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Tribune - The re-introduction of grammar on the exam-papers for SC/HSC : will Leela-Devi Dookhun go down in history?

Do it Madam and make history! Your name will be etched as the Minister of Education who has dared re-introduce Grammar at SC/HSC to save English language which is on the decline and  to "redonner à la langue de Shakespeare ses lettres de noblesses". I say re-introduce, because grammar work figured prominently on the English questionnaires of SC/HSC in the years 50, 60, 70, where candidates were assessed grammatically. Then it was removed to make room for other item, like report.

It is inadmissible that each year, 50% of SC candidates fail to score a credit in English language. The other 50% who have scored a credit "pa krwar ki zot ene ban tenors", their English still leaves a lot to be desired. When they are put through their paces, you will be staggered to see the many weaknesses in their English in terms of grammar, verbs and vocabulary. Their only plus point is that they are better qualified on paper, but their command of English is still on the bottom rung.

Sometimes I am surprised when I take cognizance of the analysis and comments of certain pedagogues concerning the decline of the performance of the students in English language. No one breathed a word about the importance of grammar to improve the standard of English. They talked about seeking the expert advice to redress the situation.

But I would like to tell these pedagogues that one of the underlying factors for the decline in English is the acute lack of grammar in the learning of English at school. Today our school population is suffering from an anaemic knowledge of grammar coupled with an acute lack of reading on their part. However, these students are not blameworthy if they are deficient in grammar because they have not been properly grounded in it. Today how many teachers are genuinely knowledgeable about grammar errors and tenses, and who are teaching English language? When they themselves are bankrupt of grammar, what will they teach to their learners? They too, are the miserable victims of that vicious circle. When they were at school, they were not properly grounded in grammar, and today they are in front of a classroom teaching a subject which they were not properly taught. It is our actual system of methodology which is accountable for this lapse in the language learning. It needs to be reviewed to include a solid dose of grammar which is an indissociable part of the language learning.

The Replacement of <Report> by a Grammar Exercise

One of the reasons why scant attention is given to grammar because it does not appear on the questionnaires of SC/HSC as in the past. Today teachers are telling their learners not to worry themselves about grammar since they will not get it for the examination. But they ought to know better that the students need grammar to express themselves correctly.

I would suggest that we remove «Report» which is a mini composition on Paper One on the SC questionnaire and replace it by a grammar item like grammar errors, tenses, analysis, parsing, punctuation, word power, etc. Consequently the teachers would be compelled to stuff themselves with grammar to transmit that knowledge to their taught.

I am convinced that with the re-introduction of Grammar on the exam papers for SC/HSC along with an intelligent and purposeful reading on the part of the school population, we can bail out English language form a moribund situation to re-position ourselves in the Commonwealth Countries at language level in English.

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