individual work, pair work, group work, asking and answering questions and other interactive activities have been included in the textbooks to encourage and ensure the active participation of the students in the classroom activities. But these items are not enough for the learners of English due to the inexperienced teachers and the result-oriented learners.

Teachers are being trained up through different projects like English Language Teaching Improvement Project (ELTIP, currently merged with NAEM), Teaching Quality Improvement in Secondary Education Project (TQI-SEP), Secondary Education Sector Improvement Project (SESIP) and so on. Despite these trainings, most of the teachers are demotivated to use these gained methods in teaching English as they find the students and their guardians very aspiring towards the examination result rather than the English learning. As a result, these teachers concentrate on preparing students for the result in public exams like PSC, JSC, SSC and HSC and the students learn English only for passing those public exams and for getting a good grade. Apart from this, teachers are under pressure from the head of the institutions not to go beyond the question pattern and syllabus. If some advanced teachers engage students in speaking and listening practices, sometimes the guardians complain for spending time in matters which are not important for examinations. A research shows that most of the English teachers teach English through Bangla. As a result, the students are being deprived of practising listening and speaking in the classroom.

The ultimate question comes to the concerned authority: have our students who have passed the SSC or HSC examinations developed their four skills necessary for communication? Of course, time is not ripe enough to ask these questions but we should see whether the path is leading to the right direction. Practically, we see, after the introduction of Communicative English in the secondary and Higher Secondary levels, students are lagging behind and found less competent than the students who were learners before introducing this system.  However, several training programmes have been taken up by ELTIP(English Language Teaching Improvement Project), BRAC and UKBET( United Kingdom and  Bangladesh Education  Trust) to prepare our secondary school teachers to deal with the English For Today and to develop their teaching abilities. The materials produced on the basis of the techniques of EFT. Again, question arises how far the training materials address the practical issues.

Whatever the reasons are, assessment system from primary to higher secondary level should be revised including listening and speaking skills assessment considering students’ needs in the global context. Language learning activities like group work, pair work, role-play, asking and answering questions, acting, dramatization, and other interactive activities should be made compulsory to be practised in the classrooms. English debating programme can be organised extensively in schools and colleges and the competition can be held between schools and colleges in the same upazilla, same district, same division and countrywide. As English is a skill-based subject and it needs a lot of practices for better competency, the period of English class should be extended up to 60 minutes or 90 so that the students can practise English for a longer period of time.

Besides, proper monitoring and supervision of teaching English need to be ensured by the English language experts. English teachers need to be well trained in order to teach the students properly. A good teacher can help the students in the best possible way and make the teaching more attractive, interesting, and comprehensible.

In Bangladesh, only two basic skills of English language such as reading and writing are practiced and assessed till the higher secondary level. But other two important items: listening and speaking, are totally neglected.

We know English is a grammar-based subject. Without learning grammatical rules, it is possible sometimes to utter few sentences in the field of communication but the fluent speaker needs to achieve good command over English. For this reason, the education system should emphasize grammar and literature along with the communication system; this combined method helps the students of second language country to learn English properly.

The writer is a journalist of The  Independent and a teacher