Materials Development in English
(as a second) language:
An Indian Experience
by Rama Meganathan
4. Moralism Question
The syllabus (NCERT 2006) lists fifteen major themes from where the ideas for the text could be drawn. It is only a guideline to draw texts from, not a restriction. One major question teachers wanted not only as teachers, but as parents, citizens is “We need to have texts or stories to teach morals explicitly to our children.” This may also be the opinion of many ‘adults’ who visualize education as ‘man making business by imbibing values’, ‘character building’ and ‘behaviourial change.’ The curriculum in its aims and contents calls for education to act as an instrument in creating a citizenry for a democratic society in the Indian context. What is expected by majority of the teachers from a textbook as ‘adults’ is that materials to act as didactic instrument to teach morals as morals so that our children get to learn them. In this regard the demand from the language textbook is more than other textbooks. Some responses and reflections by students during my visit to a school run by the NVS is:
“Please stop preaching through textbooks. We do not want direct moral like a sermon. Stories should interest us”
“The textbook should have such stories and material of our interests, not simply life and works of people and their teaching.
While the teachers, on the one hand feel that their students would not be able to read and understand textbook, expect the texst to be value laden to preach. As students point out they expect text to interest them. We need to think much before choosing a text.
5. Grammar or No Grammar?
This has taken much of our deliberations in and out of our workshops. A major change or reform that has taken place in this textbook revision is that the integration of grammar activities with the textbook itself. Till this revision we had had a textbook or a reader, an extensive reader (supplementary reader) and a work book, which presented grammar, most of them being sentence based exercises, somewhat contextualized. As a mark of reducing burden- both physical as well as the burden of incomprehensiveness and to let children learn grammar in situations and contexts - the three books have now been made into two. Grammar has now become part of the textbook, the main text book. The dilemmas here are:
Teach formal grammar to some extent
• We need to teach grammar in a functional manner in contexts but tell them also the rules at least at the end. Sentence based grammar is very useful.
• Each grammar item should be tested in the examination distinctly i.e test reported speech as one item. Do not do it like editing, cloze exercise, etc.
• Students should know the labels as well as rules so that they would become better users of the language.
• More grammar and correct grammar would make students to use the language very well.
Teach grammar in contexts, situations
• Grammar is unnecessary at the initial years of learning.
• Let the learner discover rules of grammar and root the grammar activities in the text and contextualized situations.
• Teach and test grammar in contexts and in an integrated manner.
• Knowing labels and rules will not make a good learner / user of the language. From the contexts learners will discover the rules and know the labels as they grow.
• Language is learnt when the learner is less anxious (Krasen 1982). Learning (Grammar) mechanically only makes learners stressed. Teaching of more grammar with out any understanding of the language will only make the child stressed.
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