Experts find training govt teachers in English a Herculean task

The state government’s push for English to be taught in state-run schools is proving to be a struggle.

While the authorities are looking for ways to strengthen English learning in government schools in a bid to improve enrollment, the ongoing one-month English training for teachers is fraught with academic and administrative issues, an internal survey has found.

Owing to the lack of qualified English teachers, the Education Department has started training existing teachers in the language.

The Regional Institute of English - South India (RIESI) has trained 204 teachers as master resource persons in English. In turn, they train teachers for a month in districts. This replaced the traditional five-day training that was held for teachers.

The target is to train 10,000 primary school teachers in English, of which officials claim to have trained 4,600 since last year.

In a refresher course held recently, all master resource persons were asked to provide feedback on how teachers were responding to English training.

Many teachers, they said, are facing difficulty with grammar and phonetics.

“Why is ‘s’ added to main verbs like ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘it’ in simple present tense? What are the rules for syllabification of words? Are there 12 or 14 vowel sounds in English?” were some questions that stumped master resource trainers.

Teachers also lamented that the one-month residential English training came at the cost of another subject they were supposed to teach in their school.

Some women teachers complained that they found it difficult to attend the training citing family commitments.

“The biggest problem is that there are no English teachers. We are training teachers to teach English along with other subjects that they handle in schools,” RIESI director S Jayakumar said. “We have revised the training module to provide more focus on spoken English,” he added.

Teaching English from Class I in government schools was first mooted in 2006 by the then chief minister H D Kumaraswamy, which the Siddaramaiah government is now taking forward.

“The idea was to tackle the perception that English learning was possible only in private schools,” educationist V P Niranjan Aradhya said.

“But, the Education department seems to be lacking clarity on what it wants to achieve. Given that our teachers lack core competence in English, the focus has to be on ensuring children are able to speak English in day-to-day life,” he added.

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