English as a Second Language
দ্বিতীয় ভাষা হিসেবে ইংরেজি
English as a Second Language:
English is an international language. Today, it has become a medium for linking oneself with international communication channels and moving through information highways. Even the teaching and learning of English has already taken a stable place in the education system of Bangladesh. In the changing global circumstances, it is assumed that in the future English will claim even more attention in our national level of education. However, the issue of English Language Teaching (ELT) is high on the incumbent government’s agenda.
Present state and status of English in Bangladesh:
In the constitution of Bangladesh, Bangla is declared as a state language and there is no mention regarding the status that is to be given to English. During the Pakistan period, English enjoyed the status of official language in this territory. It was used in the administration, higher education and as a link language between educated speakers of Bengali and Urdu.
Now in Bangladesh, English is taught as a foreign language in the curriculum. Since 1992, it has been introduced as a compulsory subject and remains so until the 14th grade in the national curriculum. Outside the government-funded institutions, there are innumerable language centres, English medium schools and a good number of private universities that teach English according to their own curriculum and syllabuses.
At present, there are no training institutes exclusively for English teachers in Bangladesh. The usually followed methodology for classroom language teaching is the Grammar-Translation method. In the examination system ranging from primary to tertiary level, the topics of prime focus usually include questions based on prose and poetry, grammar items, reading comprehension, translation, paragraph writing, letter writing and composition writing. Besides, the evaluation of the contents of English textbooks shows that students’ ability to communicate through language is given secondary consideration whereas thematic or knowledge of society is given the primary consideration.
As a result, students are often deprived of the varieties of language inputs necessary for their everyday life of communication. Moreover, the students listening and writing skills are not at all measured in our testing system. However, the communicative system has been introduced at secondary and higher secondary levels.
As for classroom teaching methodology, most of the language teachers come without a background in ELT or any practical training in the field. Even until now, there has not been any formal graduation course in English Language Teaching (ELT) in Bangladesh. The universities offer only a one year course titled ‘Applied linguistics and ELT’ at the master’s level.
Need for learning English:
In the present world, English is not just a language rather it acts as an indispensable resource for the countries. Because
English as an international language is the essential and common language of international communication. It provides a common means of expressing the views and voices of people all over the world. Thus, it is more essential for the people of a country like ours as a large number of our youths cannot compete in this competitive world.
Unemployment is one of the greatest problems of our country. A large number of our educated youths are unemployed. However, they are not fit for competing in the international job market. One of their incompetence in this regard is a lack of proficiency in English. Because, those who have the proper knowledge of English language and communication skills, can easily move throughout the world and maintain a suitable job.
the modem age is the age of science and technology. Almost all the technological and scientific terms and versions are in English. Hence, those who have no proper knowledge of the English language, cannot acquire the knowledge of science and technology. So, for a country like ours, where the level of scientific and technological development is at the bottom line, the need for learning English as a second language is unanimous. Even technologically developed countries like Japan have also made English the second language.
Against the downfall of our garments sector, the most foreign exchange earner, the government should look for other options. In this regard, remittance is the second largest sector earning foreign exchanges. Thus, the government should undertake effective programs to increase the export of manpower all over the world and seek new markets. In this regard, priority programs is a must to make our youths proficient in English and make them able to take training in the technical fields and communicate with people of different languages.
Steps to be taken:
We have compulsory English from grade one to fourteen. Even, a communicative system has been introduced up to grade twelve. these initiatives are not producing the desired end result. The most dominant factors responsible for such a negative result are –
i) little or no opportunity for the students to use English in their real-life;
ii) absence of an appropriate ELT system in the country; and
iii) lack of appropriate training for the teachers.
So, to address these issues both short and long term steps should be taken simultaneously.
Short term steps
1. Introduce short non-formal English Language proficiency course:
Side by side with the mainstream compulsory courses, non-formal English Language proficiency courses should be introduced. With the policy and technical support of the government, these courses will be run at the government colleges and schools on a self-finance basis.
2. Introduce crash training programs:
Outside the training courses in ELT offered at the Teacher Training Colleges (TTCS) and Primary Training Institutes (PTIS) for the secondary and primary teachers, crash training programs should be introduced throughout the country. For this, local and private initiatives underpinned by government support would be a step forward.
Long term steps
1. Introduce a permanent ELT system:
Training the teachers for conducting both short and long term courses is crucial for improving English language teaching and learning. Thus, in order to give English a second Language status, a permanent ELT system has to be developed in the country.
2. Set up a National English Language Center:
A National English Language Center (NELC) should be set up at the national level. The main functions of the centre will be
i) To assist the education ministry in formulating a national education policy;
ii) Work as an accreditation body for all the ELT programs;
ii) To assist and develop training and learning materials; iv) To coordinate ELT activities across different levels to ensure their relevance and interdependence;
v) To carry out research on the ELT issues;
vi) To carry out publicity campaigns through mass media.
The above discussion shows that the state of English Language learning and teaching in Bangladesh is not satisfactory. It needs policies and changes in our education system. However, managing changes, especially in education can not be done overnight. Rather, it can be done through a process undertaken jointly by the government and private sectors. Thanks to the government that has undertaken initiatives for introducing the communicative system of teaching and learning. But without proper training, our teachers with a literature background would not be able to teach the students properly.