ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Language as a Space for Scientific Enquiry

Languages that learners bring to school indicate their cognitive potential. Their languages can constitute a space for introducing them to the methods of scientific enquiry. Several other advantages accrue in the process.

Thanks are due to Kamini Upadhyaya for providing the Mewari and Marwari data and to Neerja Jain and Suneeta Mishra for providing the details of school timetables.

Assuming that at least two (in some cases three) languages are taught in Indian schools (likely to be true of many other countries), even a conservative estimate would suggest that about 80 to 100 hours per year are spent on the teaching of grammar in different language classes (estimates based on a school working for 190 days and one class of 40 minutes duration). One can imagine the enormity of time invested in this enterprise of notional and prescriptive grammar teaching if one multiplies these hours by eight as grammar teaching starts as early as Class 3 and, in some form or another, goes on till Class 10 at least. This is not only a colossal waste of time of students and teachers, but it also perpetuates wrong and ill-informed grammatical concepts, without bringing about any awareness regarding the nature and structure of language among students. And since all teachers go through such schooling, it ends up being a vicious cycle.

Such a situation calls for a comprehensive evaluation of grammar teaching in our schools, particularly when we notice that explicit and prescriptive grammar teaching of this kind hardly plays any role in enhancing the language proficiency levels of learners or their general understanding of the nature and structure of language per se. It should be possible to eliminate all grammar classes from the school timetable and replace them with one “Language Period” per day. Language will then constitute a space for its creative and innovative use and for engaging students in the processes of scientific enquiry. In fact, we now have evidence that a sensitive focus on language awareness among students leads not only to higher levels of proficiency in language but also enriches cognitive abilities and socio­cultural tolerance. What is being propos­ed here is not a well-informed explicit teaching of the formal aspects of a language but a focus on all the languages available in the classroom to build a space for respect for all languages and to introduce students to the fundamentals of scientific enquiry. Several other advantages accrue in the process.

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Updated On : 26th Jul, 2023
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