Prof. C. R. Visweswara Rao, Former Vice Chancellor of Vikrama Simhapuri University, delivered a lecture on “ELT: Approaches and Conundrums” on the occasion of the Foundation Day of the Centre for English Language Studies in the Humanities Conference Hall on 1 September 2017. Prof Panchanan Mohanty, Dean, School of Humanities, chaired the session and Prof Pingali Sailaja, Head, CELS welcomed the gathering and gave an overview of the activities and growth of CELS in the six years of its constitution.
Prof C.R. Visweswara Rao’s talk gave a holistic picture of the historical developments in the field of English language teaching starting from the 15th century, when Desiderius Erasmus had placed emphasis on oral communication in language teaching, to the current times when technology has become intertwined with language learning. Describing the trajectory of ‘the rise and fall and rise again’ of English language in India, the speaker pointed that though English in India rose back to its glory like the mythical bird, phoenix, unfortunately, equipping the learners with the essential skills required to communicate in English still remains a distant dream. The reasons for this were attributed to the gaps in the curriculum design, lack of teacher training, theoretical preoccupations at the expense of practical considerations and the inability of the education system to address the real needs of the learners, especially those hailing from rural areas.
Critiquing the current pedagogical practices as ‘old wine in new bottles’, the speaker suggested that there is a need for a paradigm shift in conceptualization of learners’ needs and addressing those concerns. Learner has to be involved more actively in the language learning process. Pedagogic practices that enable the learner to relate what is learnt in the class to the real time is more essential. Regarding the use of ICT in the language classrooms, it was emphasized that the role of the teacher can never be replaced by technology as ‘the fellowship that the facilitator builds up in the classroom is more vital’ than deploying technology in the class. Though ICT is extremely useful in developing core competencies of the learners, it is the teacher’s responsibility to create an active and cooperative learning environment in the classroom. A teacher is described as a ‘value additive’ without whom the learning process will remain incomplete. These observations while reiterating the important role of a teacher, also imply that there is a need for more focus on skill development in teacher training programmes. In the speaker’s words, the rural-urban divide has to be tackled at both the teacher and learner level.
The talk concluded with the necessity for conducting more innovative and extensive research about the use of ICT in language classrooms such as the reliability of technological tools, evaluation methodologies, online testing, etc.
by B. Salomi Snehalatha, PhD scholar, CELS