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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mother tongue should be the medium of instruction, says Ponmudy

TIRUCHI: English must be a language for communication, but mother tongue should necessarily be the medium of instruction, Minister for Higher Education K. Ponmudy said on Friday.

Only then can there be a balance between knowledge, growth and communication, the Minister said inaugurating the two-day National Conference on English Language organised by ebek, a learning centre for University of Cambridge ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) Examinations.

Due to the difficulties rural students encounter in colleges, they are permitted to appear for their examinations in Tamil despite English being the medium of instruction at the level of higher education. While the Government can increase the opportunities for higher education by abolishing fee, providing free transport, opening new colleges, and appointing teachers, the onus was on universities to improve the quality.

Conversational abilities

Mr. Ponmudy felt that improving conversational abilities in English should be prioritised over having the language as a compulsory subject for passing in the examinations. Industry looks for candidates with the right communication skills, which could be developed in institutions by encouraging conversations in English, he said, exhorting ebek to extent its operations to rural areas.

Educational institutions must mainly aim at making students employable, fulfilling the aspirations of parents. In India, Tamil Nadu has been ranked third for teaching English effectively. In an overall assessment, Tamil Nadu ranks next only to Punjab. The State has risen to second position from being fourth a year ago.

In his address, Duncan Rayner, Development Manager, Asia Region, Cambridge ESOL, observed that despite having an advantage over China, a need has arisen for Indian institutions to develop infrastructure for learning English skills to sustain the country’s advancements in the service sector.

A rapid economic progress has reflected in a need for workforce trained in English skills, he said, advocating for India international standards of English skills benchmarked under Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

Transport Minister K.N. Nehru presided. The conference was inaugurated in the presence of the Vice-Chancellor of Anna University – Tiruchi V. Ramachandran, Vice-Chancellor of Anna University – Coimbatore R. Radhakrishnan, Vice-Chancellor of Madurai Kamaraj University R. Karpaga Kumaravel, and Vice-Chancellor of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University R.T. Sabapathy Mohan.

Mr. Karpaga Kumaravel said English was learnt in India more as a link language than as a foreign language, referring to its status as Official Associate Language. A good command over English was vital. He suggested formation of a coordinating bodies at State, regional and district levels, to complement the efforts of universities for developing communication skills in English.

Mr. Radhakrishnan called for higher attention for improving the school system while Mr.Sabapathy Mohan emphasised on the imperative need for equipping higher education learners, who are comfortable with subject knowledge, with language skills for effective expression. G. Sreekanthan, Chairman and Managing Director, Ebek Language Laboratories Private Limited, explained the objectives of the conference.

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