Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 8 : 12 December 2008
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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Materials Development in English as a Second Language in India -
A Survey of Issues and Some Developments at the National Level

Rama. Meganathan, M.A., M.Phil., M.Ed., Ph.D. Candidate


This paper presents some of the processes of recent curricular revision and materials development in English at the national level in India, especially as these relate to the initiatives of NCERT (National Council for Educational Research and Training). Teacher's needs and wants, their participation in the development of materials, the choices teachers have to make and their implications for classroom transactions are discussed from the experiences of one of the members of the textbooks development team of the NCERT.

The paper attempts to answer the following questions:

  1. Should India need a textbook at the national level for teaching English as a Second Language?
  2. Should methodology influence material or the vice versa?
  3. What can be material for textbooks in English in countries like India?
  4. Can teachers prepare good materials?
  5. Is it possible to include materials development as part of professional development of teachers?

An important aspect of this paper is the presentation of the English language teachers' needs and wants as perceived by them and reported through various surveys.

The Impact of Learning Theories and Theorists

Materials development for the teaching of English as a second language has witnessed 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 which in turn resulted in change in thinking in materials development. This also led to demands to achieve uniformity or commonality in the system. This has resulted in making the teacher-learner/teaching-learning activities textbook centric.

Though teachers are not heard much 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, and, on the other, we also notice that their needs and wants clash with each other and also with the needs of learners and learning. This creates many problems for the teachers and materials developers.

The Process: Impact of Political Trends on the Preparation of Textbooks

With the change of the government at the Centre (national level), from the BJP-led NDA government to the Indian National Congress-led UPA government, the National Council of Educational Research and Training was directed by the new government 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) made clear the agenda of the government, as it quoted the National Policy on Education (NPE) 1986 and its revision of 1992. The NPE - 1986 and its revised form Programme of Action (POA) (1992) call for a revision of the curriculum once in five years.

Major opposition to the textbooks developed as a follow up of 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-leaning academics and others opposed the NCFSE -2000 vehemently.

The new government in 2004 constituted several committees and subcommittees to look into the exercise of the curricular revision done in the year 2000 by the previous government. Immediate action of the new government was to review the textbooks and suggest measures to remove the texts and portions of lessons that presented the Hindutuva agenda of the previous government. As this exercise was completed, NCERT started preparing for the revision of the curriculum.

A Nation-wide Exercise for the Revision of Curriculum and Materials Development

Though it was not clear how effective this exercise would be, it sounded in our initial discussions that this was not going to be another exercise to revise the curriculum. It was taken as a nationwide exercise involving large number of academics, teachers, social activists, NGOs working in the field of education at the gross root level. This was a very systematically carried out exercise to review the national curriculum. People from all fields were involved in it, as also for the first time views and opinions of common public were called for and taken into consideration.

In order to synchronize the exercise, many structures were created. These included: i. National Steering Committee and ii. National Focus Groups (21 groups). The steering committee had around 40 members from many fields and people from NGOs. The Steering Committee held discussions at least seven times at many places in the country and deliberated upon various issues on school education and its status. While the steering committee was very keen in triggering discussions and debates on some of the hard spots and issues that needed to be answered, the twenty-one National Focus Groups, set up on various curricular areas, national concerns and systemic issues, held their meetings at different places and brought out issues and concern in each area.

The position papers of national focus groups provided inputs for shaping of the National Curriculum Framework (NCF - 2005). When the NCF - 2005 was finally approved and the national focus group position papers were made available to all, the syllabi committees were geared into action to design syllabi in each subject area. An interesting thing to be noted is that some of the members in the three structures, steering committee, focus groups, syllabi committee were common. This helped to have a holistic understanding of the whole exercise. While some of the members who were new in a particular committee, groups were well aware of the happening in each group. Thus the whole exercise of NCF -2005, focus group position papers, and syllabi created interest among all stakeholders.

Same Issues of the Past

Many of the issues brought out and discussed in the national monitoring committee and the national focus groups have been there for quite some time. These have been discussed since the NPE - 1986. Besides the concerns of education for all (EFA) from an Indian perspective, other concerns were reduction of curriculum load, both physical and all other forms, understanding of learners from their perspective, examination reforms, other systemic issues like teacher education, education of the socially, economically suppressed, gender, special needs group and language education in the Indian situation - the multilingual perspective, and position and demand for English and so on.

Issues Relating to Language Education

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:

1. Medium of learning - teaching /instruction

2. Language policy in school education - three language formula

3. Introduction of English as a language

4. Language teacher education - teachers' professional development

5. Language teacher proficiency

6. Methodologies of teaching

7. Materials for teaching the language(s)

8. Multilingualism as a strategy in classroom transactions

9. Promotion of reading

The syllabus committee in language(s) took serious note of the ideas of the position papers and translated them into reality. Future will tell how far this has been realized.

The syllabus listed themes and suggested varied ways for class transactions in a broader sense.

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Evaluation of English-Manipuri Bilingual Dictionaries | Internet Projects of Language Learning - A Student-Centered Approach | Skype Voice Chat - A Tool for Teaching Oral Communication | Noun Classification System in Mizo | How Authority and Leadership Evolve - A Study of Leadership Functions and Authority in the New Testament Community | Trends and Spatial Patterns of Crime in India - A Case Study of a District in India | Problems of Visually Challenged With Special Reference to School Children in Coimbatore District, Tamilnadu | Tenor in Electronic Media Political Discourse in BBC News - A Functional Analysis of English-Arabic Translation | Materials Development in English as a Second language in India - A Survey of Issues and Some Developments at the National Level | An Eyewitness Account of the Third Indian National Congress in 1887 at Madras - Excerpts from Dr. Henry Lunn's Book A Friend of Missions in India | HOME PAGE of December 2008 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Rama. Meganathan, M.A., M.Phil., M.Ed., Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Languages
National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT)
Sri Aurobindo Marg
New Delhi 110 016

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