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Letting students grow a passion for English  

Shihab Sarkar   | Published: July 22, 2019 22:14:50


As has been observed by the country's academics, teachers, guardians and students, the credit for increase in the pass rate of this year's Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) exams goes to the examinees' better performance in English and physics. On elaboration, it has been found that the rise in pass rate from 64.55 per cent last year to 71.85 per cent this year in the HSC examination was due to the average pass rate increases in English as well as physics by 18.75 and 8.47 percentage points respectively. The feat covers all the eight general education boards. What adds to the upbeat mood is that better score in English has also increased the number of GPA (Grade Point Average)-5 achievers.

To the general students from junior level to that of SSC (Secondary School Certificate) and HSC, the subject of English has customarily been fraught with panic and worries. Poor performance and failure in English in the school and college-level public examinations is generally blamed for poor results in SSC and HSC. In spite of a dominant presence of English in almost all the sectors of the country, Bangla being its state language, a dislike for English among the average youths has long defined the education sector. The fallout of this has been creeping into all kinds of important examinations in the country for over the last four decades. Poor performance, failure to be exact, in English impacting on the overall results of these public examinations has unleashed the spate of cheating in examinations.

Bangladesh has generally been below par when it comes to proficiency in both written and spoken English. The presence of a well equipped teaching staff is not rare at many schools and colleges in the country. However, there are few English teachers whom these institutions can take pride in. Against this backdrop, any radically changed or an amazing turn in teaching and learning English can not be expected.

Some teachers have pointed out, prior to this year's HSC exams, special stress was laid on English. Apart from extra classes, many schools this year arranged frequent tests on the subject. According to experts, these steps are just stopgap solutions. One may doubt, on reasonable grounds, whether these hastily arranged tests will benefit the students in the long run. Their earning of good grades will facilitate their enrolment in better universities; this will also enhance the reputation of the colleges they have passed out from. The phases of result-announcement and admission eventually come to a close. But few are found, including the students, to be least bothered about taking their English proficiency further. In spite of these limitations, it will be quite heartening if the future public examination results can keep pace with the current year's English performance. Or else, lots of distressing questions regarding question-setting and evaluation of results may arise. Already, a section of the education authorities have admitted that the English questions this year were made easier, ostensibly to increase the pass rate.

The posts of English teachers remain mostly filled in the high schools and colleges. Detractors may raise the question regarding the capability of the teachers to fruitfully instill English proficiency into their students, so that they can hone their lower-stage English lessons in their future careers. There are countless students who do not bother to even cast a cursory glance at an English newspaper after they cross the hurdles of SSC and HSC exams. Except those who pursue university studies in English language and literature, few bother to become proficient in the long recognised global language. The country has had to pay for it dearly. On many occasions, government's reputation overseas gets marred when its high officials cannot effectively communicate with their foreign counterparts. It's all because of their poor knowledge of contemporary English. Nowadays, government ministries and agencies are found arranging special spoken English courses for their bureaucrats spending taxpayers' money. Literally speaking, it's a ludicrous project. The crux of the matter is, these otherwise generously paid officials are reportedly not proficient in Bangla either.

The method of teaching English worldwide has undergone major changes. Instead of beginning with grammar in lower classes, teachers and language instructors these days emphasise the use of English in day-to-day life. In short, they start with imparting a love for the language to their students. Thus proficiency in speaking English and expressing oneself lucidly in that language tops the list of must-dos in the English courses. In the past, the rigid rules of grammar used to create a lot of panic among the students. To the relief and comfort of students, the overemphasis on grammar has become a forgotten chapter. However, one cannot learn a foreign language without being conversant with its basic rules. Grammar enables the students to pick these rules. Though not utilised properly, the secondary and higher secondary authorities have done a remarkable job by introducing the MCQ (multiple-choice questions) system in the examinations. Apart from acquainting students with the modern forms of English, it also assures them of higher marks in examinations. But when it comes to adequately learning a foreign language like English, the need for grammar lessons can never be sidestepped.

shihabskr@ymail.com 

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