Although the state government plans to set up English labs in 6,000 public schools, lack of specialists and lack of innovation in teaching may be barriers

Experts say teachers should go the extra mile to develop their students’ language skills. Photo: iStock

At a time when Tamils ​​are vehemently protesting Home Minister Amit Shah’s remark about using Hindi as an alternative to English, the Tamil Nadu School Department has announced an ambitious plan to implement places English language labs in at least 6,000 public schools with a budget of ₹30 crore.

The decision may seem a fitting rejoinder to the Center’s attempts to implement Hindi as a liaison language, but scholars question whether it would work on the ground, given the dismal fate similar projects have faced in the past. While similar language labs have been set up by southern Indian states like Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Tamil Nadu is expected to be the first in the region to implement it in all the state.

Bilingual policy

Historically, Dravidian parties have chosen English over Hindi as the language of liaison between states, and the new announcement is seen as an extension of this principle. Under the regime of CN Annadurai, the founder of the DMK, the trilingual policy was abolished in public schools. Under this policy, it was compulsory for children in public schools to learn Hindi apart from Tamil and English.


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According to the Constituent Assembly, the tri-language policy was introduced so that English could serve as a liaison language for people to interact with the outside world and Hindi as a link between states. Annadurai, however, felt that while English can serve as a link to the world outside India, it can also be used to interact within states.

“So why one language for the outside world and one language for the interior of India? It’s like drilling a small hole in the wall for the kitten and a bigger one for the cat,” he said. Also, he said, learning three languages ​​would become a burden for children.

“If a Tamil student has to learn three languages, he or she will have to learn three different sounds and three different alphabets. Tamil, English and Hindi are three different types of languages,” Annadurai said.

High target, poor quality implementation

In 2004, the state government introduced English as a class 1 subject in public schools. Previously, students in public schools were only introduced to the language from grade 3. To ensure that students in higher grades mastered the language, the government introduced language labs for grades 6 to 12 from 2003.

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Under the Department of School Education Policy Document 2005-06, orders were issued to establish language labs in 600 public high schools and high schools. It was expected that within one school year, the labs would be expanded to an additional 300 schools. However, the program was not as successful as the government expected.

“We cannot say that the program was a success. It has not taken off in many parts of the state due to lack of equipment, training and outdated technology,” said PK Ilamarana, State Chairman, Tamil Nadu Teachers Association. The Federal.

He said a non-teacher, mostly a computer-savvy person, was appointed in many schools as a language teacher because the English teachers at those schools were not tech-savvy. “Since the students were not introduced to these labs on a daily basis by the respective language teacher, the program was not successful. But we hope that this time such issues will be fixed,” Ilamaran said.

Apart from creating language labs, the government introduced English as the language of instruction in public schools from 2013, but to no avail.

Lack of innovation in education, specialists

Anand Thiyagu, an English teacher at a public school in Thiruvarur district, said language labs need language specialists rather than English teachers.

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“Although the English alphabet has 26 letters, there are 44 types of sounds (phonemes). A teacher who teaches English as a subject can teach the alphabet and grammar. But to improve students’ diction, we need specialists who have an in-depth knowledge of the language and who can handle this practical work. But before students are introduced to these labs, the basics – listening, speaking, reading and writing – must be reinforced,” he said. he declares.

Experts say what these labs lack most is innovation, and teachers should go the extra mile to develop their students’ language skills.

S Murugavel, a former English teacher and one of the coordinators of the Indian Association of English Language Teachers, Pudukkottai District, said English teachers, to start with, should be aware of the changes in the English language teaching.

“For example, many colleges today have introduced a separate language class called ‘Communicative English’. Indeed, English and communication using this language have become important in all areas. These classes use software that provides results on the spot. But most English teachers are unaware of these developments. Instead of reading the book, teachers need to go beyond the classroom. They should focus on students’ articulation of language,” he said.

English for Job Readiness

In 2018, Assembly Speaker M Appavu, himself a former teacher, filed a public interest complaint in the Madras High Court, seeking an order from the then AIADMK government to introduce English language courses spoken in public schools.

“Although English has been taught, a student, even after successfully completing Class 12 with very good grades, is able to not speak or understand communication in English. There is a difficulty for these students to speak or write fluently in English and this causes problems when they pursue professional and other studies, as the classes are conducted only in English,” he said in the petition.

After hearing the motion, the court ordered the school department to take the necessary action. Thus, in 2019, a spoken English program was introduced in public schools. Under this program, students between grades 6 and 12 would receive training in spoken English for 45 minutes each week.

In addition to this, the state has taken another initiative, called “Naan Mudhalvan” (“I am the first”), with the aim of increasing job opportunities for young people. As part of this scheme, to improve the English proficiency of public school pupils, the government signed a memorandum of understanding with the British Council on March 8 this year.

Practice is essential

Amala, an English teacher in Tiruvannamalai district, said that while teachers make 100 per cent effort to follow spoken English lessons, they also expect the same level of engagement from students.

“In rural areas like ours, students show a real interest in taking these courses. However, once they leave school and return home, they are unable to use what they learn because their parents are illiterate or do not speak English. They have no one to communicate with them in English. Over time, students lose interest in learning the language,” she said.