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10 April, 2021 09:11:29 AM
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Does “10 Minute School” teach English for sustainable learning?

The school’s teaching of grammar remains rooted in rigid, traditional forms and structures. The teaching of grammar should focus on ‘form’ not focus on ‘forms’. It means the focus should not consist of mastering grammatical rules and words, while neglecting pragmatic competence.
Dr. S M Akramul Kabir
Does “10 Minute School” teach English for sustainable learning?

10 Minute School has made a series of video clips to teach English language. These clips catapulted the “10 minute School” into the limelight. It is amazing, isn’t it? So, I would like to make it clear that this write-up is not my castigation against the “10 Minute School”. It is a critique to save the students from the trap of learning English in a short-cut way. It is also for the sake of sustainable learning of English.

To speak in English is a phobia for many learners in our country. The “10 Minute School” technically uses this ‘phobia’ to make its clickbait content on Youtube. The content attracted heaps of views, likes and comments. I appreciate the 10 Minute School’s sincere effort to teach English on digital platforms. But, in contrast, I critique the teaching method of the school as it seems analogue. The teachers are trendy and young but the way of teaching grammar is traditional and trite. Their presentation skills are spontaneous but they follow the Latinised way of teaching grammar!

The school’s teaching of grammar remains rooted in rigid, traditional forms and structures. The teaching of grammar should focus on ‘form’ not focus on ‘forms’. It means the focus should not consist of mastering grammatical rules and words, while neglecting pragmatic competence. From the 1970s onward, it became widely accepted that learning a language involves a lot more than developing grammatical competence only.

Surprisingly, there is an irony! The name of the school is grammatically erroneous! The word “10 Minute” is presumably used as an adjective before the noun-- “School”. So, the name itself is ungrammatical despite a myth of making Proper Nouns in Bangladesh. The myth validates that no grammatical rule is applied if English words are used as a Proper Noun!

However, there is a grammatical rule suggested by Michael Swan in the book -- “Practical English Usage”. According to him, a hyphen is to be used between the two or more words when they come before a noun and act as an adjective. For example, to qualify the noun – “School”, “10 Minute” is the adjective here. So, it should be “10-Minute”, not “10 Minute”.  Otherwise, it will be “Ten Minutes” to act as an ‘adjective’ to qualify the noun -- “School”. If a school cannot name itself correctly how will it be able to teach correct English! It seems self-contradictory to me.

Nonetheless, I do not intend to blame the teachers of the “10 Minute School”. First, most of them are students at different levels and they are not teachers by profession having professional degrees and training. Second, they are also the product of the Grammar-Translation Method for learning English. So, by default, they just replicate what their teachers taught them.

I believe that language learning is not sporadic. It is rather a continuous process, both consciously and subconsciously. That is why I do reiterate that there is no royal road to learning. In fact, anything ready-made is a disastrous recipe for learning. The same rule applies to learning the English language.

English language learning is a complex area filled with a maze of confusing bits and pieces. Learners may fare worst if the bits and pieces are not explained properly. So, the YouTube clips of 10 Mintute School, such as "৭ মিনিটে ৫০টি  Daily Use ইংরেজি বাক্য", “ঘরে বসেই মাত্র ১০ মিনিটে ৪টি ধাপে শিখুন কীভাবে ইংরেজিতে প্রশ্ন করতে হয়?”, “মাত্র ১৬ ঘন্টায় ঝালিয়ে নিন নিজের Spoken English Skill”, “মাত্র তিন মিনিটেই  শিখে নিন সময় সংক্রান্ত সবগুলো preposition!” are intensely clickbait to name a few.

Neuroscience evidence recently suggests that language learning is not a linear process. For this reason, learning may not happen when the teacher thinks it will. So, learning cannot be time-bound. In my view, this sort of clip is nothing but an advertising stunt in the name of learning “spoken English”. This advertising allurement is a covered hindrance to students’ sustainable learning zeal. It seems more a hoax than a help for the learners.

English teaching hoax is not new in Bangladesh. Eminent Professor of English Harunur Rashid surfaced this issue long ago. In the 1990s, a group of people introduced a short-cut way of learning spoken English. It is because speaking in English is highly rated in our country regardless of any context. So, a method called “FM Method” was introduced which is non-empirical, therefore, untheoretical.

“FM Method” centres mushroomed across the country. The centres gained momentum at that time for some reasons and rituals. I was a college-goer at that time. I was also in the tide for the craze and vibe that the “FM Method” gained. What I observed there was nothing but drilling of sentences related to our everyday conversations. However, the drilling of sentences will not suffice to meet the conversational need for unpredictable situations.

“FM Method” introduced a learning ritual. The ritual was to make a learner speak up to shrug off hesitation. To do the ritual, they used to teach some fixed structures of ‘tense’. Certainly in a traditional way but tweaking the traditionally called ‘object’ of the sentence. For example, the twist of their argument was that if a student can understand the sentence “I am going to school”, s/he can use the same structure to express -- going to ‘hospital’, ‘market’, ‘restaurant’ and what not.

This was one of their popular techniques that attracted novice learners like me. A learner was only required to twist the ‘object’ of the sentence. In this way, learners were taught a set of sentence structures. They used to call every learner to the rostrum and encourage them to speak on a context-specific topic using those structures.

In the name of “spoken English”, the 10 Minute School also simply teaches a set of ready-made sentences for everyday conversations. However, this is not all about learning “spoken English”. In fact, in spoken English, apart from making context-specific conversation, something more is needed. Conversational situations cannot be fixed or predicted in our everyday life. It is unpredictable and needs the competence to communicate at once. Sometimes interlocutors need to interfere with their natural ability to explore each other – give suggestions, make connections and develop relations.

Actually, spoken communication requires more than just knowledge of words and language rules. It further requires the ability to appropriately express our ideas, thoughts, feelings, and intentions to other people, and to accurately interpret those expressed by them.

Students must master the competence to communicate in any situation in life. The memorisation of some fixed expressions in a given situation cannot be considered spoken English! Life-long learning requires sustainability that develops the knowledge, skills, values and world-views necessary for people to act accordingly in life. It enables individuals and communities to reflect on ways of interpreting and engaging with the world.

Language learning should be sustainable as it is an inevitable part of life. Actually, there is no option like the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach for learning English. Different learners learn English differently but gradually. Learners have to sweat for hours and years. Their ability to learn a second language is also different.

Anyway, the clickbait titles are nothing but marketing wiles for learning English. The marketing platform has shifted from newspaper ads or leaflets to youtube. I would like to warn the learners about the danger of these clips. The clips seem to be a quick-fix solution for learning English. These commercially viable doses may prove damaging in the long run for aspiring learners. There’s no denying that language learning needs to foster our minds. It needs to expand the frontiers of global knowledge.

Therefore, mere watching of the clips of “10 Minute School” may interfere with learners’ natural ability to explore, ask questions, make connections using the English language, and learn the language for life. So, learners need to follow the research-driven and established methods of learning English. Otherwise, they will fall into the trap of clickbait titles on Youtube for learning English.

The writer is a researcher on language education policy and Assistant Professor of English at the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, Bangladesh.

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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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