Materials Development in English
(as a second) language:
An Indian Experience
by Rama Meganathan
This paper presents the process of recent curricular revision and material development in English at the national level in India in a limited way. Teacher’s needs and wants, their participation in the development of materials, the dilemmas of teachers and their implications for classroom transactions are discussed from the experiences of one of the members of the materials development team. The paper attempts to answer the following questions: (i) Should India need a textbook at the national level? (ii) Should methodology influence material or vice–versa? (iii) What can be material for textbook in English in countries like India? (iv) Can teachers make good materials? Is it possible to include materials development as part of professional development of teachers?
Materials development for teaching of English as a second language has been witnessing significant changes during the last three decades in countries like India. The concerns informed by research on language learning and learning theories have impacted the methods that in turn resulted in change in thinking in materials development. This along with other reasons which are mostly to achieve uniformity or commonality in the system resulted in making the teacher–learner / teaching-learning activities textbook centric. Though teachers are not much heard in the process of textbook development, their participation is recognized as a positive trend. Teachers, on the one hand expect materials to do all wonders, on the other their needs and wants clash with each other and also with needs of learners and learning. This creates many dilemmas in teachers and also in materials developers. The recent curricular revision undertaken in India made an attempt to address these issues and problems by brining in people from varied contexts to develop materials.
1. The Process
With the change of the government at the centre (national level), the National Council of Educational Research and Training (1) was directed to take up the revision of the school curriculum. The Education Secretary’s letter to the Director of NCERT annexed with the National Curriculum Framework 2005 (NCF) makes it clear the agenda of the government, as it quotes the National Policy on Education (NPE) 1986 and its Programme of Action (POA) (1992) calling for a revision of the curriculum once in five years. Major opposition to the textbooks developed as a follow up to the National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCFSE- 2000) was that the right wing ideas of the Hindutuva ideology have been brought into the textbooks, particularly in the textbooks of social sciences. The left leaned academics and liberal forces opposed the NCFSE -2000 vehemently and it was lead as a movement.
Revision of national curriculum was initiated with the setting up of (2) National Steering Committee (ii.) National Focus Groups (3) (21 groups). The Steering committee had had around 35 members from many fields and people from NGOs. The issues in language education were deliberated in the two National Focus Groups – Teaching of English and the Teaching of Indian Languages. The major issues in both the groups could be listed as: (i) Medium of learning – teaching /instruction (ii) Language policy in school education – three language formula (iii) Introduction of English as a language (iv) Language teacher education – teachers’ professional development (v) Teacher’s Language proficiency (vi) Methodologies of teaching (vii) Materials for teaching the language(s) (viii) Multilingualism as a strategy in classroom transactions
The syllabus committee in language(s) translated ideas of the position papers into reality. The syllabus listed themes and suggested varied ways for class transactions in a broader sense. After the syllabus committee, the textbook development committee plunged into action to design textbooks for various classes in a phased manner. In the first phase (2005-06) textbooks for classes I, III, VI, IX and XI and during the second phase (2006-07) textbooks for classes II, IV, VII, X and XII were brought out. The following sections describe the discussions, debates of one textbook development committees for (class X) on various occasions on the important issues and concern to develop materials that would make an impact in the classroom to enable children in learning the language.
1. National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is a national level apex organization which advises the govt. of India and the state (provinces) govts. on matters of school education. It is also a premier organization which develops textbooks at the national level and undertakes research and extension activities.
2. For details of the proceedings of the meeting of the Steering Committee please visit www.ncert.nic.in
3. To know more about the Focus Groups please visit: www.ncert.nic.in
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