A Chapter by JENY

If you are interested in the field of education and humanity as a whole read it...


                         SWINE MEANS PANNI

           It is not so easy. What?. Mastering a language other than your mother tongue. Why? Yes I asked myself, why? And I found myself thinking of the answer in my mother tongue- Malayalam. I tried to think in English. But again fell upon my mother language inadvertently.

              Language comes out of us through 2 organs tongue and fingers. Tongue is for oral communication and finger is for written communication. Both tongue and hands do not operate simultaneously while communicating through a language. But both operate spontaneously when they are handling mother tongue.


                    When required to function with a foreign language both tongue and finger see that they need a translator. A translator who will tell them, this in English is that in Malayalam. And the fluency an individual acquires in a foreign language depends on the deftness of this translator. The translator I am referring here is nothing but that part of our brain dealing with linguistic skills. In other words neuro-linguistic areas of brain that help to adopt a foreign language via ones own mother tongue.

                            A translator in the brain of a child begins to function when he comes to know that same thing can be put in two or more different languages and his mother tongue is only one of them. The prime task of language teacher is to strengthen this translator in the brain of student in other words strengthening the vocabulary of student is the prime task of language teacher. Once this task is not accomplished, he loses interest in the study of language spanning across a realm consisting of grammar, sentence structure, idioms, propositions etc.

                          At the age of adolescence a student is supposed to have the skill to appreciate poems, short stories and other literary forms if, appreciating literature are a skill to be acquired during education. In addition to this, he should master the art of expressing himself in the second language of his choice.

                             So success of appreciating skill and expressing skill depends upon strength of translator. In kerala, if we make a survey among higher secondary students, we can see that translator in the brains of students is in a below average level. As if nipped in the bud or not having properly nourished, their vocabulary power is very poor as far as English language is concerned. Not to tell of grammar and sentences and reading and writing skills. Yes there are many brilliant students having good command over English but survey accounts proves that majority are mediocre.

                             As years go by, number of students who write exam in English is dwindling. Go among the humanities students in Kerala and ask them how many wrote their history, politics, and sociology papers in English? These students imitate the thinking pattern of their teachers that the immediate aim of exam is to pass. And both the student and teacher are true till the exam result comes. But, later student comes to know that he was wrong as his competence in the modern society is nearly zero if he cant express himself in English. Never contradict my argument saying that there are spoken English courses mushrooming in the city as well as in village. I will say that most of them are inadequate and unauthorized.

                            Why teachers of government and aided schools are not at all bothered about English speaking skills of students. I searched for the answer in the school where I am teaching now. My school is in a rural area where most of the parents are illiterate and little bothered about skill of expression of their wards even in mother tongue let not in English. It is foolish to blame parents. But when think of teachers, it was very much painful to know that there are many teachers in my school who can not even write a sentence in English properly even though all the text books they are teaching in the classrooms are written in English- believe it or not. Never expect from these teachers getting interested in communicative skill in English. They will stick to Malayalam at the cost of competence of students in this more or less globalized scenario of education.

                       I shall put down an incident which will be very difficult for the readers to believe that you may even doubt my uprightness and intention behind my words. But I must put it down. One day in the morning I was sitting at my table. It was a time when almost all news papers were overflowing with the news of Swine flu. Everybody was in the grip of fear of being contracted by this disease. I happened to hear a short conversation between two English teachers. It was like this.


First one (she had a copy of Indian Express daily

in her hands): Dear what is the meaning of Swine?

Second one: Oh it is Panni

                     I thought over this insignificant but dangerous conversation between these teachers again and again painfully. I felt it is more grave and dire some disease than the Swine flu itself. What is the disease? Stunning of growth!of teaching faculty. As this disease remains undetected, it will remain incurable. On that day I left hope of improving communication skills of students whose teachers are not in a communicable mode.

                          Still I am optimistic as there are many other ways and strategies to overcome handicaps. But never expect any initiative from the group of teachers who prefer gossiping in Malayalam to reading a paragraph of English news paper as a part of self improvement. I feel very sorry to write about my colleagues like this. But I love my students more than my colleagues.

                     Neuroplasticity  is a concept introduced into neuroscience to explain the behavior of brain of human beings. According to it, whenever we learn a new thing not only the new piece of knowledge is recorded in the brain cells or neurons but this new information is incorporated with the old information in the memory storages of brain. So, for the new information to be logically and rationally incorporated, in many situations , the person should have to give up his dependence on outdated old information in his brain which was true until the arrival of new. That is, pattern of brain is modified each time an individual learns a new thing. Learning or pasting a new information into brain cells is successful when persons are ready to unlearn the old information or convince himself with its inadequacy. Neuroscience explains resistance to change in any society as lack of a readiness to expunge the old information in brain cells. This explanation is very apt and more concrete when compared to the theories of psychology dealing with social changes.

                                Also, neuroplasticity says capacity of human brain to learn and unlearn whenever the individual feels it necessary will be there as long as his brain and its functioning are normal. So it is a fact that all teachers can adopt a new medium of communication if they are ready to expunge or unlearn the age old norm recorded in their brain cells that “English is not so essential”.

                              But the problem is, if they are ready to paste the new piece information that “English is essential” into their brain cells they have to set out to be loyal to this new piece of information. They must start to work for personal accomplishment of it before they can convey the same piece of information into the brain of students. They have to improve their vocabulary, grammar reading and writing skills and take some pains.  

            Teachers are persons with considerable foresight that they can anticipate all these things well. So I say again and again that nobody will unlearn the old piece of information “English is not essential” from their brain. Not only that, they will hold onto it whatever may come, stating and praising the necessity of mother tongue(Malayalam) aloud while their sons and daughters are enrolled in English medium schools for education. Hypocrites! I would like to address them like this but do not dare. And I should not.

                                The first barrier any educational institution that dreams about changing the medium of communication confronts is this mindset of teachers. If this barrier is surpassed it is very easy to overcome all other barriers whatever it may be.

                                     All teachers who are drawing salary from government each month, without fail, interpret all the reforms in the field of education as an attempt of the government to encourage private sector in education and discourage the other.

                         According to me, what government is doing is very rational. The man or the politician, who is putting forward all these reforms, whoever it may be, might have lost hope in the teachers working in aided and government sector. He knew that innovation in the field of education is impossible by a group of teachers whose minds are stagnant pools. He has to depend on teachers of private sector whose remuneration is closely connected to their performance and excellence. He is really a well wisher of society who dreams about bringing up the entire scenario of education into a level that will match with global standards. Kudos to that man.

© 2010 JENY

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Added on April 14, 2010
Last Updated on April 14, 2010



Kerala, Thrissur, India

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