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Wonders with words

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JOHN L. PAUL

Malayalapaadavali acts as textbooks and workbooks. The idea is to cater to what children want, rather than pressuring them to study what teachers think is right.

Tough as it is to learn, it is even tougher to score marks in Malayalam, due to a host of factors. Repeated attempts by those in the literary circles to simplify the Malayalam syllabus followed in schools, have met with stiff resistance. The result is there for all to see students, especially from English-medium schools, prefer to neglect the language, rather than learn the complexities. Aimed at making students feel at ease with Malayalam, an initiative has come from Thiruvananthapuram-based Cognitive Research Training Centre, and Sangam Books, to bring out a series of books titled "Malayalapaadavali". They have jointly brought out books for kids in the kindergarten, and from Stds. I to VIII.A senior official in the Centre said that the books have been prepared in keeping with NCERT's National Curriculum Framework - 2005. "The focus is on constructivism. From an objectivist view of education (where the focus was on teachers), the spotlight is shifting towards children. The aim is to cater to what children want, rather than pressuring them to study what teachers think is right. Worldwide, by-rote learning is giving way to demonstration of conceptual understanding. Malayalapaadavali can be learned within a shorter span than text books prescribed in the syllabus."

Careful approach

The publishers have taken care not to give students the impression that they are being taught in a formal way. Sangam is the sister publication of Orient Longman, that publishes books in regional languages. Malayalapaadavali acts as textbooks and also workbooks. The stories, poems etc., in the books have colourful pictures to go with them. The one for Std. I students has stories about friends, animals, nature, festivals and cleanliness. The book for UKG kids has portrayed stories with the help of cartoons. The publishers will soon bring out a handbook for teachers too. Noted literary critic Prof. M.K. Sanu attests to the fact that school children are driven away from Malayalam because of the micro-level attention given to grammar and unnecessary facts. "I have failed to understand why school children are taught `sandhi', `samaasam' etc.,. They are required only at the graduate and post-graduate level. Many people, including me, have been demanding that the Malayalam-language syllabus in schools be simplified. But little has taken place. Already, children shun Malayalam because of the difficulty in getting marks. The focus should be on proper use of the language and correct pronunciation. The syllabus needs to get child-friendly," he says.He alleged that vested interests were working to keep Malayalam quite a complex language to learn. "I hope that books like Malayalapaadavali will generate more interest in the language and one's mother tongue," says Prof. Sanu. Sadly, instead of arming students with proper use of the language, English too is bogged down by too much focus on micro-level grammar and not correct usage of words.


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