Language of aspiration and achievement?

Last Updated : 29 September 2010, 13:00 IST
Last Updated : 29 September 2010, 13:00 IST

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Children’s ability to learn a language is, to a great extent, dependent on the values they learn from home. There is close connection between education and the family’s socio-economic status, parent-child interactions and the home-learning environment.

In order to evaluate the language skills of students attending government schools, the Regional Institute of English South India, Bangalore, in association with the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, conducted a survey in Karnataka. They first looked at family backgrounds and the attitude of parents towards English. The survey was conducted among a sample of 100 parents: 69 from villages, 4 from small towns and remaining 27 from cities.

Ability to use English

The data indicated that almost 60 per cent of the parents could barely speak, read or write in English; 71 per cent of the group had never read a book in English; 80 per cent of them did not read newspapers; and a majority of them (82 per cent) did not read magazines in English. When asked if English was the medium of communication at home or in the neighbourhood, 70 per cent of them responded in the negative.

A similar survey was conducted with children in classes 5, 6 and 7 in government schools located across the state. The study showed similar results.

Despite such bleak results of the survey, the parents showed a keen interest towards having their children learn English.

For a majority of the parents, English represented the key to economic development and employment opportunities. They also felt that English should be made compulsory at the primary level.

However, the same percentage of parents disagreed with the option of English being the medium of instruction at the primary level.

It is also interesting to note that 52.6 per cent of the children found learning Hindi difficult and 42.9 per cent of them found it difficult to earn English.  However, a majority of the kids (82.7 per cent) preferred learning Hindi over English and 79.6 per cent wanted to learn English more.

Many research studies carried out in countries, where English is taught as a second language, have found that there is a greater correlation between second-language aptitude, the social class and the domestic environment.

The studies revealed that children from privileged backgrounds, under home schooling, were more likely to develop greater aptitude for language learning skills. Hence, second language acquisition (SLA) is not entirely based on inherent capabilities. An immediate solution to the existing crunch can be solved by ensuring that children have easy access to story books, newspapers, magazines, cassettes and computers.

What the survey says...

*Children studying in government schools have no access to oral and literary activities in English at home.

*They have little access to resources/ learning material in English.

*They are highly motivated to learn English.

*Parents want their children to study English as a compulsory language but not as the medium of instruction.

Published 29 September 2010, 12:41 IST

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