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Nukesh Yellapu



Factors and Problems of Teaching English as a Second Language in Rural Areas for +1 Students in Andhra Pradesh

With the long and varied experience of teaching English to young students in rural areas of Andhra Pradesh at +1 level, the columnist would like to share some of the difficulties and their probable remedies in teaching and learning English as second language. The main aim of the essay is to dispel the illusion of English language learning. This essay clearly announces the fact that English can be learnt comfortably even by the people who were born and bred up in adverse conditions.

Most of the students accomplish their schooling in their mother tongue i.e. Telugu. Though they have attained heaps of marks in core subjects, they remain very poor at English still. The students have an unknown fear and fever over English all these years. Now, let us examine some of the various factors which leave English as a souring grape for rural students even today.

To begin with, the first and the fore most factor is the socio-cultural and financial background of the family. As most of the parents are illiterate, they cannot directly take part in the daily routine of their children though they aspire for their childrens’ bright future. Hence, the students’ performance lacks parental supervision and guidance which is very necessary at this juncture of their education. The illiterate parents cannot realise what their children pursuing neither they do afford time to consult the teacher about the progression in studies of their children. Every minute during the day time is valuable for them as they have to struggle in earning their livelihood. The boy or girl is also sent for work on wages at the specified time of the year which affects their education very dearly.

An interesting observation identifies that the performance in English of the students whose parents are employees and belong to higher middle class is better than that of the students whose parents are illiterate and belong to lower middle class. The probable reason perhaps is that the parents in the first case can spare time to consult the teacher about the on going of their children once a while and can guide them if necessary. Thus there has emerged an undesirable difference between the two classes.

Consequently, It is established in rural areas as a proven fact to say that English is tough to study and understand despite the fact that English is the easiest language in the world to learn.

But it was also proved every now and then that the students from the second group also showed greater interest and expertise in English. The credit goes to the student and their teacher who was successful in inculcating curiosity among the students in spite of their financial irregularities and improper brought up. So, mere poverty cannot create a gulf between students and their English language efficiency.

The second major problem is the inefficiency of the teachers. These students generally pursue their studies in Government public schools in which the medium of instruction is Telugu, their mother tongue. The methodology of ELT in these schools is bilingual or translation method. The teachers simply translate every thing into their mother tongue and explain them on the name of bilingual or translation method. Though this method offers them sound knowledge in the content, it prevents them in acquiring communication abilities in English. The teacher here plays more as a translator than a genuine English teacher. Hence, virtually, there is no much difference between a telugu teacher and an English teacher.

The English teachers at these schools are untrained and more over they are unaware of the current trends and techniques of ELT.

The reason for these unskilled English teachers may be as a result of the Government policy of promoting school teachers as Junior Lecturers in colleges. The Andhra Pradesh Government used to have a strategy of promoting school teachers as Junior Lecturers. A certain quota or amount of teachers were recruited as JLs on promotion. It enabled a school teacher who taught any subject (not English, mandatorily) was entitled to be promoted as Junior Lecturer in English provided that the teacher has a post graduation certificate in English. The columnist personally knew a teacher who taught Science at school for 20 years and held various positions in District school administration became a Junior Lecturer in English later; and even worse case was that another teacher who taught Hindi for more than two decades happened to be a JL in English. Fortunately, The Government has decided to withdraw this G.O. very recently.

The case with many of the private English medium schools in rural areas is no better than this. The situation is even worse with them. The teachers who teach English are those who persuaded their schooling in English medium and failed in Intermediate and so. The columnist doesn’t consider this is the case with every organization, but with most of them. Definitely, this kind of teachers make English as a nightmare to students and they instigate students to habituate by-heart method which deprived students the communication abilities in English. Thus English appeared or is rather made as a dreadful demon or a dangerous monster for long years in Andhra Pradesh.

Another probable reason is that the modal of the final English examination paper. It has not been designed in a manner that it helps students to have an authority over English language rather it make the students to take it for granted. The examinations used to be content based where the students were supposed to write 3 essays in the exam. Thus students were forced to adopt by-heart method. Their memory works helps than their intelligence there. They reproduce the essays in the examination.

The other factor which affects English language learning is the educational system itself . There are primarily four skills involved in English language learning i.e. Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing (LSRW). The students of Andhra Pradesh have been tutored and trained well enough in reading and writing for long ages. But Listening and Speaking skills which play a greater role in communication have been neglected and ignored. Thus our educational system lacks an important dimension . It enables the students to concentrate on reading and writing only. The final examination does also test them mainly on how good their memory is. The examinations are not language-oriented. Even parents are craving for marks than knowledge.

Consequently, result oriented teaching has been adopted in schools. Students are guided and specially trained to concentrate only on the areas where they can score better. Hence, they neglect the other two basic skills.

Listening is the one basic skill which makes speaking possible.

Nobody can speak a language without listening to it. Even an infant starts speaking in a particular language after listening to it for many months. It is why an infant who is deaf by birth remains dumb too. Since he is not able to listen to, he cannot speak in it.

Thus, our young students are deprived of speaking abilities because they have not been properly guided in listening skill. This may be the proper reason why they have not been able to speak in English in a proper manner. They have become adept only at writing and reading of English. With the advent of Information Revolution or software booming in Andhra Pradesh a few years back and its impacts like highly perked opportunities in Multi Nation Companies, people came to recognise the importance of English language.

Communication in English has been playing a major role in business world too. Despite the marks and percentage, the communicative abilities fetched them opportunities. The people who were poor at their speaking skills were deprived of their wonderful chances of making their life beautiful. It is not exaggerating to say that today every family has at least one foreign returned or foreign-dwelling.

Knowing the growing demand for good English, Andhra Pradesh State Council of Higher Education started working on it. They included a Comprehensive Course in Listening and Speaking at degree level of late. The syllabus for degree students in all universities has been changed entirely where students are tested both on paper and in person. Their speaking and listening skills are nurtured with the help of audio and video devices. The paper has two parts as Theory and Practical. Practicals have been introduced for the first time at this level. The concept of Language Labs have been introduced.

This new way of teaching has been appreciated and welcomed by every teacher, student and parent. The students are exciting to learn things in this new way. Instruction has been changed from teacher-centric to student-centric. This concept encouraged and helped student to talk in the class. He can actively participate in the class room activities with his/her peer group. Student Talk Time ( STT) should be higher than Teacher Talk Time(TTT).

Fortunately,It started working positively. The students’ level of understanding English enhanced slowly with this mammoth effort. The students are gradually picking up the ability of speaking in English within a less time.

This system starts working more effectively when the ratio of computer and student is 1:1. The system does not make it’s impact on students when thirty or forty students are taught with a single computer. Special training should be offered to the teachers who have to work with the new system. However, the ideology and effort should be appreciated in any way.

This is high time that the Board of Intermediate Education, Andhra Pradesh adopted this kind of practice. In this system ,we cannot find any difference between the students who belong to various groups in learning English neither their socio-cultural and financial backgrounds do play a major role .Let us hope these days will come soon.